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  1. #1
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    MTB to commuter help

    I apologize if this is not the correct place in the forums for this question.

    I have a 2006 Gary Fisher Tarpon silver series 26" that was used as a trail bike. It has an RST Gila Plus T-7 front shock, 26" Specialized Alex wheels and Shimano disc brakes.

    My question is what can I do to make it a nice commuter?

    I know changing tires. It has 26 x 1.95 knobbies now but not sure of what to go to for commuting.

    Do I need to swap to a rigid fork?

    What about fenders or racks? I don't see mounting places for a rack but I may be missing them. Can fenders be installed?

    Previous owner had bar ends on it but kept them so now I have gaps at the ends of my grips with just bare bar sticking out. New grips or put bar ends back on?

    Please don't suggest selling the bike and buying something else. That's not what I want to do.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    MTB to commuter help



    Heres my 1999 schwinn moab as my winter commuter.

    You can put on fenders that clip to the seat post, same as a rear rack. I like a suspension fork, nice for pot holes. Can change the tires to schwalbe big apples or halo twin rails for pavement.

    I would suggest bar ends are great for wind. Can get lower for less resistance but you can always cut grips and put ergonomic grips on, specialized makes some nice ones with built in bar ends.
    Fatbike, XC bike, Gravel Bike....

  3. #3
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    How far is your commute? All on road or mixture?
    If it's all on road and not badly pot holed something like 1.5" Panaracer T Servs are a pretty good option if you want a low rolling resistance tire that is pretty durable, the tires above are both good.
    Unless the fork is broken or badly bobbing about I wouldn't overly worry about it at the outset.
    After tires; pedals, saddle and grips are where I would start, if you get your ride comfortable and fitting well, it is over half the battle in motivating yourself to keep commuting. if you like bar ends (and I do on flatbar bikes when I tour) Ergon GC3 touring grips, with wrist support are super comfy with plenty of options to change your hand position without compromising access to brake / shifters and worth a look

  4. #4
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    Lots of tire options out there for 26". I was amazed at the difference between 2.1 knobbies and 1.9" Continental Town and Countries. The Contis were cheap on Amazon and I don't know whether the smooth tread or the higher pressure (65psi) was the bigger advantage. The ride is harsh with these particular tires, others here will have better options.

    Your suspension fork is probably heavy and absorbs some of your forward push when you start from a light, however, it will absorb some bumps. As SimpleJon suggests, I would ride it until you feel the need to change it. I have found that I prefer a ridgid fork on hard surfaces, most of my friends think I am a glutton for punishment. Try it as it is before you spend money on a fork.

    Solarplex's photo should give you some ideas on racks and fenders. Seat post racks can be found at Wally World and elsewhere for about $25 and will carry 25 pounds or so. These racks are harder to attach panniers to than the regular racks, but they will hold a trunk or milk crate nicely.

    At my LBS, bar ends run around the same price as good ergo grips. I went to drop bars when I got the new bike, ergo grips on the flat bar just didn't give enough options. Unless you have a serious objection to bar ends, they are probably well worth trying out.

    For my money, the fenders are the most important change to make an all weather commuter. If your tires will take higher pressures you might try pumping them up, putting on a backpack and seeing what bugs you first.

    My brother would recommend some "sick tassels on the bar ends," I would suggest some blinking lights for overcast days or those evenings when you are out later than you had expected.

  5. #5
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    If it hasn't had one yet, I'd overhaul it so that the bearings are rolling smooth and protected from the elements. New cables at some point will improve braking and shifting, and new brake pads are almost always a must with a new to you bike.

  6. #6
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    Great suggestions everyone! I do have a few questions still though.

    For tires, tire width has been suggested between 1.5 and 2.0-2.35. What's best for commute that will work on my wheel set? Do 2.0 and 2.35 really roll easily being so wide?

    As far as ergo grips go, I have grip shift. Can I still get ergo grips for them?

    What brand of fenders and where do they mount?

  7. #7
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    1.50 and 2.35 will work on almost all mountainbike wheels. But I would avoid 2.35 as it may not fit in your frame.

    Road specific MTB tyres can roll beautifully on roads. All other things being equal 1.5 tyres will be faster on a smooth road, but if there are potholes you may find you want to get slimmer ones. You're going to form your opinions as you start out.

    Personally, I like Schwalbe Marathons. But then, I am a lifelong cycle tourist and that's what I'm used to.

    I would find a set of bar ends rather than ergo grips personally. More hand positions.

    Those seatpost racks are nasty. Personally, I would have a Carradice saddlebag over one anyday. It will look really odd on a mountain bike, but so what? Failing that, just carrying your own luggage in a courier bag. That's useful, because it can come off the bike with you when you arrive wherever you're going.

    For fenders, you need to go into a bike shop and see what's going to fit. The Crud Catcher type design will definitely work. But if you are doing this on a budget, I have made perfectly serviceable instant fenders by cutting 2 litre plastic bottles in half and cable tying them to the downtube. Works well.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by echarlie View Post
    Great suggestions everyone! I do have a few questions still though.

    For tires, tire width has been suggested between 1.5 and 2.0-2.35. What's best for commute that will work on my wheel set? Do 2.0 and 2.35 really roll easily being so wide?
    Depends on your preference really. Some people like commuting on 23mm road tires, some like really wide tires, like a Schwalbe Big Apple. Many are somewhere in the middle, myself included. I run 35mm tires. In theory, rolling resistance shouldn't suffer much if you run the correct pressure. Here's some good info about it on Sheldon Brown's website:

    Bicycle Tires and Tubes

  9. #9
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    Definitely give some thought to a big slick, like the Big Apple. They're great - they're basically flatproof (I've never gotten one, anyway), they laugh at potholes, and they roll like the wind.

    Barends are also pretty cool, and replacements would be pretty cheap. I don't like them in the tress, but on the street they're fine.

    As for the fork, does the Gila have a lockout? If it does, then you're set. If it doesn't then you might want to think about a rigid fork later on, but you might not. But don't sweat that right now.

    If your bike doesn't have mounts for a rack you can rig something up using clamps, but it is kindof a pain:

    Rack on Unit

  10. #10
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    So what width for the big apples or similar? 2.0? 2.2? 2.35? Lol

    As for rack, found a local person selling a seat post rack new for $20. Think I might get it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by echarlie View Post
    So what width for the big apples or similar? 2.0? 2.2? 2.35? Lol.
    I've got the 2.35, and they seem to fit most mountain bike frames since there are no knobs. Looking at schwalbe's site though, it seems like they don't make too many 2.35s anymore, so one of the smaller widths may be easier to find. But there are other big slicks out there too: fat frank, serfas drifter, Uff Da!, etc.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by echarlie View Post
    I apologize if this is not the correct place in the forums for this question.

    I have a 2006 Gary Fisher Tarpon silver series 26" that was used as a trail bike. It has an RST Gila Plus T-7 front shock, 26" Specialized Alex wheels and Shimano disc brakes.

    My question is what can I do to make it a nice commuter?

    I know changing tires. It has 26 x 1.95 knobbies now but not sure of what to go to for commuting.

    Do I need to swap to a rigid fork?

    What about fenders or racks? I don't see mounting places for a rack but I may be missing them. Can fenders be installed?

    Previous owner had bar ends on it but kept them so now I have gaps at the ends of my grips with just bare bar sticking out. New grips or put bar ends back on?

    Please don't suggest selling the bike and buying something else. That's not what I want to do.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.
    Hard Tail

    So learn to spin up hills so you don't over work the front fork...

    Get a pair of 30 to 35 mm slicks, for asphalt.

    Pump them up hard.

    Clean and lube the drive train.

    Clean the brakes make sure no drag.

    You can put the barends on the inside of the brake levers, to help you get aero in a head wind.

    Put the seat up a bit....and hammer to work, don't use the brakes learn how to lean the bike over hard for all the corners.

  13. #13
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    If the fork has no lockout, a rigid is cheap and easy. Nashbar makes one for 26" that is less than 50 bucks.

    I think the Big Apple are a good choice, 2.0ish would be fine. I think the extra rubber over a 1.5" is beneficial to allow you some extra cushion without killing speed.

    Grips are all personal preference, but a set of Ergon GS2 are a good choice if you like bar ends, although you can buy a $10 set of alumuinum ends just the same.

  14. #14
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    Re: MTB to commuter help

    As others have said, slicks or semi-slicks are a def must. As for size, there are three things the bigger tires will do for you.

    1. More size = more contact patch = more grip. This means that when you're riding on a slick road (rain/oil/smooth concrete) you'll have a little more security. More grip also means more rolling resistance, but I've found that the bigger tires ability to absorb road imperfections and roll over small bumps (expansion joints, tarmac seams, etc) more than make up for this.

    2. More size means more cushion. Half the battle with commuting is comfort, so a little extra cushion is never a bad thing. Also, as mentioned above, the larger tire's ability to absorb small road irregularities means that instead of the tire bouncing (deflecting) off the bump, it deforms around the bump and you roll right over it.

    3. More volume to cushion your rim from curbs, stairs, and other rim damaging obstacles that you may be forced to hop to avoid stupid drivers.

    3a. As a corollary to more volume; less air pressure. Just like on dirt, higher volume means that less air pressure is required to keep the tire round. As a commuter, this is a very good thing. If you have a slow leak, the larger volume means that you have more time before the bike is un-ridable. In the rain/snow/oppressive heat, this means you don't have to stop and go looking for the leak to patch, you just keep riding until you get somewhere more hospitable.

    The downside to more tire is of course, more weight. If you have a hilly commute, you will feel it. Also, any time you have to pick up your bike, you'll know you've got more rubber attached to it.

    Big apples are great as are the Michelin commuters. I'll also throw out the Maxxis hook worm as a nice commuter tire.

    Tires aside, just maintain your bike's mechanicals and keep the chain lubed and you should be set.

  15. #15
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    Tire choice is pretty personal there isn't really a right and wrong within reason. Our roads our very well maintained and i like speed, i run 23mm conti GP4000s at 100 psi which is a full on road racing tire. To others they would be way too harsh, too prone to punctures and wear out way too quick (it is also too narrow for mtb rims). But i find touring or comuting tires like the big apple or marathons far too sluggish for riding on road by comparison

  16. #16
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    I think I'm probably going to go with a 26 x 2.0 or possibly fatter tire and see. Seat post rear rack. Not sure on fenders yet.

    As far as bar ends go, are all pretty much the same?

    How do I tell if my fork has a lock-out?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by echarlie View Post
    How do I tell if my fork has a lock-out?


    A knob like that, on the top of the right/driveside fork leg.

  18. #18
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    The RST fork you mentioned only had preload, no lockout. Crank the preload as high as it'll go and see how you like it.

  19. #19
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    I ride a dropbar but i on flatbars check out the ergon range of grips and integrated bar ends I have used them on tours and they are very comfortable. GC or GS series

  20. #20
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    I wasn't going to replace the grips just yet due to $$. I was going to leave the existing grips and just add a pair of regular bar ends (non integrated).

  21. #21
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    I just saw a Thule rear rack with integrated mounting loops to mount on bikes without brazons, about $75 on Amazon or at my LBS. I know its not cheap, but it might be worth looking into if you plan to haul stuff, or to haul a$$ on rough terrain. Seat post racks are challenging if you want to keep panniers out of your spokes and have a habit of swinging out of line with the bike.

    As for tires, the others have given sound advice. I am finding the best variety of options right around 2" for MTB slicks. If you want to go less than 1.5," you might check to see if your rims will take skinny tires.

  22. #22
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    MTB to commuter help

    My commuter most days is a 1995 Trek 930 Singletrack, steel frame with rim brakes.

    Extras that are nice for commuting:
    - bolt on rear rack. Allows me to use a suit bag pannier to keep my clothes from getting wrinkled (I can shower/change at work). Also works well as a rear fender.

    -bright flasher mount on the seat post. Quick release for public racks

    -campus pedals. One side has Spd clips, but the other side is a regular platform.

    -a male friendly seat.

    -bar ends for different hand positions

    - Keen bike shoes. Have Spd clips in them but walk well. No need for sweaty socks!

    -I ride whatever tires I can get on the cheap. Right now they are slick 1.5s and I can really move with them. Other times I have more treaded Mtn tires that were on closeout. They make my commute 5-10% longer! The fronts last forever. the rear gets worn quickly with the extra weight on the rack so I just throw on whatever I have lying around. If I ever get to buying brand new tires I will shoot for 1.8-2.0 slicks...



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  23. #23
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    My Kona Cinder Cone commuter is a little further up the food chain but the mods are similar. I have a Salas steel fork since it took about 4 pounds off the front, Soma Clarence handlebars (W shaped like an On One Mary), and full fenders because it rains a lot in the PNW. I also have a Topeak rack and rack trunk with flip out panniers for raingear and last minute grocery runs, a Terry saddle just because and clipless platform pedals. I originally set it up with Specialized Nimbus 26x1.5 tires which rolled well and were pretty tough until one developed a sidewall bubble so I have a Michelin City on the back now which is bombproof.
    Overall, slick tires, rigid fork fenders and a rack are the main mods for commuting, handlebars, saddles etc. are optional.
    2009 Redline Conquest Pro, 2008 Trek Fuel Ex8
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    Yes I spent too much on bikes.

  24. #24
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    I just noticed that you aren't mentioning what your Local Bike Shop has recommended. Everyone here has made practical suggestions, unless you can't get the stuff where you are.

    If you live any where near a small city, you have access to at least a few LBSs. My limited experience here in Kalamazoo (pop. 74,000; 5 bike shops; 8 months winter) suggests that the bike shops want to win loyalty one way or the other. The two truly great shops here will happily spend some time going over practical tire size etc. if you go in to buy a tube. The other three will offer two choices (four if you come back later dressed differently). There is a difference between the LBS and the El BS.

    If you have an LBS that you trust, the community can give you much more useful information on the limited range of options that they suggest/ fail to suggest/ have in stock. This forum has been enormously helpful for me, however, everyone has different roads/ trails to commute. Suggestions from the LBS could help narrow down the choices and get the great minds here churning along.

  25. #25
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    I live in the Kansas City metro. Plenty of LBS but they all want a ton for their services and parts. Its ridiculous.

  26. #26
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    I've been doing the same thing. It's pretty marvelous what a difference swapping to a good set of road tires will do, and options abound where such tires are concerned. I'm a Schwalbe guy personally.

    I swapped out my boat anchor of a suspension fork for a Salsa Fargo V2 fork and shaved over three pounds of weight off in the process. I haven't put any fenders on it yet, but when I do they'll be SKS Chromoplastic 65s.

    Obviously there are plenty of lights out there that'll do the job, Light and Motion's Urban look to be a good option though.

    You can go with racks and if you do I'll just say that Tubus is the way to go. I'd prefer to just use the same frame bag I use for bikepacking instead, because the same logic that makes bikepacking storage sensible goes for commuting as well, or I could use a nice, compact backpack that'll fit snugly against the back and not move around. Ortlieb and Osprey make good stuff for this. I basically don't like unnecessary weight, and unless you're actually hauling a lot of stuff racks usually seem like an over commitment on the part of commuters. They throw a small messenger bag on one side and off they go. To me that's a waste.

    Ergon GC2 grips are my favourite for my flat bar, but you may want to look into alt bars for a wider array of hand positions. It's really up to you, I've ridden long distances with just the two hand positions these afford me and I don't think I've really really longed for more. Commuting puts much less of a tax on your hands than that anyhow. Nevertheless, I've lusted after the On-One Mary, Soma Sparrow, and Jeff Jones H-Bars each at one time or another. There are plenty of others. You may be interested. Hell, you may want to convert to drops.

    Almost everything about converting to a commuter is about comfort and carrying solutions. I'd suggest you just commute with what you've got for a few weeks and decide what actually bothered you about the riding you were doing, and then change that thing. You may end up finding that it's not that big a project at all. Remember, an enormous number of people ride on cheap, stock mountain bikes every day, everywhere. Conversions like this are almost entirely about luxury refinement (sans tires, change those for sure). It'd be harder to find a bike that isn't serviceable for commuting than it would be to find one that is.
    Long is the way, and hard.

  27. #27
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    Profile Designs boxer bar ends look decent since I'm not changing grips right now.

    I like the amount of recommendations the Schwalbe tires get but they seem heavy and a bit pricey.

    I'm just gonna get it ridable and then see about the fancy stuff like racks / bags, fenders and maybe a rigid fork.

  28. #28
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    I have used several bikes as commuters over the years....rode an old murray mtb for 3 or 4 years back in my younger days.....it was pretty much stock....I kept it going with parts from a huffy mtb that I got hit by a pinto on......I rode a rigid diamondback outlook as a commuter a few years after that and I just had lights and fenders on it.....same with every other bike I have had since then......the biggest thing other than the stuff you mentioned, lights, fenders, full fingered gloves, a tool kit and a bag to carry it with, rain gear if you are gonna ride year round and a rack or basket to carry items such as a lunch,spare clothes etc etc
    97 specialized rockhopper.- urban beater
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  29. #29
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    dont forget some cities require you to have a bell if you ride in town
    97 specialized rockhopper.- urban beater
    2013 GT aggressor 3.0- urban assault vehicle

  30. #30
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    In order to get the bike up and ridable I need to save some $$ on tires. Im looking at Kenda K847 Kross Plus in a 26 x 1.95 or a Michelin Country Rock in a 26 x 1.75.

    Will both of these work on my Specialized Alex wheels and which is the better choice?

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