Vintage mtb as a gravel bike/ sizing question- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Vintage mtb as a gravel bike/ sizing question

    So I am strongly leaning towards picking up a vintage rigid MTB to make into a gravelish/commuter/off road touring bike. I was thinking of running something like Velo Orange Crazy bar or Moloko bar on it (rather the drop bars) but my question is with sizing. I am 6'2" so I am thinking I need 21" or 22" bike but given most of my experience is on BMX (where sizing only kind of matters) or on modern MTBs (which have much longer reach) I am wondering how to make it seem comfortable. I have a cyclocross bike but no matter what I do I can't seem to get comfortable. I somehow feel both too cramped and stretched out all at the same time.

    Am overthinking it? How do I get comfortable on a vintage MTB?
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), Nashbar CXSS (workout)

  2. #2
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    A vintage MTB frame will fit similar to a cyclocross frame for a given size.

    Contrary to the hype "modern geometry" doesn't have a longer reach. The dimensions and angles are so jacked up that there is no apples to apples comparison. But frame size for frame size my 1991 Stumpjumper has a longer reach than any mass produced frame today.

    At 6'2" something around 21" is a good starting point. A 120mm stem is also a good starting point depending on the shape of the bars you may need a longer stem since tiny road bars are the hype now.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shayne View Post
    A vintage MTB frame will fit similar to a cyclocross frame for a given size.

    Contrary to the hype "modern geometry" doesn't have a longer reach. The dimensions and angles are so jacked up that there is no apples to apples comparison. But frame size for frame size my 1991 Stumpjumper has a longer reach than any mass produced frame today.

    At 6'2" something around 21" is a good starting point. A 120mm stem is also a good starting point depending on the shape of the bars you may need a longer stem since tiny road bars are the hype now.
    From wha i have seen around, modern MTBs donīt fit your body; they fit the terrain... you ride a modern mtb by constantly throwing your weight around. A dropper post is an evidence: your saddle is either on extreme climbing mode or you stand on your pedals only. You are never balanced for everything. They say itīs fun. Fair enough.
    Vintage mtbs fit like you need when pedalling hours traveling the distance but at the same time letting throw your weight around when descending tricky technical terrain. Itīs a hard fine balance and the best builders made it happen. Ride a vintage Fat Chance in the woods and it becomes clear.
    My standard for stem length is 130mm since i have a long torso and size my bikes for leg length. A 130mm stem works well w/ a 71degr head angle and a 23in handlebar. I donīt use bar ends. I run away from susp forks. They do nothing for me. An early 90s late 80s mtb is the perfect tool for my job.
    NOt easy to find the perfect fit but worth trying as many bikes as possible.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  4. #4
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    I am not really looking to open the debate on newer geometry versus older. I'll just say that my 64deg head angle, 475mm reach hardtail is the most comfortable and fun mtb I have owned (out of a Cannondale Trail 7 and a Niner WFO9) or demoed. But do I really need a 150mm of travel for around town and on gravel no.

    I am looking for something that will be fun to build up (I like building stuff and looking for deals), cheap (so I am not as worried about it went I lock it up) and I appreciate the history of MTB so having an older bike would be quite neat. Plus it is a bit of a change of pace.
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), Nashbar CXSS (workout)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93EXCivic View Post
    I am not really looking to open the debate on newer geometry versus older. I'll just say that my 64deg head angle, 475mm reach hardtail is the most comfortable and fun mtb I have owned (out of a Cannondale Trail 7 and a Niner WFO9) or demoed. But do I really need a 150mm of travel for around town and on gravel no.

    I am looking for something that will be fun to build up (I like building stuff and looking for deals), cheap (so I am not as worried about it went I lock it up) and I appreciate the history of MTB so having an older bike would be quite neat. Plus it is a bit of a change of pace.
    Every brand and model has itīs own fit. A Kona or Klein wonīt fit like a Ritchey. Find a bike, check the geo numbers (google may help) and compare to your current fit.
    There is no golden rule for every brand making it fit the same. DEcide bike first then look for your size in their line up.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  6. #6
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    I have a 1996 Moots YBB that I have considered making into a gravel bike, but I would be stuck with 26" wheels because of the rim brakes. Are there any decent gravelish 26" tires available? My rims are 17mm internal, so they could take a pretty narrow tire.

    One of the reasons not to do this is the lack of availability of tires and rims.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by honkinunit View Post
    I have a 1996 Moots YBB that I have considered making into a gravel bike, but I would be stuck with 26" wheels because of the rim brakes. Are there any decent gravelish 26" tires available? My rims are 17mm internal, so they could take a pretty narrow tire.

    One of the reasons not to do this is the lack of availability of tires and rims.
    I figured I would use Schwalbe Smart Sams, Kenda Small Block 8 or Maxxis DTHs.
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), Nashbar CXSS (workout)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93EXCivic View Post
    I am 6'2" so I am thinking I need 21" or 22" bike...How do I get comfortable on a vintage MTB?
    I was just under 6'2" the last time I stood up really straight at the doctor's office without shoes on. The answer for me is 22.5" - 23" vintage MTB frames.

    My main ride is the 22.5" black and red MTB in the rear. That has a tall stem with 80 mm reach if I remember correctly and an On One Midge bar.

    The green one in front is a 23" that I messed around with for a short time before getting rid of. That stem combined with those particular bars would have been too long a reach for me, from just sitting on it in the garage, but I liked the fit with the original flat bars and that stem for city and gravel riding. I bet it would have worked great with a shorter reach stem and dirt drop bars where the hoods and drops aren't so far away.

    Don't know if that's of any help but I always like reading how tall people are when they post pictures of bikes - I think it helps me judge sizes on bikes I see for sale on craigslist when they're not listed.


  9. #9
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    Thanks. There is a Schwinn Hurricane in 23in on Craigslist.
    Ragley Big Wig, Sunday Soundwave (BMX), Nashbar CXSS (workout)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by honkinunit View Post
    I have a 1996 Moots YBB that I have considered making into a gravel bike, but I would be stuck with 26" wheels because of the rim brakes. Are there any decent gravelish 26" tires available? My rims are 17mm internal, so they could take a pretty narrow tire.

    One of the reasons not to do this is the lack of availability of tires and rims.
    Compass rat traps or whatever they are called.
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by honkinunit View Post
    I have a 1996 Moots YBB that I have considered making into a gravel bike, but I would be stuck with 26" wheels because of the rim brakes. Are there any decent gravelish 26" tires available? My rims are 17mm internal, so they could take a pretty narrow tire.

    One of the reasons not to do this is the lack of availability of tires and rims.
    so many schwalbees:
    Marathon plus tour 26x2.0 & 1.75
    Marathon plus tour MTB 26x2.1 & 2.25
    Marathon GT 26x2.0
    Marathon Mondale 26x2.0 & 2.15
    Land Cruiser 26x 2.0 & 1.75
    Tour Plus 26x 1.75
    ptarmigan hardcore

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93EXCivic View Post
    So I am strongly leaning towards picking up a vintage rigid MTB to make into a gravelish/commuter/off road touring bike. I was thinking of running something like Velo Orange Crazy bar or Moloko bar on it (rather the drop bars) but my question is with sizing. I am 6'2" so I am thinking I need 21" or 22" bike but given most of my experience is on BMX (where sizing only kind of matters) or on modern MTBs (which have much longer reach) I am wondering how to make it seem comfortable. I have a cyclocross bike but no matter what I do I can't seem to get comfortable. I somehow feel both too cramped and stretched out all at the same time.

    Am overthinking it? How do I get comfortable on a vintage MTB?
    Have you used a layback seat post? That is assuming that you have played around with stem lengths and such. I found with the bars with sweep like you are asking about I like to run a longer stem "90+".
    ptarmigan hardcore

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by honkinunit View Post
    I have a 1996 Moots YBB that I have considered making into a gravel bike, but I would be stuck with 26" wheels because of the rim brakes. Are there any decent gravelish 26" tires available? My rims are 17mm internal, so they could take a pretty narrow tire.

    One of the reasons not to do this is the lack of availability of tires and rims.
    Add a disc tab on the back and a disc compatible fork. This allows you to run up to a 700x35 on the rear and whatever the fork will allow up front. It cost me $100 to have a disc tab added to my 1997 YBB and I was able to pick up the 29'er Surly fork for under $100.

    Vintage mtb as a gravel bike/ sizing question-1111171048.jpg

    Vintage mtb as a gravel bike/ sizing question-citybike.jpg

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgltrak View Post
    Add a disc tab on the back and a disc compatible fork. This allows you to run up to a 700x35 on the rear and whatever the fork will allow up front. It cost me $100 to have a disc tab added to my 1997 YBB and I was able to pick up the 29'er Surly fork for under $100.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    How do you like that very very tall BB?
    WTB: Bomber Z2 1 1/8 steerer, in good to excellent shape OR bomber rebuild kit.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by colker1 View Post
    How do you like that very very tall BB?
    Surprisingly it is not bad. The BB height is only 9mm higher than it was when I was using it as my primary MTB.
    The A-C measurement on this non-suspension corrected rigid 29'er fork is the same as the A-C measurement on the 100mm suspension fork that came off the bike at 20% sag. The 29er wheels with the 700X35 tires have a diameter only 18mm larger than the 26 x 2.3 tires that were on it.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shayne View Post

    Contrary to the hype "modern geometry" doesn't have a longer reach. The dimensions and angles are so jacked up that there is no apples to apples comparison. But frame size for frame size my 1991 Stumpjumper has a longer reach than any mass produced frame today.
    Quote Originally Posted by colker1 View Post
    From wha i have seen around, modern MTBs donīt fit your body; they fit the terrain... you ride a modern mtb by constantly throwing your weight around. A dropper post is an evidence: your saddle is either on extreme climbing mode or you stand on your pedals only. You are never balanced for everything. They say itīs fun. Fair enough.
    Vintage mtbs fit like you need when pedaling hours traveling the distance but at the same time letting throw your weight around when descending tricky technical terrain. Itīs a hard fine balance and the best builders made it happen. Ride a vintage Fat Chance in the woods and it becomes clear.
    My standard for stem length is 130mm since i have a long torso and size my bikes for leg length. A 130mm stem works well w/ a 71degr head angle and a 23in handlebar. I donīt use bar ends. I run away from susp forks. They do nothing for me. An early 90s late 80s mtb is the perfect tool for my job.
    NOt easy to find the perfect fit but worth trying as many bikes as possible.
    Whoa, weird.
    Last edited by scottzg; 09-08-2019 at 10:07 AM.
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