From Mountain Bike to Commuter Bike to Touring Bike
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Converting an old steel frame mountain bike can be accomplished and identified as two distinct phases of the bike's transformation. Here is a precise definition of conversion; a substitution of one component for another so as to effect a change:
What begins as a simple, no frills basic vintage trail bike instantly transmutes when handlebars and stem are swapped out for comfortable commuter handling and posture. Adding a set of fenders, a rear rack and some efficient tires for commuting and oala, presto, ta da, it's a mountain bike for commuting. Yay!
So, what makes a touring bike different from a bike for commuting? Well that depends on some other factors when you are considering all the bikes available on the market defined as commuter bikes including three speeds and such. For this topic of converting a mountain bike to a touring bike the only difference to "qualify" this bike build project as a touring bike is the addition of a front pannier rack.
Nothing is at all lost in this process after all when it's all said and done the mountain bike that began the project still exists as a mountain bike that can be used for touring.
Like most avid bike folks who appreciate a high quality frame I love the old steel mountain bike frames and in particular those with lugged design. One name comes to mind when reminiscing over the golden era of steel lugged mountain bike frames and that's Bridgestone.
Back when folks would pour over Grant Petersen's Bridgestone catalogs a following was quickly established and today you might hear the term "BOBISH" referring to the Bridgestone Owners Bunch. Described as some bike folks who "stuck with steel through the aluminum and titanium years".
Setting aside all bike cultish nonsense there are some genuinely practical reasons for preferring a solid old steel lugged mountain bike frame to build up as a dependable commuter touring bike. If steel frames feel better than the more rigid aluminum frames than a lugged frame from Ritchey Logic tubing is something of a Cadillac in frame design. If you're one of those folks who feel that 700c or Twenty Niner wheels are a necessity for bicycle touring, check out Darren Alf's Co Motion Pangea that he's been riding for at least a couple years now and continues to ride as his bike of choice to fit his bike touring lifestyle. Complete with 26" wheels of course.
This is not the first bike I've built up and converted to a touring bike. I love my old Diamond Back Ascent EX though it has a very long top tube and required more comfort consideration with a complete overhaul of the cockpit. Which brings to the point of swapping out those old stems, which is the number one part to convert an old mountain bike especially for touring. Tom Ritchey's patent eight inch long flat stem and bars though perhaps some of the finest components you will ever encounter on vintage mountain bikes is a brutal combination for a touring bike. Some folks find it suitable enough to simply add bar ends, the most popular being the Ergon line of ergonomic grips and bar ends. However, for this conversion project I decided to go with sweeping handlebars as an ergonomic approach to improving the ride comfort in which case bar ends are not used.
Not necessarily. Regarding bike handling characteristics for me it's knowing how the bike's steering characteristics and overall feel of handling with a load as being more or less predictable that determines my choices in bike packing. So, is this a touring bike for bike packing? Of course it is I just prefer to use a tried and true low rider front rack with the steel construction of the Minoura FRP 3000. This is essentially the only additional bike accessory needed to convert a commuter bike to a fully loaded touring bike. This helps shed light on the process of converting an old mountain bike as it goes through it's first phase as a commuter bike before making it to touring bike status.
Links related to this topic
Bridgestone MB 1 Threaded Fork Reviews
A Bike for All Seasons
Build a Touring, Trekking, Commuter Bike