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Converting a mountain bike to a touring/bike packing bike

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Converting a mountain bike to a touring/bike packing bike

Old 03-02-23, 09:47 PM
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Converting a mountain bike to a touring/bike packing bike

I know this topic has probably already been discussed and I'm not starting from zero. I have a Kona Cinder Cone. I've got road/gravel tires on it, platform/clip SPD pedals, a new Koga Satori Denham handlebar (I like the multiple hand positions), as well some bikepacking bags because there are no eyelets to attach panniers.

My question is this to those of you who have dual-purposed a mountain bike, what key things did you ultimately change after you figured out what would/would not work on road and gravel?
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Old 03-02-23, 10:13 PM
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Usually tires, handlebars and shifters; but it sounds like tires are done and you prefer the handlebars you have whereas I prefer drop bars and sti levers. Only thing that really leaves is front shifting perhaps. Mine was a 46/36/26 which wasn't exactly what I would have liked but close enough to not bother changing it. I would never go with a single front on a bikepacking bike which a lot of modern mtbs come with.
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Old 03-02-23, 10:20 PM
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I would not want a suspension fork, but good luck converting to a rigid. Maybe Soma has something.
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Old 03-02-23, 11:16 PM
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Make sure the saddle is comfortable for all day riding, with handlebars ensure the stem is the proper length/height. Touring bikes are all about comfort, comfort, comfort
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Old 03-03-23, 05:35 AM
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It depends on what kind of routes you want to ride and what if any other uses you want to use the bike for. In my case I didn't change much, but I was using it for mixed surface touring. I did put some drop bars and sti levers on my rigid mtb when I toured on it, but again mixed surfaces. I have a hard tail and I might tour on it box stock for some routes. You might consider a non suspension fork depending on your usage.

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Old 03-03-23, 09:12 AM
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For me, this was drop bar touring bikes, not mountain bikes. Things I have changed after initial build:
  • Handlebars,
  • Stems (length and angle) to adjust bike fit,
  • Saddle for a better fit,
  • Brake pads for a softer pad (not unique to touring),
  • Gearing - generally lower,
  • Jockey wheels on my derailleur bikes - I got tired of re-greasing my derailleur jockey wheels every year or two so switched to sealed ball bearing,
  • Front derailleur on one bike to improve shifting.
  • Racks - I started with Surly racks and after two tours switched to Tubus for both front and rear to gain stiffness and reduce weight. (One bike, the Tubus does not fit well, used something else.)
  • On my Rohloff bike I tried the shifter in many places, finally on the right side bar end with the Hubbub adapter.
  • My first two touring bikes did not have a dynohub, that was before USB charging was a thing. But my later touring bikes included a dynohub when first built, the USB charger was added soon after.
  • Tires.
  • My third touring bike included S&S couplers and the S&S Backpack Case, but now that some major airlines have dropped oversize fees for bikes, that is less important. I suspect over time that frame couplers will be less common. For a while Surly offered them on a couple models and later dropped them. I like having an S&S bike but I did not add them to the next bike I built because I still have one S&S bike which is enough.
  • This is amazingly minor but I changed my water bottle cages.
  • Added kickstands to some of my touring bikes, yes I know this is controversial.
I only listed bike components or accessories above, I later tried a different brand of panniers, different GPS units, computers, lights, etc. And of course expendables like chains, handlebar tape, etc.
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Old 03-03-23, 10:01 AM
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I didn't have to change too much on this one. I added a vintage handlebar extension I found at a bicycle co-op, changed the cantilever brakes to linear pull, changed the gearing, and other minor things.

A also recently bought a Trek Stache which works great on gravel and singletrack with bikepacking bags.

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Old 03-03-23, 10:19 AM
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Things I updated to make an extended tour on mountain bike:
- Had a back rack on the mountain bike already.
- Added bar extenders to the flat bars to give me additional hand positions
- Switched the saddle
- Slick tires instead of nobby tires
- One instance I used an extra-wheel trailer; different instance I added a front rack; but I was carrying a lot and bikepacking bags would have also worked
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Old 03-03-23, 10:25 AM
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drop bars on mountain bikes can be nice if that's your thing.
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Old 03-04-23, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by drlogik
I know this topic has probably already been discussed and I'm not starting from zero. I have a Kona Cinder Cone. I've got road/gravel tires on it, platform/clip SPD pedals, a new Koga Satori Denham handlebar (I like the multiple hand positions), as well some bikepacking bags because there are no eyelets to attach panniers.

My question is this to those of you who have dual-purposed a mountain bike, what key things did you ultimately change after you figured out what would/would not work on road and gravel?
with the stock 28t chainring and 11-51 cassette, I suspect that you will or already have figured out that the gearing is low on the top end. The gearing is pretty much mtb stuff, so depending on how you feel from riding it with stuff on it, you could look into changing the chainring to a larger one, and even possibly changing the cassette to a tighter one that will give you closer shifts, which is always nice.
You need to figure out what low and high gear you would prefer, if the present setup finds you always being in the top gears. I have a friend who had a bike similar to yours, and she hardly ever used the top half of the cassette, and so so often in the 13 and 11t, so finally put a larger chainring on.

lets face it though, 1x systems are limiting but thats what they are.
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Old 03-04-23, 04:27 PM
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I put butterfly bars on a Bianchi hybrid with intentions of touring. I added bar ends to get "aero" and mount mirrors on. It worked really well and I put a lot of miles on the rig. I ended up finishing my Koga Miyata up about the same time the Bianchis rear wheel imploded, but the 1000 miles I put on the butterfly bars was a success. And all the flat bar controls fit right on.
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Old 03-04-23, 06:00 PM
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Get serious.
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Old 03-04-23, 06:39 PM
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Added a rear rack and a rigid fork. If the frame doesn't have braze ons for a rack these work.


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Old 03-04-23, 11:55 PM
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I had rear rack mounts so that I could mount a rack. I had a some other braze-ons added for winter stuff but that has a different purpose. Everything else is just a mountain bike…but what a mountain bike!

I started with a Moots YBBeat that I bought used. I’ve added bits and parts over several years…most of them stupidly expensive…cough…Paul. Lots of Paul

Each picture is from a different trip with different gear carrying. I’ve never settled on one way to carry gear off-road

Regular knobbies. Do they buzz on pavement? Yes. Are they slower? Yes. Do I really care? Not on pavement, but when I hit the end of the pavement, absolutely! I’ve done several trips on it with some being wonderful and others being on routes I never want to see again. Most of them have been fairly short…at most 5 days. I have a whole bunch of plans for this year.

If I want to go fast and far, however, I’ll stick to the touring bike. The mountain bike is great for 60 to around 200 miles and for rugged travel. For smoother travel for weeks on end, I’ll take the Cannondale.
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Old 04-04-23, 08:23 AM
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i have an axiom brand front rack that is designed to attach to shocks. Goes through the quick release. I also have a rear one that uses the quick release but would need to be attached at the other point with clamps. Shouldn't be a problem. I just can't understand how people pack what they need in bikepacking bags, and I hate having stuff high on my bike, so I would figure out how to use paniers, personally. If you ever got it into your head that you wanted to change to a rigid fork, i think velo orange has one. My mtb fork locks and I think most good ones do so the only real penalty seems like it would be extra weight. Otherwise i think rigid mountain bikes should make for great touring bikes. The clearance to allow for an extra wide tire for those borderline trails would be a big bonus.

Now you've got me thinking i should rebuild my old bridgestone. Just what i need.Another bike to find room for :0.
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Old 04-04-23, 02:10 PM
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Thanks for starting this thread. I've got a mid-90's Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo that I'm thinking about upgrading. It's got 26" wheels and a low-end Rok Shox suspension fork. I'm thinking of getting a new fork with bikepacking mounts, disk brake tabs, and support for 27.5" wheels. Not sure if I can run a 27.5 on the rear, so it may be end up being a mullet bike.
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