Author Topic: Would changing hybrid commute bike to mountain bike make my commute much harder?  (Read 1521 times)

capoevename

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I use a norco indie 3 for commuting 6 miles each way in flat, hot, FL (https://www.bikenhike.com/product/norco-indie-3-281918-1.htm). I commute early to avoid getting to work sweaty because we don't have showers. I work in a cubicle farm.

I want to start mountain biking some trails near by, but I don't have a mountain bike (hybrid would get destroyed). Not having enough space in my apartment, I want to explore the possibility of switching to a mountain bike for my commutes so I can also use it in the mountain bike trails.

Would my commute get much more difficult by switching to a mountain bike? My main worry is getting to work too sweaty to "repair" with just a sink (no showers). Is the only way of knowing it just trying? What type of mountain bike is best suited for something like this?

One

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I use a norco indie 3 for commuting 6 miles each way in flat, hot, FL (https://www.bikenhike.com/product/norco-indie-3-281918-1.htm). I commute early to avoid getting to work sweaty because we don't have showers. I work in a cubicle farm.

I want to start mountain biking some trails near by, but I don't have a mountain bike (hybrid would get destroyed). Not having enough space in my apartment, I want to explore the possibility of switching to a mountain bike for my commutes so I can also use it in the mountain bike trails.

Would my commute get much more difficult by switching to a mountain bike? My main worry is getting to work too sweaty to "repair" with just a sink (no showers). Is the only way of knowing it just trying? What type of mountain bike is best suited for something like this?

I ride both, I'd guess it's about 20 to 30 percent slower. If you get a bike with full suspension I'd get lockouts so you can lockout the suspension when riding on the road.  You could also get a second set of wheels, put a skinnier set of tires that are designed for hybrids when riding on road. I would buy the mountain bike and ride as is, it's no big deal on the flats. Mountain biking is fun!

katscratch

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I agree, it would be slower, but not really harder. My son has a very fast road bike and a single speed mountain bike, and still often finds himself taking the mountain bike on his commute. It takes him longer, by quite a bit, but being in a more upright riding position is favorable in his city's traffic and it's just more fun for him to ride in stop-go conditions. Plus, if you're in an area where you can pop off and hit a few trails on the way home from work, all the better!

Aegishjalmur

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What you may want to consider if the mountain bike has quick release tires is get a 2nd set and put a smoother/less aggressive tire on it that is more suitable for road biking vs the ones you use when on trails. Cut the rolling resistance as much as you can( and preserve your other tires for the trail).

capoevename

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Thanks for the commenst! I hadn't considered getting a second pair of tires. That seems like an excellent idea.

Any recommendations of what to look for when buying a mountain bike? I wanna purchase a used one this time since I would sell mine used. I can look for guides online but was wondering if you guys have favorites. Or perhaps I just buy something off Amazon.

One

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Thanks for the commenst! I hadn't considered getting a second pair of tires. That seems like an excellent idea.

Any recommendations of what to look for when buying a mountain bike? I wanna purchase a used one this time since I would sell mine used. I can look for guides online but was wondering if you guys have favorites. Or perhaps I just buy something off Amazon.

I would look for something less than 10 years old. Don't worry about getting an ultra lightweight bike, some people think that's really important. I'd recommend looking for a specialized but any big name is good, Giant, Trek. It's flat in florida so 4" suspension would be fine, you could also try a hardtail. I wouldn't worry about the tire diameter size, some people think it makes a big difference but I think it's marketing hype to sell the new thing. I'd go 26" because you can probably find a better deal. You should definitely buy used, you can find a great deal on craigslist. Hardtails have less maintenance issue so could start there, maybe try and if you don't like sell and go for the full suspension.

Link to forum with reviews of older bikes and trails near you

http://forums.mtbr.com/forum.php

Hibernaculum

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Why do you think your Norco would get "destroyed" riding it off-road? You've already got an upright-riding bike with disc brakes, flat bars, and clearance for wide tires. That sounds like a good base for off-road riding.

There are three things that influence your speed: wind resistance, rolling resistance, and (following in a distant third) weight.

If you want two bikes, then it would be worth considering one with upright bars (like a mountain bike) and one with drop bars. That would be what might make a difference with wind resistance. As it is, though, your hybrid and whatever mountain bike you might get would have pretty much the same bike position, and pretty much the same wind resistance.

Rolling resistance, of course, depends on your tires. Supple tires with fewer knobs roll faster than tires that have a stiff sidewall and/or knobs. Supple tires, such as those offered by Compass, are expensive, but in my experience, they ride great. I also have had very few flats with Compass tires.

So, in your current situation, and depending on how big a tire your current frame fits, you might either get the big slick Compass, 55mm wide:
https://www.compasscycle.com/shop/components/tires/700c/compass-700c-x-55-antelope-hill-tc/
or the cyclo-cross-ish knobby 38mm wide tire:
https://www.compasscycle.com/shop/components/tires/700c/compass-700c-x-38-steilacoom/

Which might work best off-road would depend on what your trails are like. The fatter slick would be good on sand (and bare rock- probably not what you've got!), and the knobby would be better on vegetation and mud. Either one of them would also probably be quite a bit faster on the road that what you've got on your Norco AND they'd be at least competent off-road if they're good for your trails. The only serious contra-indication would be a lot of sharp rocky terrain, which poses a danger to the sidewalls. Now, ideally, of course, you'd go with still fatter tires. I run 700c x 2.3" on my mountain bike, and nowadays, of course, you can even go much fatter. But that would likely require a second set of wheels. Sure, you could just change tires- but that a pain enough that you'd probably never do it.

Mountain biking without suspension is totally possible. In fact, it makes you a better rider. And the better tires (even though fatter) will likely make your road commute easier.

Askel

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I concur with Hibernaculum. Just because a trail is a "mountain bike" trail doesn't mean you need a mountain bike for it. 

There's a lot of gray between road bike and mountain bike just as there is a lot of gray between road and gnarly singletrack.  There's a lot more overlap in those areas than you might expect. 

Still, if you're looking to push more towards the mountain bike end of the spectrum- hardtail 29er is a good compromise and won't feel that much different than your current road bike depending on the tires you use.  Look for a fork with a lockout, but also don't be afraid to just run a rigid fork. Good tires and the proper pressure will do way more than a cheap fork and crappy tires.  Good frames will even have brazeons for racks to make them even more commuter friendly. 

capoevename

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Why do you think your Norco would get "destroyed" riding it off-road? You've already got an upright-riding bike with disc brakes, flat bars, and clearance for wide tires. That sounds like a good base for off-road riding.

...
That just blew my mind. I didn't even know you could take a rigid fork through trails, I'm glad to find out it's doable! I'm starting out so I will look more into this first and upgrade when/if I outgrow it.

Would you recommend taking my bike to the shop near the trails and see if they can help me find tires that fit the bike and are good for the beginner trails? Or just go through the online route? The specs say the max tire size is 45mm.

You have sparked my curiosity now. Do you think it's a good idea to eventually upgrade the fork? How do you suggest I learn more about the type of things? I have been commuting by bike for 1.5 years but that has been so trouble-free that I have learned very little. And the information online is so scattered that it's hard to put together. Should I just put the online pieces together or do you recommend a resource/book?

Thank you all so much.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 07:27:39 PM by capoevename »

Askel

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If the specs say the max tire size is 45c, it's probably 45c.  Even then, there's a lot of variation in actual vs. listed size so some 45c tires might not fit and some will have room to spare. 

A good local shop is invaluable for mountain biking. They know the trails and conditions you'll be riding in and can save you a lot of trial and error in finding something that works. 

Also, standards in the mountain biking world change incredibly fast now. It's helpful to have a pro who knows what works with what when considering upgrades. Sometimes it's not entirely clear on the internet.

IMO, it's almost never worth upgrading suspension forks on a bike- they tend to be incredibly expensive when purchased new, to the point it's often not much more to just buy a new bike. Plus I suspect the geometry of your frame will result in significant changes to the handling if you add a suspension fork. 

One thing to keep in mind when going with one bike is that mountain biking can significantly increase the amount of maintenance you need to do. Dirt and mud can wear down drive train components. The occasional crash can do worse.  If you depend on your ride to get to work, make sure you show it some love after hitting the trails. 

Hibernaculum

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There are lots of good online bike repair resources. One of the best is Sheldon Brown's:
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/repairs.html

That'll help you get up to speed on the most common repairs: fixing flats/replacing tires, lubricating the chain, adjusting brakes, adjusting derailers.

A good local bike shop can be a great resource, too.

Part of the difficulty today with shops is that the bike market has become very fragmented. Much of what you see is either a carbon fiber racing bike with 23mm wide tires or a full-suspension 650b mountain bike. That's starting to change a bit, though, and there are more and more bikes that are suitable for being all-rounder bikes. If you can find a shop that will work with what you have and help you find good tires for what you want to do, that would be great. Maybe something like the Compass Steilacoom I mentioned, or Panaracer Gravelking in 40 mm (depending on fit- it will be close!):
http://www.gravelcyclist.com/bicycle-tech/review-panaracer-gravelking-sk-35mm-and-40mm-tires/

As Askel mentioned, changing out your fork to a suspension fork is probably more hassle and expense that it is worth.

bognish

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You can ride mountain bike trails with the bike you have just fine. Even with a rigid front fork. Go slow. Get of and walk a bit if it seems too hard. If you go a few times and decide you really like it then think about a new bike. Maybe demo a mountain bike from a local shop.

At this point its kind of crazy to think about switching out the commuter bike you ride every day for a mountain bike you will ride on trails occasionally. You might not even end up liking mountain biking, then your stuck with a worse commuter.

MDfive21

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i wouldn't make any changes to your hybrid, nor would i go out and buy a mtb right away.  borrow a mtb (that fits you! fit is important) and see what you think about riding it on trails and the commute.  i have a feeling you'll hate commuting on a mtb due to the extra weight, riding position and the knobby tires.  i can't stand the feeling of pushing heavy knobby tires on pavement for very long.  and unless your trails are really tame, flat and packed down with no mud, your hybrid will be no fun to ride on trails.

there's a reason there are different types of bikes for different applications.  you wouldn't wear soccer cleats to run on a track and you wouldn't wear flat soled trainers when you're running mountain trails.  same difference.

rothwem

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I'm surprised you guys are recommending riding mountain bike trails with a hybrid, especially for a newbie.  I can "get by" on most trails with my cross bike, but it fucking sucks.  If I was running tubes on the cross bike, I'd have flatted many many times over from smacking roots with my rims.  This is coming from someone who has been riding road and mountain bikes for 15 years and I'm a fairly smooth rider.  I can't imagine a newer rider trying to finesse their way through a singletrack trail on slick 40mm tires with tubes.  The OP would have a pinch flat within 100 yards of the trailhead entrance.

As for commuting with a mountain bike, it can definitely be done.  I'd go with a 29er hardtail (no rear suspension) for simplicity's sake.  I would skip getting a 26er, parts and decent tires are getting hard to come by.  The biggest detriment to commuting on a mountain bike is that that tubeless tires are pretty much the standard, though they suck for commuting because they always lose a noticeable amount of air during the day at work.  If you inflate to 50psi though and you're at 40 psi by the end of the day that's not a huge deal with a 2.2" mtb tire, but it is annoying. 

Even better would be to go with the separate wheelset setup. 29ers are the same size wheels as road bikes (700C), so you could get a set of "disc road" wheels to put some ~32mm flat resistant slicks onto for commuting while you keep your mountain bike wheels with some knobby/tubeless 2.3" tires. 

Just FYI, the sport of mountain biking is about the least Mustachian cycling pursuit you will ever encounter.  Suspension systems, carbon fiber parts, $80 tires, etc are annoyingly expensive but they've become the "standard".  You WILL feel a lot of pressure to upgrade, even though your current shit works fine.  Expect to see giant SUVs and trucks at the trailhead purchased for the sole purpose of transporting a 25lb bicycle.  Its pretty ridiculous, and if I hadn't been into mountain biking before I found this blog, I probably would've never gotten into it.   

bognish

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I don't think this person should hit downhill runs or jump tracks on a hybrid. But it seems just as crazy to trade a hybrid for a mountain bike if you have never ridden on a trail before. Its going to cost a lot of $$$ to get a decent mountain bike. Might as well check out the trails a few times on the hybrid to see if they enjoy the sport and the trails are worth riding on.

I rode rocky beginner mountain bike trails a few times with my kids this summer on my wife's $200 Sun beach cruiser and it was just fine. I wasn't rippin it up, but it was enough for my daughter to decide she did not like riding on dirt trails and is going to stick to the bike path. I am glad I did not upgrade her bike before we figured that out.

rothwem

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I don't think this person should hit downhill runs or jump tracks on a hybrid. But it seems just as crazy to trade a hybrid for a mountain bike if you have never ridden on a trail before. Its going to cost a lot of $$$ to get a decent mountain bike. Might as well check out the trails a few times on the hybrid to see if they enjoy the sport and the trails are worth riding on.

I rode rocky beginner mountain bike trails a few times with my kids this summer on my wife's $200 Sun beach cruiser and it was just fine. I wasn't rippin it up, but it was enough for my daughter to decide she did not like riding on dirt trails and is going to stick to the bike path. I am glad I did not upgrade her bike before we figured that out.

The problem is that mountain biking is a gear dependent sport.  Its like trying to play golf with a hockey stick or go backpacking in flip flops.  Sure, its technically possible (Happy Gilmore!), but it sucks, and you'll suck at the sport trying to play with the wrong gear. 

Askel

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Expect to see giant SUVs and trucks at the trailhead purchased for the sole purpose of transporting a 25lb bicycle. 

Well, it is the law: https://youtu.be/aL8uUyifkrM?t=49

To the OP: As our little subsection of the population shows: "mountain biking" is a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  And rothwem is right- the sport can quickly go from an efficient way to travel through the woods to an all consuming clown hobby that can drain you of every penny.  (After you buy all the bikes, you have to travel to all the destination trails!)   

The internet is full of terrible advice, mine included. You kind of have to find your own path in the sport- you can waste a lot of money on things that don't do anything to make the ride more fun.  Borrow bikes when you can, find some like minded friends (REAL ONES, THAT YOU CAN RIDE WITH), and know you might buy a few things that might not actually work out in making things more fun.

This is not the worst advice/warning: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yotOZVELSMc

rothwem

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This is not the worst advice/warning: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yotOZVELSMc

Hot damn I loved that video. 

AnonymousCoward

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The problem is that mountain biking is a gear dependent sport.  Its like trying to play golf with a hockey stick or go backpacking in flip flops.  Sure, its technically possible (Happy Gilmore!), but it sucks, and you'll suck at the sport trying to play with the wrong gear.

Nope, this is ridiculous. It's not about the bike. I've taken my touring bike (25 lbs, bar end shifters, rear rack, 35x700 hard compound touring tires, rim brakes) to a downhill mountain bike park and had a blast on the less technical trails. I've taken it on single track in the woods with tight switchbacks, loose gravel, erosion, off camber trails. That was also a blast. I've taken my fancy 16 lbs road bike, with 23 mm tires, on crushed gravel trails, pump tracks, and skate parks. Tons of fun.

If you like spending money on mountain bikes that's your prerogative, but claiming that a mountain bike is somehow necessary to ride on a trail is totally ridiculous.

Consider what "mountain bikes" looked like in the 70s when the term was invented and manufacturers started selling them. A modern hybrid with beefy tires is leaps and bounds beyond what they were riding back then. And back then they were doing great riding.

rothwem

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The problem is that mountain biking is a gear dependent sport.  Its like trying to play golf with a hockey stick or go backpacking in flip flops.  Sure, its technically possible (Happy Gilmore!), but it sucks, and you'll suck at the sport trying to play with the wrong gear.

Nope, this is ridiculous. It's not about the bike. I've taken my touring bike (25 lbs, bar end shifters, rear rack, 35x700 hard compound touring tires, rim brakes) to a downhill mountain bike park and had a blast on the less technical trails. I've taken it on single track in the woods with tight switchbacks, loose gravel, erosion, off camber trails. That was also a blast. I've taken my fancy 16 lbs road bike, with 23 mm tires, on crushed gravel trails, pump tracks, and skate parks. Tons of fun.

If you like spending money on mountain bikes that's your prerogative, but claiming that a mountain bike is somehow necessary to ride on a trail is totally ridiculous.

Consider what "mountain bikes" looked like in the 70s when the term was invented and manufacturers started selling them. A modern hybrid with beefy tires is leaps and bounds beyond what they were riding back then. And back then they were doing great riding.

I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.

capoevename

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Thanks for the discussion guys. Seems like we all have different ways to go about it.

Update on my part, I watched a video of the trails and instantaneously decided I was not going to ride my pretty commute through them. Bought a used giant mountain bike in good conditions with nice tires a couple of days after through offer up for $250 (sells new for ~$600). I had a blast the day after in the trails, and have gone every couple of days since. The bike is holding up well and it's been a lot of fun to ride.

I'm also learning more about bike maintenance and repair. It's crazy how much high-quality content there's on youtube on the subject, and it's been super fun to learn more and do my own maintenance.

If I may add some comments from a newbie's perspective on the $ discussion. I see how you could drain a ton of money buying gear and doing trips. But isn't this the case with almost everything else when not seen from the mustachian perspective? I think our mustachian principles can be applied here. I'm not hoping to become a pro or anything like that so there's no need to spend $1K to shave off 10 lbs off my bike; it won't make a difference to me, it won't make me happier. Same with many other upgrades. Gotta ignore the ads and the social pressure.

[Edit] On the ads and social pressure. I use brave browser + duck duck go for almost all my online browsing. Brave automatically blocks ads and trackers. It's surprisingly easy to be happy with my $250 mountain bike when I'm not constantly blasted by ads of better bikes/upgrades. And I ride with a friend that thinks similarly. I intentionally go with shitty clothes to scare spendypants away. It works wonders.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 08:28:27 PM by capoevename »

Askel

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Cool! Glad we didn't scare you off. :D 

Have fun out there!

Brokenreign

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This thread made me happy. When I first started mountain biking 16 years ago it wasn't a very expensive (or snobbish) hobby but that seems to become less and less true every year. It's awesome to see someone having so much fun on a $250 bike.

Some of the most fun I've had was riding my 1970s steel single speed with slicks on some local trails that were super easy on my actual mountain bike but incredibly challenging on something not-perfect. James May from Top Gear had a great semi-applicable quote: "It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow."