While I was traveling down the Oregon and California coasts during the summer of 2013, my bike setup attracted a lot of attention from fellow riders. Some people said that they would have never thought of using a mountain bike as a touring bike. Well, I did.
All the cyclists that I met that were touring, were using a different setup than mine. Normally, it was a regular Touring bicycle with racks, panniers, etc.. The most common brands were Surly, Novara and Trek. They all sported thin road tires and drop handlebars.
Bike Choice – was there a choice?
My bicycle was very different. Because I did not have the money to buy a touring bike, I decided to make do with what I had on hand. My carbon road bike was immediately eliminated, due to it’s inability of having a rack installed, and weight limitations. I then turned to my mountain bike, a 2012 Specialized Carve Pro 29.
Where the rubber meets the road.
First, I concentrated on smooth, effortless, rolling. I wanted to get better tires for riding on paved roads. The current tires on my bicycle, the knobby Panaracer Rampage 29×2.35, were great on dirt, and mud, but did not perform as well on paved roads.
After some research, I finally decided on a pair of Continental Country Plus Tires (700×47). I purchased the tires from Amazon. Once I received the tires I installed them on my MTB and went for a test ride. The difference was like night and day. These tires rolled on paved roads like butter on a hot pan.
When compared to my Panaracers, I felt that I would be able to go farther, faster, and longer, with the same perceived effort. That was indeed a good compromise, even if my MTB did not quite feel as nimble as my road bike.
With the tires resolved, I turned my attention to my cargo capacity. I already owned a rack that had ben bought for a Trek bicycle with similar specifications – 29 inch wheels equipped with disk brakes. I also had panniers that were purchased for the same rack. The rack and panniers mounted perfectly on my bike. Right off the bat, I had some of the cargo capability already resolved.
After a few tries, I figured how much stuff I would need for my trip down the coast. I knew that my MTB could easily carry extra load. It was then that I realized I was short on space. I also realized that I was too heavy on the rear of my bicycle. That made the front wheel light and wobbly.
I looked for better ways to distribute the weight between the wheels. One of the possible answers was a front rack, and a set of panniers for the rack. The issue I kept stumbling upon was that my MTB is equipped with a front shock, and front racks are not shock friendly. I did find 2 or 3 racks that were compatible. However, the most affordable rack was out-of-stock, the second one was not being sold anywhere in the US, and the third one was way too expensive. Long story short, no front rack.
Next on my list of possibilities, was to get a frame bag to be used on my bicycle frame. After a little research I procured a large Ibera Bicycle Triangle Frame Bag. And that was that.
I shed most of the camping items from my cargo list, and decided to make use of cheap hotels/motels along the way. I only kept the basic camping gear, just in case I could not make it to a hotel.
I also added a trunk to the rack. The trunk contained all of the tools needed in case of small mechanical problems, a flat, and rain gear.
As a late add-on to my MTB, I procured a set of aero bars. “Aero bars on an MTB?” you may ask! Well, yes! I was looking for yet another riding position. A touring day may last 10 to 12 hours. And making sure you can change your position as often as needed is a great way of avoiding fatigue and sore body parts.
I also found a way to add more cockpit space with a neat little gizmo from Topeak. It’s called a bar extender. The extender allowed me to have a camera, a headlight, a map holder, a GPS, and the camera remote all mounted on my handlebars.
In hindsight I think my setup was very good. It felt very comfortable, even if it was heavy at times – especially when climbing.
The one issue I faced every time I used the aero bars, was the light front wheel that wobbled. The wobble had me worried for the first few miles I did on the aero position. But, as long as I remained aware of the issue, it was manageable.
Feel free to leave any questions or comments on the comment section below, and I’ll try to answer you as best as I can.
Here are the links for some of the parts I have added to my mountain bike to make it more of a touring bike:
- Aero Bars – http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1167496_-1_400912__400912
- These are not the exact bars I have, but are very similar
- Rear Rack – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ZKHN6Y/
- Bar Extenders – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FIAVN8/
- Continental Tires – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002XYUTV6
- Ortlieb panniers – http://www.ortliebusa.com/prodInfo.asp?pid=31&cid=2