Mountain bike commuting

Commuting, Day rides, Audax, Incidents, etc.
Jammyjames
Posts: 7
Joined: 9 Oct 2019, 2:54pm

Mountain bike commuting

Postby Jammyjames » 24 Oct 2019, 10:18pm

I recently bought a Carrera Vengence MTB from Halfords (yes I know its a 'budget' bike) as I've not owned a bike for about 7 years and I was planning to just use it here and there for a bit of on and off road every once in a while.

Since getting the bike I have recently got a new job and will be able to commute to work, 3.7 miles on a 40mph road and 0.3 on a gravel track (x2). However I did a trial run on the bike (and it was also my first ride on the bike) and the bike certainly needs some mods to improve the ride.

I was thinking bullhorn bars, but I dont know if I go for bar end fixings, or for a full moulding like this:
https://www.halfords.com/cycling/bike-parts/handlebars-ends-grips-tape/cinelli-lola-bar?cm_mmc=Google+PLA-_-Bike+Parts-_-Handlebars,+Ends,+Grips+&+Tape-_-397874&istCompanyId=b8708c57-7a02-4cf6-b2c0-dc36b54a327e&istFeedId=62b447cf-331e-4fec-a47a-9985ff72d404&istItemId=xqllprxr&istBid=tziw&_$ja=tsid:94971|cid:1537737090|agid:58988088232|tid:aud-80976661069:pla-331299626863|crid:291898456967|nw:g|rnd:6270518876314267406|dvc:c|adp:1o1|mt:|loc:9046517&gclid=Cj0KCQjwl8XtBRDAARIsAKfwtxAC58Lc5OabdY6XhuLBMEMmQA_4Kwhu5ZV7PYMc15ATuFUU8z_g2sYaAi68EALw_wcB

Only I dont know how comfotrable tape will feel compared to grips as I've never used tape. The other things I was going to do was get double fighter tyres plus slime inner tubes to improve rolling resistance but not drasticly reduce my gravel grip, plus reduce puncture impact. Plus I was going to get a pnumatic suspension seat post (for added comfort).

The big one however for me was I wanted to change the front chainset, its currently a Shimano TY501, Square Taper, 42/34/24T 175mm but I wanted something that was still a triple ring but wider gearing, more like 22/36/50, I imagine I might also need to change the FD but im not sure if the one I've seen would fit as ive read about Bolt circle diameter, but im assuming it doesnt apply to a chainset.
https://www.evanscycles.com/shimano-altus-m311-square-taper-48-38-28-7-8-speed-triple-chainset-EV220600

The full specs of the bikes drive system are:

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Altus 7/8 speed, M310
Cassette/Freewheel: Shimano HG200 8 speed 11-32T
Chain: KMC 8 speed
Chainset: Shimano TY501, Square Taper, 42/34/24T (XS/S - 170mm, M/L/XL - 175mm)
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tourney TY700, 34.9mm clamp, top swing
Gear Shifters: Shimano Rapidfire Plus, 3x8
Groupset: Shimano Altus, 24 speed
Pedals: Alloy Black MTB, 9/16"

So i dont know if anyone can tell me if A) this chainset would fit? b) if it would make a significant improvement to the ride on the road mostly? and c) are there any other quality of life mods I could do?

Also I know it would probably be easier to buy a road bike, but im not doing that as road bikes arent my cup of tea, and this bike is brand new (its only done 8 miles). But I know I can improve it, the real question is how far on a fair budget.

TIA :-)

whoof
Posts: 1971
Joined: 29 Apr 2014, 2:13pm

Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby whoof » 25 Oct 2019, 9:33am

Seems like a lot of changes to ride 3.7 miles.
WRT the chain-set I don't think it's worth changing. Is there a hill you stuggle to get up in the current bottom gear 24/32 (19") if so changing to 22/32 (17.6") is only 7% difference and is not going to make it much easier. BTW 20" bottom gear is what you would expect to use on a touring bike loaded withh camping and cooking gear.
At the other end if you pedal at 100 rpm in 42/11 (97.4") you would travel at 30 mph, 50/11 (116") at 100 rpm you would travel at 35 mph. If you can travel at 30 mph on the flat for any distance on the linked bike you are very fit if it's down hill freewheel and tuck down a bit and you will go faster.

Jammyjames
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Joined: 9 Oct 2019, 2:54pm

Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby Jammyjames » 25 Oct 2019, 10:04am

I know it's not far, but speed and comfort are a what I'm looking for with it, I mean going there its about 2.5 miles flat & shallow gradual down hill and the other 1.5 is a gradual uphill (the part my fitness struggles with) But on the flats and downhill sections I'm in top gear and going nowhere and being blitzed by a road bike, I known always will, but I want to bridge the gap a little. But I want the low range for a quick start at the roundabout I've got to cross (it's an awful roundabout) and then the high range when I'm hitting my top speed and a nice balanced middle range. Plus id at least like the option to do mountain climbing if I wish, the 24 I'm happy enough with it was just a rough number the 22/20, a ball park figure. But the chainset I've linked will make somewhat of a difference, how much off the top of my head I don't know, but I dont know if it would fit, or if there is one out there that has a similar low range to what I've got but with a higher top end too?

reohn2
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Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby reohn2 » 25 Oct 2019, 10:15am

The biggest improvement you can make for ride quality and efficiency is tyres,Double Fighters will be a slight improvement in rolling resistance over the Kendas but not significantly,they're a heavy draggy tyre on tarmac and maybe unnecessary on the gravel,for a real improvement look at Schwalbe Big Apples or a better tyre and a more pricey option Marathon Supremes.
FWIW I ride a lot of gravel tracks and bridleways on slicks(properly inflated*) without any problems and find it's only the real MTB terrain where I need tyres with tread and side knobs.
I'm puzzled by you wanting bull horns over the straight bars a pair of bar ends would be a better choice IMO,something like these:- https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2-X-Mountain ... 4d985b2c77 are very comfy and being covered with Kraton rubber aren't cold to bare hands when gloves aren't being worn.
As Woof has pointed out there's not much if any gain by changing the chainset,as I'm thinking most people ride at sub 20mph and 24 x 32 should be low enough for almost any hill.
As for a pneumatic suspension seatpost,I'm not seen any,there are plenty of cheap telescopic spring seatpost about but they aren't much use better with a Suntour one such as this:- https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Suntour-SP12 ... SwbipdgLgq which without being too spendy offers a decent suspension aid,though TBH I can't see you would need one on suchclarge section tyres.

*https://www.google.co.uk/search?num=10&client=ms-android-samsung&source=android-home&site=webhp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=980&bih=613&q=tyre+drop+chart&oq=Tyre+&gs_l=img.1.0.35i39k1j0l9.2565.4451.0.5809.7.7.0.0.0.0.103.423.4j1.5.0....0...1.1j4.64.img..2.5.417.0.WM0S7VGFiI4#imgrc=yV3XNwExjl-QBM:
Last edited by reohn2 on 30 Oct 2019, 3:48pm, edited 1 time in total.
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pjclinch
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby pjclinch » 25 Oct 2019, 10:39am

I'd agree that the tyres will probably be well and away the most significant, useful and cost-effective upgrade. Mud-tyres on anything but mud are a major drag.
Often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

reohn2
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Joined: 26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm

Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby reohn2 » 25 Oct 2019, 11:03am

Jammyjames wrote:I know it's not far, but speed and comfort are a what I'm looking for with it, I mean going there its about 2.5 miles flat & shallow gradual down hill and the other 1.5 is a gradual uphill (the part my fitness struggles with) But on the flats and downhill sections I'm in top gear and going nowhere and being blitzed by a road bike, I known always will, but I want to bridge the gap a little. But I want the low range for a quick start at the roundabout I've got to cross (it's an awful roundabout) and then the high range when I'm hitting my top speed and a nice balanced middle range. Plus id at least like the option to do mountain climbing if I wish, the 24 I'm happy enough with it was just a rough number the 22/20, a ball park figure. But the chainset I've linked will make somewhat of a difference, how much off the top of my head I don't know, but I dont know if it would fit, or if there is one out there that has a similar low range to what I've got but with a higher top end too?

TBH the old saying "if you want to get to there,I wouldn't start from here" applies in this instance.
The bike you have is limited by first being an MTB and secondly by it's engine,which may be pretty sporty I don't know,but the same engine on a road bike will drop you for dead.
For commuting for the most part comfort and efficiency is the goal of the machine you have,the mods already mentioned to your bike will offer efficiency,one other thing that will also offer comfort are mudguards.
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kylecycler
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Location: Kyle, Ayrshire

Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby kylecycler » 25 Oct 2019, 11:54am

For the 27.5" wheel size it would be Big Bens rather than Big Apples - Schwalbe don't make Big Apples in that size, although Big Bens are just the virtually identical equivalent. They still have some tread but they're almost slick and quite fast rolling, although they won't grip well on mud if you go off road. I used Double Fighters and tbh they were the worst of both worlds - not great on-road and no grip off-road except on soft mud.

There are two types of Big Bens, though - the cheaper version with K-Guard puncture 'protection', and the more expensive version with RaceGuard - read the description closely to tell - you want 'Performance Line' rather than 'Active Line'. You might be ok using slime tubes, but otherwise the cheaper K-Guard Big Bens are false economy, especially if you're commuting - K stands for Kevlar, which sounds high-tech, but RaceGuard offers far better puncture protection so it's well worth the money to go higher (unless you want to spend time fixing punctures!). Plus, you don't want to be late for work.

Carrera hybrids tend to be fitted with a 48/38/28 triple (that's what's on my Subway) - with a 32 on the back, that should do you fine, but others will advise as to whether you'd need to change the front derailleur. Not sure if it would be worth your while, though, either way.

Carreras might be 'budget' bikes and some people are sniffy and snobby about them but if it's properly set up and looked after it will serve you well. The Altus M310 rear derailleur in particular is a real gem - Rivendell, a company in the States who make high-end lugged steel bicycles, even wrote an ode to it - 'the best-designed cheap rear derailer in existence'!

https://www.rivbike.com/products/shiman ... m310-17167

reohn2
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby reohn2 » 25 Oct 2019, 6:28pm

Apologies for the oversight on the 27.5in wheel size :oops:
Kylecycle's right about the Big Ben's and about the higher quality performance line tyres
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kylecycler
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby kylecycler » 25 Oct 2019, 9:52pm

I think Big Bens and Big Apples are basically the same tyre, the surface on the Big Ben is textured but I don't think it makes a difference. All I know is, I got the cheaper version of the 26" Big Apple for about a tenner at SJS and it was a puncture magnet. Ditched them when they were half worn, got the dearer version and still, touch wood, no punctures.

iandriver
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby iandriver » 27 Oct 2019, 1:40pm

Flat bar brake levers and shifters won't fit on bullhorns, the bars are a different diameter. As the others point out, try changing the tyres and perhaps some bar ends. If that doesn't work, buy a different bike.
Supporter of the A10 corridor cycling campaign serving Royston to Cambridge http://a10corridorcycle.com. Never knew gardening secateurs were an essential part of the on bike tool kit until I took up campaigning.....

gazza_d
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Joined: 30 Oct 2016, 8:20am

Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby gazza_d » 29 Oct 2019, 7:27am

Buy some ergonomic stubby bar ends from Decathlon for a tenner. Quite comfortable.
Invest in some Marathon+ tyres and don;t mess with slime or anything else inside tubes.
Leave the rest alone.
Otherwise invest in something like a hybrid that you can fit decent mudguards too as well as the above.
Oh and search for dynamo lighting.

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rbrian
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby rbrian » 29 Oct 2019, 8:30pm

I used to commute on a mountain bike. The mud tyres and front suspension were great off road, but horrible on it. I tried changing the tyres for slicks, and my speed on the flat went from 15mph to 18mph with no extra effort. Changing the tyres at the weekend was a hassle, so I got a whole new wheelset - one for dirt, one for the road. It was OK, but the suspension fork sapped my energy.

In the end I left it for off road only, and bought a Carrera Subway for commuting. It was 20 years ago, I'm not sure what they're like now, but back then it was a rigid mountain bike frame, 26" wheels, and 3x8 gears - and only about £250! I always added stubby bar ends to flat bars, but now I go for Ergon grips with built in bar ends. I added a rack, because rucksacks are unpleasant when cycling, and mudguards, because who wants a rooster tail at work? I had a trailer too for a while. I really liked that bike. It was solid, stable, comfortable, simple, but a house move to somewhere without a garage means folders only now.
Cynic? No, an optimist tempered by experience.

MOARspeed
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby MOARspeed » 30 Oct 2019, 3:13pm

I was commuting on a Specialized Sirrus hybrid, 28mm tyres, a very roady hybrid. It was fast, it was nippy in traffic, but as someone who is more of a mountain biker I hated the fact I couldn't just nip up onto a grass verge to pass cars who were trying to block my filtering (happened quite a few times).

So I got a Canyon pathlite 5.0, which is more like a gravel hybrid, on my first ride out, due to having no large chain ring, I ran out of steam on a downhill section of road which used to be able take at 40-45mph on the Sirrus, this made me sad :(
Honestly though, I figure it's no loss, it's just one small downhill section on a 4 mile commute. Sure it was fun overtaking cars, but eventually i'd have had an off and it would have hurt.

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Darkman
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Re: Mountain bike commuting

Postby Darkman » 31 Oct 2019, 10:35am

Regarding the handlebars, I opted for some Ergon GP2 grips when I was doing up my old bike. I had some fitted into the bar-ends previously that wouldn't tighten up properly, nor would they come back out cos the shim was stuck or rusted or something. So I just replaced the handlebars and grips.

I got them from Bikester (before realising that despite the .co.uk domain, they're in Germany). But you can get them anywhere.

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/ergon-gp2-handlebar-grips/

I found them to be super-comfortable. Even though the bar-end part is quite short, it's big enough. But there are also Ergon GP3s if you felt you needed a bit of a longer one.