Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

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Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby progressive » 7 Nov 2014, 1:43am

Hello all,

I was hoping to run some plans for a proposed ‘touring bike’ by the community here.

Further to spending quite a bit of time on the road bike over the past couple of years, I want to try my hand at some light touring. I have a few ideas in mind, these include:

- Coast to Coast (Whitehaven to Sunderland).
- Hadrian’s Cycleway (join at Whithaven to Tynemouth).
- Coasts and Castles Route (Newcastle to Edinburgh).
- Short tour of Western Europe. Between one month and three months dependent on work.

Whilst I am not on a strict budget, I would like to conserve what I have if possible. This will leave more funds to undertake the rides. I have a virtually unused 2010 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc. It was purchased and used for local bridleways, decommissioned railway lines and the like. It has been garaged for two years as I have been working overseas. From what I remember the bike fits me (I’m 6’3”, the frame size is 21”), although I haven’t ridden it for the time I have been away so I am basing opinion on memory only. I would probably prefer 700c wheels as I will mainly ride on sealed and light gravel roads, but I figure it best to try out what I have first. Sensible decision or a small cost saving for a big sacrifice? Below is a link to the bike on the Specialized website for reference. ... ksportdisc

I was resigned to buying a dedicated touring bike, likely pre-owned but then stumbled across a post on another forum where somebody had utilised this bike in a way I didn’t really forsee, which could be completely suitable for my requirements. Photo below (thanks to the original poster, please excuse me). ... -hr102.jpg

So my thoughts are that I will make some minor modifications to the current bike, and see how it goes on a weekend tour and some loaded test rides. For my UK-based mini-tours I would use B&Bs, the European tour would be tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear.

The modifications I propose to make are as follows:

- Rigid fork to replace the stock (poor) SR Suntour 80mm suspension fork. Ideally I would pick up a pre-owned ‘touring fork’ with braze-ons / mounts for a front rack and/or additional water bottle cages. Hopefully no more than £75.

- Undecided between ‘bar ends’ or replacing the riser bars with butterfly / trekking bars. There actually isn’t much in it in terms of cost. £20.

- Replacing the 26 x 2.0 Specialized Fasttrack tires for something faster rolling, likely 1.5 semi-slicks. £40.

- Axiom Streamliner disc-specific rear rack and two panniers. £50.

- Front rack (model TBC) to allow additional capacity for longer tour. Say £30.

- Planet Hardcore fenders front and rear, as per the example above.

- Other minor modifications such as replaced saddle and SPD pedals.

All told, that will likely run me in excess of £200. I may be better just throwing an extra £300 into the equation and buying a more fit-for-purpose touring bike. I could probably make £200 back on the original bike, based on eBay research.

Any views or opinions?

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby Drake » 7 Nov 2014, 5:02am

Must admit if it were me i would sell mtb and get something more for touring.

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby Edwards » 7 Nov 2014, 5:19am

If you can get [url ... aveller-14] this in your size.[/url]

Then sell the other bike you may find that the overall cost is about the same.
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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby Spinners » 7 Nov 2014, 6:26am

Drake wrote:Must admit if it were me i would sell mtb and get something more for touring.

+ 1

I've been impressed with my Fuji Touring Bike (£550 from Evans) worth a look but I'd recommend seeing one in the flesh as the 'online' geometry chart bore no relationship to the actual bike. Thankfully, this worked in my favour and the fit is just perfect.
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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby Gearoidmuar » 7 Nov 2014, 6:47am

I've done 78 bike tours. Of these at least 30 if not more have been on modified MTBs (4 different ones). They make very good tourers for two reasons. The gear range is excellent and secondly, the brakes are usually great.
The two changes you have to make (IME) is make sure the reach isn't too long for comfort, as it often is, by getting a shorter higher stem and of course, bar-ends, and secondly fit a carrier for your luggage.
Slick tyres are an advantage of course, Specialized Fatboys (which I used until recently. Can no longer get them), Panaracer Pasela etc.
Make sure that you will have heel clearance for your bags. That's a must.
I never changed the fork. One of the bikes had a rigid fork and the other three didn't. One of them (which I still have) has a lockable fork which is ideal. The other two bobbed a little if you stood up, but you get used to anything!

I've had three conventional touring bikes in my time but my opinion on them is reflected by the fact that my current tourer is a Thorn Raven Tour which is in essence a mountain bike. I have bullhorn bars on it. I find them much more comfortable than drop bars and I had drop bars for a long time.
A properly adapted mountain bike is a better touring bike than a touring bike. Properly adapted includes mudguards (zip-tied on if necessary).

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby Brucey » 7 Nov 2014, 7:18am

you say 'light touring' but if I read it right your list includes some offroady stuff and then a longer tour of many weeks. So in the latter case I'm guessing you will likely be carrying a fair amount?

Touring bikes arguably fall into several camps including;

- light tourers; 700C wheels, limited luggage carrying capacity, road use, ~28-35mm tyres
- classic tourers; 700C wheels, carry 10-15kg luggage, mostly road use with light trail use (unladen) ~ 32-40mm tyres
- expedition tourers; 26" wheels, carry up to 30kg luggage, road or dirt road use (laden) full offroad use (light load) ~ 37-50mm tyres.

Maybe one of these fits your use, maybe not, but between these categories there are many shades of grey. Often the load capacity is expressed as a total load including rider, and the handling in some frame types gets worse with the larger size frames (they vary, but rarely are the larger frames as relatively stiff as smaller versions of 'the same frame'). So if you are tall, strongly built, and want to carry a fair amount of luggage then you are looking at a whole different bike than otherwise.

If you spend £200 on your MTB you will have a bike that might suit your needs, might not. But if you flog that and add the £200 (and the rest, it won't stop there), you can spend that on a more suitable bike (new or used) that better meets your needs.

If you want an 'expedition tourer' but you are on a budget, a good way of doing this is to pick up an early '90s rigid MTB e.g. with an oversized steel tubed frame, chainstays that are not too short and steel rigid fork. They are not expensive, and often reappear from the dark recesses of garages and sheds having done little more than gather dust for two decades. The frame, wheels, and gearing should be pretty close to what you want, just add tyres, racks, handlebars of choice. If they are not fitted already, consider buying/building stronger wheels (36h ones with heavy rims) if you are going to carry a load; 32h ones with light rims often just won't cut it.

If you want to dip your toes into touring water then it doesn't make sense to spend a fortune at first, but if you do as much as you plan to, I'd suggest that you should buy as good as you can afford; you are aiming to spend a lot of time on this bike which will give you ample time to rue your choice should it be a poor one.


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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby scoot » 7 Nov 2014, 4:46pm


If your MTB is in good order, I'd buy whatever racks you prefer (I think you can fit racks with a sort of P clip to the frame if no screw fittings are available) I'd stick on a set of suitable tyres, - I use 2inch slick for mostly tarmac us - Probably get some bar ends to change hand position and then I would go on a smaller tour to try out the modded steed and off I'd jolly well trot.

My son has had a couple of Specialized, we have found them very capable machines and done several 60 milers with ease.

If it's anything like my old Gary Fisher its strong, light enough, very comfy and rolls along very nicely, plus you can use the suspension to even out the bumps and lock it out up hill.

Why spend if you don't have to? plus I do like a bit of a challenge :D


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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby 531colin » 7 Nov 2014, 6:00pm

I own five bikes, which is surely an indulgence; however, it does mean I can keep the winter road salt off my "favourites", and on this wet and miserable day I'm in my shed tinkering with the "winter" bikes as a prelude to getting them out, and putting the "summer" bikes away.
For winter roughstuff, I'm getting out my original on/off road tourer, which is an Orbit Romany, it was the first "manufactured" bike of that sort that I became aware of, fifteen to twenty years ago (?). 26" wheels, big tyre clearances, Vee brakes, drop bars. At the time, it was an absolute revelation for "roughstuff", for somebody used to venturing off road on a tourer.
However, it has been replaced in my affections by a bike I designed myself, Spa's roughstuff bike.
The Spa bike simply rolls over stuff that would otherwise give me cause to go carefully; its easy to assume thats because the Spa has 700c wheels, and "the magazines" are full of how much better 29" wheel mountain bikes are than 26" wheel. Then I started thinking about the problem the OP set us on this thread....

The first thing to strike me is the chainstays are 424mm in all sizes.
Surly make the Long Haul Trucker chainstays 460mm in all sizes, even with a 26" wheel.

The second thing to strike me about the Spec. is its a long wheelbase in the big sizes, and the third thing is that for every 2" size increase, the effective top tube is 25mm longer, except for the 13" to 15", where its 15mm., and much the same happens with the wheelbase. Its quite common for the effective top tube to "grow" at half the rate of the "size", so that's no surprise, and I imagine that for the smallest bike they couldn't bring the front wheel back any further without getting toe overlap.

The Spec. is a mountain bike, so it has short chainstays, so its easier to pop the front wheel up and over an obstacle....the LHT is a tourer (and "famously stable", at that) so it has long chainstays for comfort, to keep the front wheel down when grinding up something steep sitting on the saddle, and also, maybe, for stability?
When I designed Spa's roughstuff bike, all I wanted was a nice, stable, viceless tourer, with clearances for 700 x 40 tyres and mudguards, that I could ride in boots without toe overlap. Off-road touring is a world away from mountain biking....I won't be popping the front wheel up and over any obstacles.....I enjoy skylarking around as much as the next sixty-odd year-old, but I'm not looking for a white-knuckle ride, I want to be able to look up from the track and enjoy the places I get to. On the Spec., the front wheel is way out in front, and its quite a bit out in front on my bike, and its a great comfort when I'm going down something steep and loose/muddy/etc.....having the front wheel underneath you is all very well on a track bike, or even a road bike....
Well, I got my nice, stable, viceless tourer, but I also got a couple of bonuses that I didn't expect, and can't really explain. The first bonus is a remarkable ability to just roll over stuff. OK. some of it is the big wheels, but I wonder if some of it is the length of the thing. My only experience of off-road tandeming was taking my kids bridle-pathing, and the tandem with a child on the back was pretty remarkable at just rolling over stuff, is it to do with the length of the beast? The other bonus with the Spa is a type of stability that's almost like a motorbike. Get it up above twenty(ish) miles an hour on a tarmac descent, and its like its on rails, and I don't know why. Big meaty tyres? Length?
It won't happen, but I would like to have a conversation with whoever designs the Truckers. They are famously stable loaded, but in the 700c bike the steering geometry is just about the most widely used set of numbers (72 deg, 45mm). Some of the stability is down to big, stiff tubes. How much of it is down to long chainstays and front centre?
(I would also ask why they do that thing with using a different head angle and the same fork offset on the 26" bike, whereas on the 700c every size is 72deg, 45mm offset.... :wink: )
I know I keep banging on about roughstuff, and the OP talks of gravel roads, but roughstuff is only a logical extension of what we do everyday on our broken roads.....we shift our weight between saddle, pedals, and bars, in order to "un-weight" first one wheel then the other as we negotiate a bump.

If anybody is still reading, the Spa geometry can be found on their website (there are 2 other sizes of roughstuff bike, I can probably dig out the numbers), and my Orbit Romany measures 430mm chainstays, 600mm front centres.

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby maxcherry » 7 Nov 2014, 6:10pm

I vote 'Go Shopping'

New bikes give riders enhanced powers, making them stronger, faster and much more
prettier than usual.

You don't have to spend £££££s to get a new 'Joy Toy' in your life.
Honestly chaps, I'm a female!

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby AaronR » 7 Nov 2014, 8:58pm

Rigid fork ... rake--disc

Biased, but I am currently riding a '98 Specialized Rockhopper purchased very cheaply - have added lights, bottle cages, racks, panniers, road tyres, stem riser, spd pedals and preferred saddle and it still comes in under £300 (of which most has come out of my shed)

Gearing is good, riding position is good, and while I was very lucky to buy a 16 year old bike and do nothing to it except pump up the tyres and oil the chain if you are planning to do one tour I'd use what you've got and see what happens - I'm doing JOGLE on it next year, with the realistic view that if I enjoy distance touring I can buy a new bike, transfer the racks etc and keep the Rockhopper for the daily commute

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby DaveP » 8 Nov 2014, 6:13pm

I have two tourers. One is a 700c drop bar, the other is a converted mtb. I consider them both to be very capable machines. I would probably choose the 700c bike for high daily mileages, not because of its wheels but because of the riding position. The mtb offers a more head up ride which is great for enjoying the scenery.

Having declared my vested interests, in this case I think I would sell, the reason being the rear disc brake. With the calliper mounted above the seat stay a pannier rack leg has to go around it to transfer the load to the frame. You can buy racks for the job, and I have no actual grounds for doubting them - but it looks an awfully vulnerable arrangement to me and I can't imagine that they would stand up to sustained heavy use as well as the traditional straight legged versions. Just the way I feel, and I won't be arguing about it :)

If you do decide to convert, the very first thing to do would be to install a rack and a couple of well stuffed panniers - you can fill them with scrunched up newspaper if necessary, as long as they are well filled - and go see if you have heel clearance. You are 4" taller than me, and if your feet are bigger in proportion then you might have a problem. I'm afraid you do have to try it to get a definitive answer.
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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby Brucey » 8 Nov 2014, 6:25pm

IIRC tubus and maybe others do racks which reach around to the rear of disc calipers, keeping them standard width and reasonably strong. This also pushes the rack backwards and gives a little more heel clearance on the panniers.

Obviously if you overdo it the bike will tend to rear up when you are not on it but a little front load will usually quell that OK.


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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby A1anP » 8 Nov 2014, 6:36pm

I have to agree with DaveP that you'll need to fit a rack and try it out with some loaded panniers then see how you feel after 40 or 50 miles. Having said that, my son's best friend did JoGLE last year with the same model of bike, also in XL size so it can be done. 100+ mile days too, but by all accounts it was hard going.
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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby PaulSB » 8 Nov 2014, 7:03pm

I am far from expert in these matters though have done my fair share of credit card tours. My suggestion is this; the UK tours you mention aren't too demanding so consider converting the MTB and testing if on these routes.

If the conversion doesn't feel 110% right then invest in a new tourer before embarking on the European tour.

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Re: Modify my Mountain Bike or buy a Toruing Bike?

Postby DaveP » 9 Nov 2014, 9:14am

[quote="Brucey"]IIRC tubus and maybe others do racks which reach around to the rear of disc calipers, keeping them standard width and reasonably strong. This also pushes the rack backwards and gives a little more heel clearance on the panniers./quote]

I do tend not to look too closely at Tubus products because of the price, but I wouldn't dispute the quality. These certainly look superior to the "other brand" that I bought in haste a couple of years back. Twice the price though :D
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