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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    My first MTB, vacation pics, and advice needed.....

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    I am a roadie at heart, that wanted to try mountain biking since I plan to retire to an area with a lot of dirt roads and MTB trails (southern portugal). So, I bought an older used MTB (2005 Gary Fisher Tassajara) that was in great condition (barely ridden) since it had English threading and would work with my custom crank sets (that correct for a 2.2 cm LLD I suffered in a cycling accident many years ago). For the trip, I installed my road crankset with the 34 tooth chain ring attached (w rear 11/34 9 spd DeoreLX drivetrain), which gave me a range of 30.6-68.9 gear inches. Now its time to finalize the gearing on my custom MTB cranksetClick image for larger version. 

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ID:	17337. The terrain in Portugal where I plan to retire was more mountainous than I expected, and since I felt like I was lacking much more on the low end than high end, I am thinking to get either a 22/38 (16.8-89.6 ) or 24/40 (18.3-94.3) leaning towards the 22/38. Does that make sense to you guys? It’s a heavy bike (30 lb) w 26” wheels, and while I love cycling I am not a strong rider (even my road bike has a 50/34, 12/27, 650c wheels and gets me up moderate but not super steep climbs). Will this gearing still work if someday I decide to upgrade to a more modern lighter MTB? I know I can always order new chain rings in the future, but since they are custom made to fit me they aren’t cheap so I would like to get it right the first time.

    I had also thought when I returned I would get a lighter more modern MTB. But it seemed to me what limited me on this trip was my own fear and lack of skills (I was afraid to ride really rocky and/or steep terrain) so the jury is still out as to how technical my riding will be in the long term, although I will surely use this bike to ride dirt roads w moderate to steep grades, sometimes carrying groceries, etc. So I think this bike is fine for now. But when I told the guys at the LBS, they insisted that I would be able to ride rougher terrain more easily on a modern MTB. This doesn’t make sense to me. They say the larger wheels roll easier and full suspension and ‘modern geometry’ (whatever the hell that is) give you more ‘confidence’ to ride over scarier stuff. But at one point we encountered some rocky roads I couldn’t get over, so my husband road my bike over it for me, and told me the smaller wheels made it more maneuverable than when he rode it on his modern 29er (both hard tails). I also have almost no standover height (30.5” cycling inseam/ 14/15” frame size) on the 29ers, and even 27.5 bikes I looked at, so maybe 26” is the best size for my height. The geometry felt great to my body. If my body wasn’t hurting, why would I want the weight of a soft-tail? Are these guys just trying to sell me a new bike I don’t need or aren’t ready for? That is my feeling. I only want to decide now since it may effect the gearing on the new mountain crank set.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
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    Hi Trisk!
    How exciting that you are retiring to Portugal. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a mountain biker, but I did spend a few years trying to be one, and gave it up when I realized I was not willing to practice enough to get good, because it took up my road time and miles. I had a full suspension bike (a 2005 Norco, regular 26er) that did make it easier to roll over roots and rocks. Now, I never got the point where I was good at doing it going uphill, but it gave me a lot more confidence. So part of me says, it might make it a bit easier for you, as well as be softer on the joints. Others will dispute this, and say it's not necessary. I rode a few dirt roads in Maine a few years ago, and I appreciated the FS even then, because it was full of huge rocks.
    I have a mountain derailleur on the rear of my custom road bike, with an 11-34 and a 50/34 on the front. I can get up anything with it. I can't remember the exact gearing I had on the Norco, but it wasn't quite as low as you are talking about. I'd say, go for the lowest gearing you can get, because my favorite saying is "your most important gear is the lowest one."
    I think this applies to mountain biking, too. You want to have fun and to be able to use the bike for shopping, etc. Why make something that is technically difficult harder? I never felt my full suspension mtg was super heavy, because you can't compare it to a road bike.
    Where in Portugal are you moving? I am going on a cycling trip in about 5 weeks; we will be riding from Lisbon to the border of Spain.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
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    Hi Crankin- We aren't retiring yet, probably in about 3 years, but I am starting to prepare. My husband is originally from the Algarve, and his parents are there, which is where we plan to live. They live in a little town just outside of Faro, but we like the area on the western coast around Aljezur a lot, so hope to purchase something there. I too have an 11/34 on my touring bike, but might put it on my racing bike if we decide to do serious climbing.

    I was surprised on this vacation to see that road riding in Portugal has improved a lot. We thought we would need MTBs to ride at all, but its clear we will be able to do both. But there are many nice trails that go from Spain all the way to the western tip (cape sagres), such as the transalgarve, transportugal, and transalgarviana. On this vacation we spent a lot of time on the transalgarviana. I still like road riding more, but think it may be a skill thing since there were some very beautiful things that one could only experience on a MTB. I also liked that for roads with narrow shoulders, the MTB let you ride on the dirt path next to the road that would not be rideable with a road bike. My reluctance to get a full suspension bike is the weight factor. Maybe someday I will try renting one to see how I like it (if they will allow me to put my custom crank on it).

    I'd love to have the info. on your trip. Have fun! Maybe we'll do something like that some day.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
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    the dry side
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    They say the larger wheels roll easier and full suspension and ‘modern geometry’ (whatever the hell that is) give you more ‘confidence’ to ride over scarier stuff.
    Modern geometry IS going to be more stable but 2005 isnt "that" old. I don't follow your gearing discussion at all, but I certainly would stay away from 29" wheels, especially if you are small. I've met enough small women that do not love thier 29ers to make that recommendation.

    Really the best thing for building confidence is learning skills. It's not the bike, it's the rider and if the rider is not confident, it doesn't matter what bike you put them. If you want to gain confidence, look for a clinic.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    Hi Trisk ~~ I am excited for you! I remember when I first started MTBing, you weren't interested in it at all, but as you see, sometimes it suits the terrain, and it can be really fun. I pretty quickly (after a few painful falls) decided I didn't care for technical stuff and wasn't willing to devote the time or energy it would take to get good at it at my age, especially since I still want to spend a lot/most of my riding time on the road. That said, I love the kind of "backroads" in your photos (the more rocky, the less I like 'em) and have found many places to ride back gravel roads, fire roads, double track and even easy single track (emphasis on easy!)

    I agree on going with the lowest gearing. My MTBs have all had triples, and I rarely use the large chainring. I also don't use the granny much, but it's nice when you really need it. I am in the middle ring about 95% of the time and shifting only in the back since I have 22-32-42 crankset and 11-34 in back, giving me a wide range and plenty of low gears even with the middle ring alone. I have never tried a MTB with wheels larger than 26" and feel sure anything larger would be too big for me.

    As for fullie vs. hardtail, don't assume all fullies are going to be heavier than hardtails. My FS Titus Racer X was lighter than my low-end REI Novara hardtail. I'm sure for a given price point, a hardtail is lighter, but I love, love, love full-suspension and would never go back. It's so much comfier on gravel and rocks. The Jamis Dakar XC Comp I bought from Catrin on here is a full-suspension and not super heavy. I can't remember its exact weight (and don't have it with me to weigh), but to me any added weight of rear suspension is well worth it. I know that more technical riders prefer hardtails and hardly ever even sit on the saddle, but that is not me. I get out of the saddle when I can and when it makes sense, but a lot of the roads I ride on my MTB are similar to roads I'd ride on my roadie, only unpaved, and I probably ride it more like a roadie, since that's really what I am.

    I hope you are able to get what you want dialed in, and ENJOY your new mountain biking adventures. Loved the photos!

    P.S. If you are interested, here's a blog post I did on some of our backroads riding we did this past March in Patagonia, Arizona: http://travelingtwosome.weebly.com/t...redible-sights. These unpaved roads were not too rocky and were a blast to ride. Some good climbs and beautiful scenery. You get to see a lot more with knobby tires as we would have missed all this if we'd only ridden paved roads while we were there.
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
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    Trisk, here is the link to the tour we are doing. I noticed it's rated as "easy going to moderate," but we got the specific details a couple of weeks ago, and I would not consider it easy going! There are a few big climbs, which of course, I guess you could skip, to make it easy.
    Emily's experience and comments mirror mine exactly. If I remember, Trisk, you were close to my height, so anything bigger than a 26er would not be my choice.
    Sometimes I get the yen to buy another mountain bike, to do the kind of riding Emily describes. There just aren't a lot of dirt roads right around here, although, I seemed to have found some on my birthday "ride 60 for 60" ride last year, in Wayland, MA. Not fun on my road bike, but, I did it.

    http://www.cyclingcountry.com/CycleT...cling_Tour.htm
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
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    the dry side
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    Emily has some really good advice on bike types. Full suspension has come a long way. Since the early days when the entry level ones were ultra heavy.

    As for gearing, all my mtbs start at 11-32. I had the big ring of the triple removed recently. Between the chain slap and never using the big ring it just made sense to me. The bike I just ordered starts at 11-34 and it is a 2x10.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boise Idaho
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    1,192
    Unless you are riding highly technical, rocky single track I would question needing any type of suspension. If you are doing dirt, gravel roads many of the newer bikes would serve your purpose.
    I know you are leery of a 29 style due to size but if you ever have a chance ride the XS Surly ECR - 29 X 3 inch tires - the tires give you the suspension and they roll over pretty much anything without any drag. The Surly Troll is a perfect bike for what you are describing as well. Looks like beautiful country.
    Sky King
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  9. #9
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    Nov 2002
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    the dry side
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    Sky King, is there a category name for these new bikes that are perfect for "gravel grinding"?
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    Pro Mongoose Titanium Singlespeed
    2012 Trek Madone 4.6 Compact SRAM

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    West MI
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    4,308
    I'm 5'3.5" and it was 2 years ago that I got on my first 29er. I'd not done a lot of riding prior to this and on a heavy, lower-end 26er. I think I logged 102 miles on my 29er before busting my wrist. Granted, there were many reasons that happened...inexperience, newer bike, and my highest trail mileage ever...I was tired and on an EASY section of trail. My guard was down and my reflexes slow. At that point the only options in my size (XS/14") were a few 29ers and very few 26ers.

    I kick myself that I couldn't wait another year. A year ago there were already so many more 650B/27.5" options than the year prior. I'm really an inch or two shorter than what is ideal with the 29er wheels. I think that smaller wheel would be a nice compromise between the better rolling of the 29er and the easier maneuverability of a 26" wheel.

    I've been hesitant to get back on trails. My right wrist is still not 100% in terms of strength and ROM. Unfortunately none of the brands our LBS (of which we are part owners) carries offer a 650B...yet. If that changes I would be much more likely to try again. I miss riding trails with my friends.
    Kirsten
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    zoomylicious


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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
    Posts
    2,024
    Thanks for all the helpful replies. The guys in my LBS say I am a S, not XS. The bike I have has a standover of 28.5" and is a S (15.5"). My cycling inseam is 30.5" and I am 5'4". My road bike is a 48cm cervelo RS w 650C wheels and it fits me like a glove. I have found some 29ers (Julianas) that give me the 28.5" standover and work with an english threaded bottom bracket (requirement of my custom crank), so those are also future candidates. The 27.5" wheel is also attractive. But for now I need to select chain rings for the custom crank. Do you guys think I am making a mistake if I go with 22/38, even if I don't have my final bike picked out yet (or decide to never upgrade, or wait a few years before upgrading). This gearing will get me nice an low on the bike I have since its a 9sp 11/34, but if I get a new bike, even with bigger wheels, I can go up to 36 or even 42 so I will have lots of options. Or is 22 ridiculously low?

    I should add that this is hard, because while I love my LBS, at this point in time they only carry specialized which uses a BB30 bottom bracket, have fixed position FDs (not good for adjusting over my custom elliptical offset rings), and most models have high standover. They will also do orders from MOOTs, but those are very expensive, and also don't offer much in standover on the 27.5 models. The Moots YBB was recommended by Cassie here, but its just not clear to me why it will be so much better than the bike I have already. Also, I didn't feel beat up on the hardtail, so not sure I even need the weight of the YBB. I guess what I am really trying to understand is why I would enjoy a more modern bike. That is why I think I need more time on the bike I have, to see what I want next.
    Last edited by Triskeliongirl; 08-22-2014 at 01:40 PM.

  12. #12
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    Jul 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Triskeliongirl View Post
    Or is 22 ridiculously low?
    For most riding, yes, but for some of the hills we have climbed on gravel, I've used mine and was very glad to have it! You'd be in the 38 most of the time, though.
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
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    I am thinking about it, cuz we were in the mountains, and there was a lot of stuff I couldn't get up in my 34, remembering that we are on dirt, not paved roads, with a bike that weighs 30 lb (and someday I may add groceries, etc. to that). But I could also get a 24 bottom too. I notice a 24/38 is standard in XTR, so perhaps that shifts better. I assumed I could have a 16 tooth gap since that is what I have on my road bike (50/34). I picked 22 cuz that was the lowest gear on the original triple that came on the bike.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
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    Actually, I just researched it, and the shimano 10 speed stuff FD has a limit of 14 teeth difference between front rings. Since they offer a standard 24/38 setup I am thinking to just go with that. Even though my current system is 9 speed, if I encounter any issues with it shifting I can always either change out the FD for the shim no 10 spd, or even upgrade the whole system to 10 spd (then giving me a 36 rear cog if I need it), and it will be more forward compatable with future bikes I might buy. So, unless you guys advise otherwise, that is what I think I will do.

    Emily, nice to hear you still enjoy MTBing! I thought at one point you told me you preferred your hard tail (that was when you had the titus racer X) but maybe what you meant was the style of riding, not the bike type. I agree that I don't want to do super technical stuff, but I do want to try more real mountain biking as long as it isn't super technical. When at home, working, with limited time, if its a choice of road or mountain I will pick road. But when I am retired and have time for both, I think I will enjoy both. I also really like the MTB trails in Portugal, nicer than the MTB parks we have here at home. And there are so many I have yet to explore, the TransPortugal, TransAlgarve, more stages of the Algarviana (I only rode 3 of them). I think once I have the crank set, there will be more flexibility to test ride new bikes, maybe even as rentals first, to sort out what I want longer term. But there will be lots of skill building that I can do on the bike I have first.

  15. #15
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    Feb 2006
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    Hmmm, now I am not sure again. Shimano's 9 spd double was 22/36. So I know the 9 spd stuff will work with 14 teeth diff, so I guess this means the 24/38 will work too. Just wonder if I go with the 24 if I will regret not having the 22 on the low end, although it would be nice to get the 38 on the high end. So, I guess I am still leaning towards 24/38, but would love more input.

    In summary, even though I am doing custom, stock cranksets for shimano 9 speed doubles were 22/36 and for shimano 10 speeds doubles 24/28. Trying to decide which type of custom rings to order on my custom crank system, to use now with my older 30 pound 9 speed MTB, and in the future with a possible newer 10 speed set up.

 

 

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