I decided that my XC mountain bike would make a pretty good tourer. It doesn’t have rack or guard mounts, it’s not made of steel, and it doesn’t have 700c wheels or drop bars. What it does have, however, is a titanium frame (super comfortable), reliable group set, low gearing (for heavy loads and steep hills), and strong components. It’s also pretty light (10.5kg in “race spec”) and it fits me well. Plus: it has already seen me through many an adventure, I love it, and it is already in my shed!
As I have been using the bike for commuting to work on I fitted Continental SportContact tyres (26×1.6″) with Continental Tour Slim tubes (26×1-1.3″). The reason for the narrower tubes is because the tyres actually measure 1.5″ on my rims and the larger tubes were continually flatting. Since fitting the slimmer tubes I’ve had no further problems. I would have liked the slimmer 1.3″ tyres but decided that the extra comfort of the larger volume tyre when loaded might prove beneficial.
Racks are easily available for most frames these days, even those without any mounting points. I opted for the Blackburn EXP1 Disc mounted rack. This fits with a longer rear skewer and is spaced to fit around the disc brake. I still needed to include 3mm of spacer washers to clear my disc brake though. The rack is strong, yet light considering it’s sturdiness.
The rack has proven useful for commuting as I strap my pack to it and arrive at work without a sweaty back. However, loading the rack with shopping on the way home is difficult without panniers. Knowing I’d need them for touring as well as commuting/shopping I decided to get them sooner rather than later. I opted for the Ortlieb Rear Rollers in their latest “Black and White” theme. I think it matches the bike well. The panniers are great as they are totally waterproof and release/fit with one handle. They also have a shoulder strap, so popping in the shop and loading them up at the till is now a simple affair. I may add a short front rack to balance the load a little if needed.
My 80mm suspension forks are some of the lightest on the market, and the plushest that I’ve ever ridden. I love them! But they are light weight XC forks and not especially suited to daily road and touring use. With the 1.6″ tyres I figured I had enough suspension for road use so decided a rigid fork would save some weight, be reliable and maintenance free, and perhaps offer better options for rack and mudguard mounting (this was not the case as it happened!). The Kenisis Maxlight forks are light and comfortable. The extra 100mm “suspension corrected” length has slackened my head angle and actually made things a bit more relaxed and comfortable (and correct for this frame). I also raised my stem by about 25mm, which has given it an even more relaxed feel (and puts less weight on my wrists). I have left the v-brake bosses in place as these will be used for mounting a small front rack (260g) in the future. I am also going to leave the rigid forks on he next time I visit the trail centre. It’ll be a whole new experience riding the same trails without suspension!
The last thing that I added to the bike were mudguards. Something I’ve never had on the bike before, and something I didn’t feel a need for (happy to get wet and muddy usually!). However, given the daily commute and future touring use I decided that getting drowned from road spray and puddles was making life more difficult (and miserable) than needed. You’d be amazed how much water the Conti tyres direct at your feet, legs and face! Fitting the Tortec Reflector mudguards required an extra mount to be drilled as the disc brake calliper gets in the way on the right stanchion. P-clips on the seat stays and some old rear reflector brackets made up for the lack of mudguard mounts on the frame. I’m happy with the results and the reflectors do make a big difference from the side at night.
The bike now weighs 12.4kg without luggage. Not too bad, although I can already feel the extra weight when getting the bike up to speed or throwing it around. It’s not as quick to accelerate or flick about as it used to be. For touring that won’t be a problem, for the commute…I can live with it. It’s lighter than most “hybrid” bikes, and better specced and more comfortable! Fully loaded I expect the bike to weigh just under 34kgs.