Mountain Bike Commuter
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The Perfect Solution for Commuting on Bad Roads with Hills

Hardy Menagh   8/12/08

After getting an old Trek mountain bike for nothing, with just a few inexpensive changes, I put it into service as a commuter.

Antelope 830 Right Side

Rear ViewCassette

After riding it just a few times, it didn't take long for it to dawn on me that this older rigid frame mountain bike might perfect for commuting in a hilly environment. It would definitely need different tires, a rack and maybe slightly higher gearing. The nice thing was that whatever I spent on it, would end up being the cost of the bike. I planned to keep this cost as low as possible.

I checked with the folks that frequent the Classic & Vintage forum at and discovered that quite a few people are using old all-terrain bikes as commuters. Many of these are devout Antelope fans. That sealed the deal.

The changes were simple. I got some inexpensive slick tires, added an old used rack and a converted camera bag. This holds a pump, multi-tool and spare tube and still has room for a change of underwear, a towel and a few other necessaries. Since I have some issues with hand numbness from gripping in one place too long, I added bar ends.

I also changed the 13-30 cassette to a 12-28 one. I rarely needed to use the granny ring and never in combination with the 30 sprocket. I replaced the old brittle, cracked spoke protector (aka: dork disk) at the same time.

The original Trek branded Velo saddle can only be described as "anti-anatomic". This is without a doubt, the least comfortable saddle I've ever had the displeasure to plant my posterior on. Imagine straddling the narrow edge of a rigid 2" x 4". It becomes quite painful after less than 30 minutes of riding. This seat is actually dimpled where most anatomic saddles bulge with extra padding. I replaced it with a Selle gel saddle I rotated from another bike when I changed its saddle to a lighter one.

I ride my Antelope commuter to work regularly and occasionally use it for grocery shopping and other errands. The only petroleum it uses is manufactured into the tires and a small amount of grease and oil in the bearings and on the chain. The only carbon emissions are from my increased respiration. The best part is that I arrive at work feeling awake and invigorated. What could be better than that?



Parts List with Sources and Costs

Check for these parts with your local bike shop. Shipping has gotten quite expensive lately and there may be little or no savings by ordering on-line. I'm including some on-line sources, if you have no other option.

Tires:   Kenda Kwest marketed as Pyramid 26x1.95, K193, Black, 60PSI, Price: US$8.48 - $9.56 x 2 (see review below)
Rack:   Just an old used cast alloy rack, adapted to the mounts. No cost.
Bag:   An old Totes camera bag. I added some Velcro straps. No cost. You can adapt many types of bags and small backpacks and even use them in combination on a rack.
Bar Ends:   Pyramid Alloy Ski Bend Bar Ends, Black, Price: $8.49 A little crude but functional. The padded tape is the left-over cut-offs from wrapping road bars, no cost.
Cassette:   Shimano HG50 cassette, 12-28 tooth. 7-speed, Price: $17.77
Spoke Protector:   Shimano CP-FH51 For 36 hole hub, Price: $3.99 Cheap insurance for your spokes.
Saddle:   Previously used Selle Royal Metro Gel Xsenium, Original cost: $17.84

The total cost of this bike, then was just over US$65. What did it cost you to fill your gas tank the last time?

The prices listed reflect those charged by Niagara Cycle Works and BikepartsUSA at the time this article was written. This does not constitute an endorsement of any on-line supplier.

Bar Ends

Review of Pyramid (Kenda Kwest) 26x1.95, K193, Black, 60PSI Slick Tires

Top ViewI purchased these Kenda tires to replace the original 26X2.0 knobby tires that came with my Trek Antelope. Although technically, the size should be slightly smaller (26X1.95), these tires have a slightly larger diameter than the knobbies they replaced. They stand a full 2 inches off the rim. The interesting thing is that, at 1 lb, 6oz each, they also weigh a few ounces less than the original worn tires.

The Kendas have a thin side wall (skin wall) with very thick rubber where they meet the road. Rolling over bits of small sharp road debris, which ordinarily might produce a flat in many road tires, is unlikely to bother these. The rubber is also quite good quality. After more than a month of riding an hour or more a day on various road surfaces, including gravel, the center mold seam flash has only just worn off the rear tire and still partly remains on the front. They also have yet to exhibit any cuts or other blemishes.

The maximum inflation pressure is 65 psi. Fully inflated, the footprint of the front tire on the road is approximately 11/16" wide, taking into account my clothed body weight of 190 lbs. and a 32+ lb. bicycle. The measurement was taken from riding the bike straight through a wet area on the road and observing the resultant moist area on the tire. The footprint of the rear tire will be greater.

when riding down hill at high speed, hands off, a shimmy was observed at the handlebars. With tires this robust, it's not unusual and could only be cured with dynamic balancing, if that were possible. Light hand pressure on the bars stopped the shimmy instantly.

On the road, the Kendas feel secure and smooth. I felt confident enough with these tires, to take some corners faster than I usually do and felt perfectly safe leaning at extreme angles. The tires stayed planted firmly to the blacktop all of the way through the turns.


At a typical retail price of less than US$10, these tough tires are a bargain. They have been unscathed by commuting hazards like potholes and debris, including broken glass and rocks, which are sometimes unavoidable when riding in and next to motorized traffic. If you plan to purchase these tires, be certain that they are exactly what you want, because you won't be wearing them out any time soon.

Side View

For more information about commuting by bicycle, see:
The Commuting Forum at

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Copyright © 2008 Hardy Menagh