Friday, December 5, 2014

Mountain Bike Your Way to a Great Commuter!

FrankenHuffy in mid-evolution

One of my first electric bikes was a Huffy Cruiser. It started life as a single-speed, coaster-braked, white-walled, beach cruiser. This might shock you, but it was electrified on a budget, so I tried to retain as many of the original parts as possible. Including the big, fat, white-wall tires.

But those tires were not really up to the stress of a heavy bike with heavy batteries and a really heavy rider cruising at almost 20 miles per hour. So, I saved up a little money and bought some skinny tires that ran much higher air pressure. The ride became much rougher, but the bike handled better, gained about 2 mph in top speed, and went from a five-mile range to a six-mile range. Man, it was an impressive upgrade!

And I learned a valuable lesson - skinny tires = more efficiency. And that is important for non-athletic types like me.

Then I started looking at hybrid and commuter bikes with drool on my cheek, but my cheapo conscience kept seeing dollar signs instead of the freedom of the open urban road.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this summer. I found myself at a garage sale with a bunch of bicycles at really low prices. Hidden at the bottom of the pile was a Motobecane mountain bike with a flat tire and a beer cup duct taped to the handlebar. I brought it home, replaced the rear tube, and started riding it around. And I liked it.

An inexpensive mountain bike on Craigslist today

So, I started riding it to work. Then I replaced the tires (one at a time) with skinnier tires. and I went to a slightly taller handlebar. And I added some lights. After a few commutes, I joined the National Bike Challenge. I rode a lot throughout the summer. (And there were some big health benefits in all that, too.) One day I parked the mountain bike next to a hybrid bike at a bike rack. And they were very close to being the same bike. I had about $70 in mine by that time.

Another inexpensive mountain bike on Craigslist today
All this is to say that if you want a hybrid or a commuter, you might want to grab a used mountain bike. Especially if you already have one lying around. I have been extremely happy with mine, and it's a pretty easy conversion. If you are on a tight budget, you can even do it in stages.

If this idea tempts you, here is a great Byron Kidd article to help you get started:

Convert Your Mountain Bike to a Road Ready Commuter

May you and your wallet be happy with your bike!