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I'm an occasional biker. I bought a mountain bike (nothing fancy) with the idea that I might use it off-road or on mountain trails (of which there are many here in Calgary). However, since I've bought it I've done nothing but bike in the city on streets and paved bike trails.

Is there anything worth doing to my bike to convert it to something more suited to urban biking? In particular, the tires have me wondering; they have large rubber off-roading lugs that surely aren't doing me any favors on pavement. I'm not looking to spend a tons of money on a retrofit, but will do so if its worthwhile.

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You're going to want those big tires when the snow hits and the roads get graveled. I keep mine on year round but my commute in Calgary is less than 15 minutes. –  Patrick Sep 3 '10 at 17:07
    
I don't bike in the snow :-P But that's a good general point, and the gravel can persist well after the snow is gone. –  Craig Walker Sep 8 '10 at 0:34
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6 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You can get a set of slicks or semi-slick tires that will reduce your rolling resistance. If you're using it to commute lots as well then fenders are awesome to keep the rain off. I have a snap on rear fender that goes on any bike I'm riding if it's raining (outside of races). I hate having a wet butt.

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+1 for getting slicks. Also if the mountain bike has suspension parts that you can disable, then disable them. They are of no value in an urban environment. –  Kevin Sep 2 '10 at 19:14
    
Good call on suspension. –  curtismchale Sep 3 '10 at 0:29
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Can't entirely agree about the suspension - yes it may absorb some energy (depends a bit on the suspension) but the general condition of the roads (and cycle paths) is such in many places that if you have suspension you may well benefit from it to some degree (yes you probably wouldn't want the weight on a bike specifically intended for road use but if you've already got the weight you its not black and white). (I say "probably" 'cos I rather like the no-squat suspension on my SpeedMachine recumbent!) –  Murph Sep 5 '10 at 17:26
    
Great call on the fenders. One of the most worthwhile additions to an urban commuting bike. –  deemar Oct 6 '10 at 21:59
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I'm a Calgary rider, too (15km each way). The best thing I can recommend is to get a set of Armadillo Crossroads - they've got some traction, and I use them year round (until the ice builds up and I get out the studded tires). And they have kevlar threads so are pretty rugged and puncture resistant. They're slick enough to not provide much rolling resisitance. Makes a HUGE difference while riding.

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Depending on where you're riding and what you're taking, a rear rack might be worth the investment.

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for urban riding you can use lighting if you often ride at dark, and don't forget to get some lock to your bike. better safe than sorry

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Another thing you could consider would be getting a larger large-chainring if you find yourself hitting top speed often on the streets.

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Ha! My gear ratio is totally wrong on my mountain bike when I have slicks on it. –  sixtyfootersdude Sep 15 '10 at 2:10
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I am in the same situation and I was much happier after I picked up some more appropriate tires. I went with a set of Serfas Drifters, which actually have an inverted tread so that you don't have to worry about going off road if you want. I even use them quite a bit for light trail riding. As long as you can avoid mud, loose uphills, etc you are fine.

It was like night and day after switching to thinner and less knobby tires. And it isn't just the nobs, you want a thinner tire also for even less rolling resistance. I went with a 1.5" width.

Also, make sure you pick up some tubes that are the right size for the tire! The first time I tried mounting these, I used my MTB tubes and I swear I broke a tire iron trying to get it on the rim.

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