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I ride an early 90's Trek MultiTrack 700. It's a completely rigid, Cro-moly frame with 700c wheels, and, except for a new rear wheel (double wall rim) and cassette, all of the components are original. I want to begin riding some basic MB trails. Nothing fancy, no jumps or DH riding, just basic hardpack trails. However, I'm 6'2" and 235 lbs. Will a fully rigid frame withstand the abuse of roots and ruts with a rider of my size? Or will I constantly be buying new rims, or risk breaking something more vital? According to my LBS, suspension forks for this style of bike are pretty much nonexistent, so if I need shocks, I'll wait until I can invest in a new frame.

Thanks for your help!

Edit: I rode my first hardpack yesterday, and it was a blast! I'll get a better feel for technique as time goes on, but the bike seemed to handle it like a boss.

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  • I would recommend not abusing this bike and just saving for a proper MTB. A cheap hardtail is all you need, and you can find even better deals used. It’s not worth damaging your present bike AND not enjoying the ride as much. Of course, this is assuming you’re wanting to take MTB seriously and not just a “take the road bike for a spin off road once in a while” thing. Your present bike will not instantly explode on a trail assuming infrequent off-road usage. – MaplePanda Oct 6 '20 at 23:40
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    @MaplePanda, I'm not looking to get seriously into MTB on this bike. I'm in the "off road spin every once in a while" camp, at least until I invest in a true mountain bike. I wanted to make sure that a fully rigid hybrid could withstand occasional, beginner-level off-roading with a man of "larger stature." Thanks for the help! – Sasquatch Smith Oct 6 '20 at 23:47
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    Thinking about the OP's bike.. If it had drop bars and was made this decade, would it be called a gravel bike? – mattnz Oct 7 '20 at 1:11
  • Gravel is the new hybrid, only more expensive. – ojs Oct 7 '20 at 9:33
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The Multitrak is really a hybrid designed for light off road, on road and touring. You are right not to try and upgrade the bike parts. As long as you stick within its limits it will be fine. Enjoy the ride you have. If you enjoy it enough to justify it, save up for a new(er) bike.

Your legs and arms are the suspension. If you learn to 'ride lightly', there is no reason the bike will not handle moderately rough trails. You need to unweight the wheels as you come up to bumps like roots and ruts, stand on the pedals and let the bike 'float' under you. The geometry is more aligned to road use, so its agility and stability won't be that of a full mountain bike.

You will need to pay close attention to the tire pressures - too much and you will have problems with traction, too little and you will have problems with punctured (snake bites from pinching the tube). With no suspension its unlikely to can run low enough tire pressures for best traction and completely avoid snakebites, a tiny mistake can result in a heavy hit onto a trail feature (root, rock etc). I suggest starting with higher pressures and lowering them a little at a time if you feel the traction is too 'sketchy'. If you get a snake bite puncture, think about why, and decide of you need to bring pressures back up.

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In addition to mattnz’ excellent suggestions on riding style and tire pressure I’d also suggest to regularly inspect the wheels for cracks in the rims and true-ness. Usually the spokes of the wheels are most likely to fail on heavily loaded bicycles. Before that they usually go out of true. Since the bike has rim brakes it’s easy to see if they wobble from side to side. Just lift the bike, spin the wheels and watch the distance between brake pads and rims. If it’s more than a millimeter or so you should check spoke tension, check for cracks and (if there are none) true the wheel.

For off-road riding I’d also suggest to change the tires for the widest possible ones you can fit. This will improve your “suspension travel” and allow you to lower the pressure further.

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  • thanks for the advice! Broken spokes is why I had to replace the rear wheel to begin with, and I did get 700x35c tires, although my bike might take 700x38c. I'll keep an eye out for cracks and true-ness. – Sasquatch Smith Oct 7 '20 at 15:09

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