Why not use an 80 – 90’s Mtb as your commuter

In my mind late 80’s and early 90’s MTBs make ideal commuting bikes for loads of various reasons .



Giant Terrago


A lot of them were available with good quality tubesets ie various grades of Tange and Reynolds spring to mind straight away never mind early 4130 cro mo that came along a bit later . All of these should provide a decent quality ride .



Most of them won’t have heavy suspension either which I always feel to be totally pointless unless you are hurtling down a bumpy dirt track instead of just trundling along a paved cycle path on your way to the office .



Giant Terrago


The majority will have at least 18 speeds and there is a good bet that the small “ Granny Ring ” won’t have seen any or had very little useage in its life time and if you are lucky they will be paddle controlled rather than twist gripped . A lot of them came with tried and tested shimano running gear as well .



R.E.W Reynolds


The first modification to make is to throw the big fat knobbly tyres away and fit some more road friendly tyres that won’t howl once you reach a certain speed like the big open treaded knobbly ones will do . The other advantage of road friendly tyres is that they are a lot easier to keep rolling along than a set of knobbly’s. The vast if not all will be running on 26” wheels so loads of choice should new rims be required .



Another strong point is the Cantilever braking systems are normally fairly strong in standard format never mind with the adoption of some newer style brake pads like Kool stop. Okay they won’t give you the stopping power of a set of modern disc brakes but they will do the job well enough with some general servicing and up keep .

Marin Bear Valley


Most of the other items like seat posts, stems and bars will be alloy items not steel so again a lot lighter than their steel cousins . Some makers also did some of these components with nice colours rather than the plain old alloy or black finish . People like Girvin offered a quill stem with some suspension built in as well , these are quite sort after today .



Girvin Flex Stem


So all in all there is no need to go and buy a brand new bike just for commuting just keep an eye out for local sales of decent quality 80 & 90’s Mtb’s and save yourself some money as well.

9 thoughts on “Why not use an 80 – 90’s Mtb as your commuter

  1. Great article. I totally concur. Older MTBs also have a lot of room for fenders and other great commuter accessories. I used an old MTB for many years for commuting switching between my road slicks and knobbies when I did an occasional trail ride on the weekend. I’ve since switched to an old Japns. touring bike for my commuter but continue to use an early ’80s MTB for my winter commuter which has enough clearance for studded winter tires and fenders. I also don’t worry about the salts damaging it as I would my nicer bike. Merry Christmas!

  2. Spot on article! Considering what MTBs were designed for, they are considerably more durable than other options. As you said, these are becoming very popular commuters due to their lower cost and reliability. A few options that you didn’t mention: Does a commuter really need more than one chain ring? in most areas a seven or eight cog cassette/freewheel will suffice. This simplifies the mechanics. Also, one shouldn’t discount aluminum frames. Yes, they a bit stiffer, but also lighter. Replacing a suspension fork with a ridged one saves a bunch of weight and, if done properly can also provide quicker handling. My current “commuter” or townie is a 90s Aluminum frame with a CrMo fork. It began it’s life with me a single speed commuter. It’s currently setup as a 7 X 1 using an SRAM grip shifter. This in the process of being replaced by a 2003 Fuji Aluminum MTB frame and an eight speed drive train. It will also have a ridged fork. Plus, be a bit lighter.
    Keep spreading the word on the exceptional and cost effective commuters.



      • Hello,
        I forgot to add that my townie with light wheels and skinny tires, but sans racks, HB bag and basket weighs ~10kg or 22.5 lbs. Equipped for hauling stuff it gets close to 12 kg. not bad for a utility bike.

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