Vintage MTB to gravel/adventure bike

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Vintage MTB to gravel/adventure bike
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Posted: Apr 29, 2021 at 4:44 Quote
Hello all

I've have never owned a gravel bike, as they are not very popular in Portugal, but I got curious and since I live in an area with a lot of fire roads I've decided to give it a go, but given the current bike prices I ended up buying a 1993 GT Timberline for a project, to convert it to a gravel/adventure bike.


In stock condition it weighed around 12,5kg and the frame alone around 2.65kg.
The bike showed signs of been laying around without getting used much and apart from the typical stuff that comes with age it seemed to be in a really good shape.


After a complete disassembly and cleaning I've found the hubs, rims, deraileurs, BB, etc. where all free of corrosion, play and were all usable again and so reassembly was next.


And now comes the tricky part... compatibility issues!
I would like it to have:
- Keep the current 3x7 transmission (cost)
- Keep the cantilever brakes (cost)
- Put dropbars

Unfortunately the stem is 25,4mm, so it's hard to find a decent dropbar, I've only found a 3x7 brake/shifter levers for dropbars from Microshift and I'm not sure if they are compatible with cantilever brakes.

I would like to have your opinion about the following:
- Should I keep the MTB 3x7 shifters and just buy brake levers?
- Should I change the stock stem and put an adapter to fit normal stems for 31,8mm?
- Are Microshift brake/shifter levers any good?

Sorry for the length of this post and tell me what you think

Posted: May 6, 2021 at 21:00 Quote
I just did a gravel bike build myself with a 1992 Trek 7000.

I kept the OG Deore DX 3x7 drive train and ordered "microNew" shifters which are lower end remakes of the Microshift Shimano compatable road leavers. They work fine with canti brakes but I wasn't impressed so I ditched the stock ones for some tektro CR720s. It could be the wider cable pull of these brakes that helped out or it could just be that I needed new pads. If you do stay stock brakes then defo get some Kool Stop pads for your brakes as the OG ones are likely dry and useless.

Also, first step to making your bar choice more modern and easier is to get a quill stem adapter. It might be hard to justify the cost but they're extremely worth it.

Overall take aways from my gravel bike build:
-Spend money on keeping it light, not making it look cool

-REALLY think about if you even need drop bars. If you want more hand positions for long riding look at old school bar ends and add them on the interior of the grips then toss bar tape everywhere your grips don't cover and yer set.

-Eventually you'll fall into the trap of wanting gravelking SKs or another gravel-ish tire. Most come in at 2.1in and that's far too wide for these old school rims. If you want to still have efficiency on the road search for something a bit more narrow and with a smoother tread than the SKs

Looking forward to seeing more photos of you building this up. My next build will be a steel GT with some very hacked on disc brakes - can't wait.

Posted: May 13, 2021 at 2:47 Quote
I was going to say the same about the drops. If you don’t need them then think bar ends.

As you save there, put money into the tyre choice.

Just MHO.

Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:26 Quote
This is most recent resto-mod that I put a TON of miles on, one of the most comfortable bikes I own. Its a '91 Diamondback Sorrento, converted to 650B/27.5" with disk brakes, 1x11 drivetrain using an XT rear derailleur, add some gravel drop bars, and it has made quite an incredible bike. I run Kenda Flintridge Pro 650Bx42 tires.


Posted: May 25, 2021 at 4:06 Quote
The bike is finally done!
I've managed to keep the weight at 12,5kg and cost under 300€.

Frame/Fork: GT Timberline 1993
Crankset: Sugino (something from 1997)
Brake levers/shifters: 3x7 Microshift R473 (NEW)
Brakes: Shimano cantilever
Tyres: Schwalbe CX COMP Active cross tyre 26x2,0 (NEW)
Stem: Brand-X Road Stem 90mm (NEW)
Headset: Brand-X (NEW)
Quill Adaptor: Brand-X (NEW)
Handlebar: Ritchey Comp Venturemax 44cm
Seatpost: Onoff
Front Derailleur: Shimano Exage
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Exage
Wheels: Shimano Exage hubs with Sun rims




Posted: May 25, 2021 at 4:59 Quote
Awesome! I just finished this build, Its a trek 800. Single speed, drop bars, and a retro fork with a whopping 50mm of travel. These bikes are a blast on everything from roads to light single track. I love seeing other peoples builds, unlike new bikes no two are a like!

Posted: May 25, 2021 at 21:22 Quote
Greg-Kline wrote:
This is most recent resto-mod that I put a TON of miles on, one of the most comfortable bikes I own. Its a '91 Diamondback Sorrento, converted to 650B/27.5" with disk brakes, 1x11 drivetrain using an XT rear derailleur, add some gravel drop bars, and it has made quite an incredible bike. I run Kenda Flintridge Pro 650Bx42 tires.


EVERYTHING about this thing is set! Great job

Posted: May 25, 2021 at 22:17 Quote
@careca78 that turned out great!
Probably wouldn't be comfortable but I can't help but wonder what it would look like with that stem slammed.

Posted: May 26, 2021 at 8:56 Quote
andrew95 wrote:
@careca78 that turned out great!
Probably wouldn't be comfortable but I can't help but wonder what it would look like with that stem slammed.


It would look better... but I'm getting to old for that.

Posted: May 31, 2021 at 12:30 Quote
This is my 1991 GT Karakoram that I’m just wrapping up the drop bar conversion on. It’s pretty much a gravel bike, but I went with 26x2.0 ThickSlicks since this thing probably won’t be seeing anything other than the road for awhile.


Posted: Jun 1, 2021 at 1:59 Quote
Those are really nice bike builds... they look way better than mine!!

So, I went for a ride last weekend and all went well except for a mid-trail adjustment on the brakes, because the levers had to much slack.

The bike has some very distinctive characteristics, so I will try to summarize its pros and cons:
- Microshift brake levers/shifters work just fine and definitely provide a cheaper solution to revive those older bikes
- With 12,5kg it's not a XC lightweight, but coming from a On One 456 with nearly 14kg it's light enough for the intended purpose
- The 7x3 gears, with the biggest rear cog with only 30T, are not super climbing-friendly for my current shape... but the fault is on me
- The cantilever brake pads are still bedding in, but the braking performance is not something to write home about...
- The bike picks up speed REALLY fast... I don't know if the merit goes to the tires or the serviced hubs
- The ride is bumpy but the steel frame and wide, flexy bar help keep it fairly comfortable
- During steep climbs the front wheel is very wobbly... I have an extra 60mm stem and I'm thinking about trying to see if it can make it more stable
- My (cheap and used) seat is not very balls-friendly and I don't need a redneck vasectomy, so I'm thinking about buying a new one.
- The wheels are smooth and running straight, but with the tolerances allowed by the cantilevers it means you have to check them regularly

In conclusion, this is a really nice way to revive that old bike you have laying around and it doesn't have to be expensive... but beware, it's very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to start buying new stuff and upgrading... right until to get into compatibility issues

Posted: Jun 1, 2021 at 4:04 Quote
thats sweet, love the orange.
npmclean wrote:
This is my 1991 GT Karakoram that I’m just wrapping up the drop bar conversion on. It’s pretty much a gravel bike, but I went with 26x2.0 ThickSlicks since this thing probably won’t be seeing anything other than the road for awhile.


Posted: Jun 11, 2021 at 4:58 Quote
dang guys, I just kinda stumbled across this thread. you ALL have some really amazing builds.

This one is nowhere near as nice as the builds you've all posted up, but here's mind to add to the mix. (terrible picture to boot...)

I bought this Rockhopper new back in 1985 when I was in High School to try to "get into" mountain biking. (...big time roadie back then...). It was basic but I thought it was pretty cool at the time and it really caught my eye. Crazy easy gears (3x7) , wide bars, cushy grips, and these fat knobby tires....(26x1.5's....LOL.....).

Well, I hated it. Not the bike, I hated all the work you had to do for not going very far. I rarely every rode it so it just sat in the section of our basement I had turned into my own little bike workshop. I never could bring myself to get rid of it so it stayed with me as I moved about the country.

Fast forward into my late 30's /early 40's. We now have young kids. I scored a tow behind kid cart and started to use it to take the kids around the local path. They were soon too big for the trailer so back in the rafters she went.

Last winter I decided that I needed faster access to a quick ride. I'm working from home and we have a great riding/walking path system that goes right by our property. I really wanted a bike I could just jump on at lunch and bomb off a few quick miles. She was perfect but needed brought up to speed (plus I had this hairbrained idea that I would maybe entertain taking a crack at the Dirty Kanza on it...).

I started in.....

Bontrager 44mm bars (from my spare parts bin) wrapped in F'izik Microtex Classic 2.0 bar tape ($21)
Profile stem (spare parts bin)
Origin-8 Threadless stem adapter ($1Cool
WTB FX23 rear wheel (spare parts bin)
original front wheel (although loosely searching for a matching front)
Hutchinson Python 26x2.00's (spare parts bin)
Original cranks converted to 1x keeping the original 45t chainring
Microshift AdventX:
------ SB-M100A 1x10 drop bar shifters
------ CS-G104 11-48t cassette
------ RD-M6205AM medium cage clutch derailleur
(all gifts from my wife last Christmas....)
KMC 10e 136-link e-bike chain (I think I only removed 8 links) ($39)
ugly orange waterbottle cage (spare parts bin)
Shimano clipless pedals (these came in a box of bike stuff I scored on e/bay, for $19.00 free shipping. Which even included a pair of lightly used Pearl Izumi shoes, in my size, among a whole range of other very usable new parts)
Kool-Stop Eagle 2 pads ($1Cool
K-edge Garmin mount ($30 - but it fits 31.8 bars so I can swap it between my Cannondale road bike and this one so effectively $15 Wink )

This bike is incredibly comfortable although it I could use a modern seat. I was confident it would serve it's purpose but I honestly didn't think it would be as enjoyable to ride as it is. I really couldn't be happier with how it rides.

again...it's nowhere near as fancy as your builds but here it is. (excuse the garage)


Posted: Sep 9, 2021 at 18:53 Quote

Kara K. finally got some gravel under her tires today and I have zero complaints!

Posted: Sep 9, 2021 at 19:49 Quote
sweet..! man, that's a really cool build.

I don't ride mine nearly enough, but when I do, shit....it's a chassis I have no complaints with either.

glad she's doing well for ya...!

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