If you have an old Specialised Rockhopper from the late 90s that you’d like to convert to a gravel bike or adventure tourer, this is the post for you! This is a project that is perfectly possible (even I succeeded!) and I hope to give you a couple of tips and to save you some time choosing parts.
I decided to go for a 1x setup (a single chainring on the front) with a wide cassette on the rear, easing climbing hills with a heavy bike packing setup. Given my navigation skills I also wanted something that could take some abuse on canal tow paths (gravel) and the occasional detour on woodland paths and across fields.
The final bike weight is approximately 11 kg. Not bad for a 23 year old mountain bike!
The conversion took about 10 weeks (elapsed), working on the bike approximately 5 hours per week. I’m not sure how much time was spent watching Youtube videos and browsing for parts, but it was likely a few more hours per week. I took my time and enjoyed the journey. If you are a more experienced bike mechanic than I I’m sure you can do it much faster.
Feel free to browse the site for posts on the individual phases of the restoration and conversion.
I really recommend the excellent gear-calculator.com site, which allows you to experiment with different cassettes and chainrings virtually, before you press the buy button. You want to find a setup that matches your riding style, the terrain you want the bike for and how much equipment you might need to carry.
Asking for Help
If you ever run into issues and need help the friendly Discord community at Studio Shred is a good resource.
Online Shops (UK/EU)
I purchased most of the tools and parts for this project online, and I am based in the UK. Here are some of the online stores I used. Finding parts can be challenging so be prepared to shop around! In a couple of cases parts had to be shipped from the EU.
- wiggle.co.uk (get Wiggle+ for free shipping)
Tools you need to buy or borrow
- Bike stand. Just get one – your back will thank you! I purchased the Park Tool PCS-10.3.
- Basic set of bike tools. I purchased the Park Tool AK-5 – Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit. You will definitely need the cable cutters.
- Caliper tool. This is a must have to buy the right parts! I purchased the Park Tool DC-1 and even with that I ended up buying a 30 mm seat post when I needed 30.9 mm! Yes, 0.9 mm makes a difference!
- Headset installl tool
- Tool to remove headset cup and mallet
- Angle grinder (I needed this to remove the old fork, YMMV)
- Bottom bracket tool
- Wrench for bottom bracket tool
- Muck Off cleaning products
- G-Paint touch-up paint
Final Bike Parts
- HUNT RACE AERO SUPERDURA WHEELSET
- Gevenalle GX Shifters for Road Derailleurs
- Shimano T8000 XT MTB SPD Trekking Pedals
- 2x Panaracer Gravel King SK 700c 28 mm
- Surly Cross Check Fork
- Shimano Deore M5100 rear derailleur 11-speed Shadow SGS long cage
- Shimano CS-M5100 Deore 11-speed cassette 11-51T
- Shimano DEORE SLX XT BB-MT800 Bottom Bracket Hollowtech II For MTB
- Deore CN-HG601 chain
- PNW Components Coast Handlebar
- SHIMANO DEORE XT HOLLOWTECH II MTB Crankset 1×11-speed Bolt Circle Diameter: 96mm
- SHIMANO FC-M8000-1
- Cane Creek40 Headset EC34/28.6 I EC34/30 black
- CINELLI VAI STEM 90 mm
- 2x Paul Component Motolite V-Brake Rim Brake – black
- Absolute Black oval chainring 36T 96bcd 1x chainring for XT M8000 / SLX M7000
- Ritchey Seat Post 30.9 mm
- Ritchey Saddle
- 36.4 mm Seat Post Clamp
- Brake Cable Set
- Gear Cable Set
- Cable Tension Barrel Adjusters
- Bar Tape
- The Friendly Swede bottle cages
- Headset spacers
- Frame bolts
This was a really fun project to tackle over the winter months. I learned a lot and now feel much more confident maintaining my other bikes. I’m really happy with the results and have a one-week trip to Tuscany booked so I can really put the bike through its paces. I also plan to tackle roughly half of Le Jog this summer to test the bike loaded with overnight gear.
So, if you’ve a neglected old MTB cluttering up your garage or shed you really can give it a new lease of life. Modern components are so much more performant and lighter than 20 years ago, and I think you will be very pleased with the results! It is however a labour of love, and its unlikely that you’ll save any money compared to buying new, but you’ll know this bike inside and out, and it will put a smile on your face every time you ride it.
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