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Old 03-31-09, 03:18 AM   #1
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Improving a Rough Jaw-Breaking Hard Vibrating Ride with Tires & ?


Bought a Trek Soho S. Unfortunatley my commute is along a gravel bike path and I was shocked by the hard vibrating ride. The tires are 700x25c slicks and I guess I got too used to the plush rides of suspension mountain bikes. After a few minutes my wrists are already hurting from the vibrations.

So I want to make the ride more plush.

First the tires. Reading the forums it looks like I can change to 700x32c tires. I really strongly needs some recommendations about which tires would provide the most plush ride? I assume some knobby tires would have more rubber between the wheel and the road and would make things more soft. I also assume a tire that uses a lower psi will help. Need some comments and confirmations on this.

Front Suspension. I considered it but I think the cost would be excessive and it would change the geometry of the bike so don't think this will be practical. But any related ideas?

Grips. Perhaps this might help a bit too. Any suggestions on the best grips to lesson the hard and sharp vibrations of the road?

Thanks a lot in advance.
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Old 03-31-09, 03:32 AM   #2
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I'd suggest more air volume in tyres, then you can also lower psi. Those have far more effect in ride softness than the rubber compound in tyre. You achieve both with your planned change to 700x32s. More rubber in tyres can be good on gravel in the sense it prevents flats, but it doesn't do much in terms of absorbing shocks.

I never thought I'd say this in commuting forum, but getting a proper front suspension would probably help a lot in your case. Maybe saddle post suspension too. But as you state, it can be expensive. The few cheap front suspended bikes I've ever tried were not much good. The suspension doesn't work very well even when new, they weigh a lot and from what I've heard, they tend to break sooner rather than later. I'd start with the tyres and see how it works out.

What kind of handlebar does the Trek have? Getting some kind of "ergonomic" grips might help. It's hard to suggest exactly what kind would work for you, as it's highly subjective.

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Last edited by Juha; 03-31-09 at 03:36 AM.
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Old 03-31-09, 03:33 AM   #3
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The wider tires are softer because they run at a lower pressure. 700x25c tires are basically rock hard when fully inflated. Although, having previously had 700x38 tires, I am more than willing to give up the comfort for the vast increase in efficiency and speed from the 700x25 tires I am running now.

You could try Ergon grips, and gloves with good padding. You could also try a suspension seatpost or a seat with springs.
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Old 03-31-09, 04:16 AM   #4
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Definitely bigger tires will help. And I don't know how 25s can help you go "faster" when you have to slow down because of the rough ride, and worse, because of pinch flats from too low of pressure. Definitely bigger tires (horses for courses). Secondly, good, ergo grips will help.

Lastly, maybe you could consider a different fork. It used to be that forks had rake to them (a bend at the bottom, towards the hub). This rake acts as a shock absorber. I have noticed that most modern bikes have dispensed with these. Surly has some forks with a bit of rake to them (the Cross-Check and LHT forks). If you could find a fork that fits your bike, and has some decent rake to it, you will go a long way towards helping--oh, and make sure it's a steel fork. ;-)

One more thing to consider is a shock-absorbing seat post. I don't know if it would help you much on gravel, but it may.

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Old 03-31-09, 04:39 AM   #5
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You don't have to inflate your tyres to the recommended or maximum rating, 10 or even 20 psi lower is fine, depending on your weight.
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Old 03-31-09, 05:51 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by dar.rom View Post
Any suggestions ...?
After tires, your riding technique will make a world of difference. Ever see the Paris-Roubaix bike race? It covers well over 100 miles of dirt, gravel and cobbles. Everyone uses road bikes with relatively thin tires. Maybe you can do a web search for their equipment list for starters.

Then, there is technique. On a rough surface, forget spinning. Shift to your largest chain ring - this helps prevent chain slap for starters. Pedal in a high enough gear so that your arse barely touches the saddle due to your legs pushing down on a hard-to-pedal gear. Not too hard or your knees will soon complain. Keep your elbows bent and use them as shock absorbers - that's what downhill off-road racers do, even with full suspension. Stand up on the pedals on really rough stretches but shift to an even harder gear for that. Pedal slowly - like on a stair climbing machine. Let the bike bounce around. Use both elbows and knees as shock absorbers, not your hands and arse.

This technique clinic of mine only scratches the surface. Go to YouTube and search Paris-Roubaix. There are dozens of vids. Watch the riders. Somewhere online there must be more information regarding technique for road bikes on rough surfaces.

Last edited by JoeyBike; 04-01-09 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 03-31-09, 06:45 AM   #7
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Actually owning a Medium Soho S, I can tell you, you can fit the 37-622 / 700 x 35C Schwalbe Marathon Supremes on one, but you won't have much space for fenders (though they can be made to fit). They make a big difference in the roughness (or lack thereof) of the ride.

Also, you might look at a different bar / grips. I tried different grips and realize my hands were numbing more from the angle of the nearly flat bar than from the grips themselves.

Of course, my Soho S is a bit of a townie now... what with fattish tires, a rack, fenders and a Soma Sparrow bar.
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Old 03-31-09, 11:53 AM   #8
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Bar ends! Something with a bit of curl to them would be best, allowing you to move your hands around. You lose a bit of control with your hands on the bar ends, but it's worth it for the comfort. +1 on underinflating the tires, although my 700x32 tires do very well on gravel, and I haven't spilled out in mud yet (although I've come close).

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Old 03-31-09, 01:08 PM   #9
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check your seat angle too - that can help take some weight off your hands - also did you ride a straight bar before? sometimes the straight bar takes getting used to - I use bar ends - even drop style bar ends - but honestly I'm really digging my 700c hybrid with drops - the tires are 700 x 35 and the suspension fork is like gold - I have it cranked all the way so it's just got enough sponge to dampen the rough stuff - I'm tellin' ya road bikes with moderate suspension forks are in the future - can you return the bike for another?
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Old 03-31-09, 09:28 PM   #10
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Gel cushioned gloves also help. Mine are Pearl Izumi. A suspension seat post helps with potholes and bumps but not buzz.
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Old 03-31-09, 09:47 PM   #11
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I almost never ride without them. If it's too cold for these, I wear regular stretchy wool gloves.
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Old 03-31-09, 10:35 PM   #12
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thudbuster seatpost
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Old 03-31-09, 11:17 PM   #13
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Old 03-31-09, 11:31 PM   #14
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Joeybike's advice is great.
I second some wider, better tires.

On the cheap:
Go to your local hardware store and find the firmest pipe insulation foam that you can. Wrap some over your bars in your standard hand areas. Cover with bar or electrical tape. Won't look pretty, but it works. (Actually, with some good bar tape and some care, I don't think it will look too bad. I plan on doing this on my kilo.) Combine with some padded (cycling or others) gloves for extra comfort.

This type of stuff comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors:
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Old 03-31-09, 11:52 PM   #15
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pipe insulation foam will compress and lose any padding it may have had in the first place.
that and it may be harder to grip the bars for riders with smaller hands.

on rough surfaces with skinny tires you want to loosen your grip, straighten your wrists and bend your elbows.
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Old 04-01-09, 09:08 AM   #16
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Wow. Just truly impressed with all the fantastic ideas and suggestions.

You guys are fantastic and the results exceed my wildest dreams (which I will now get because my head not still shaking from the ride).

Thanks to all of you SOOOooo much.

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Old 04-01-09, 10:00 AM   #17
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Panaracer Pasela TG foldable have thin sidewalls which give a nicer ride. They have the kevlar belt for flat protection and are easy to mount without tire levers. Bar ends will help with comfort.
Put less pressure in the front tire as it carries less weight.
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Old 04-01-09, 10:07 AM   #18
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Fatter tires and a springer saddle.
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Old 04-01-09, 11:37 AM   #19
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I have a Soho 3.0 and know what you mean about the vibrations.

The first thing I learned was to underinflate the front. I weigh in at 200 or so, and the front barely deforms @ 45 PSI (I have 700x32 tires BTW) with my weight on it, but the ride has softened up nicely. The rear tire I run close to max - 85 PSI. At these pressures both tires deform the same with my butt in the saddle.

After getting rid of the vibrations, get rid of that crappy handlebar. I ended up getting the trekking bar that Nashbar sells, but there are many options out there for you.
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Old 04-01-09, 01:37 PM   #20
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When I looked up the bike, the first thing that came up said your bike came with the "Soho S. Hardcase tires". I've ridden at least one flat resistant tire that had a TERRIBLE ride - I couldn't believe how awful this bike was to ride. So I would suggest different tires first - I use Panaracer TServ Messenger tires, they're still flat resistant but if anything they ride better than my old tires.

Secondly, as people have mentioned, running less pressure in the tire can help.

Third, running a bigger tire than 25c would definitely help. I don't know how much clearance you have, but I've ridden a Specialized Globe bike that was 100% aluminum with bigger tires (35c) and it was a pretty darn smooth ride. 40c is was like floating. I've found that tires bigger than 28c seem to slow me down...but I'd rather be a tiny bit slower than be going through wrist pain. Another tire suggestion is the tires that come on the specialized I rode, if they'll fit your bike - I looked them up and they appear to be "Specialized Nimbus, 700x35C, 60TPI, Flak Jacket"

Fourth, if anything knobbies tend to make for a bumpier ride. A "slick" - a tire with little or no tread - would most likely be a better ride than knobbies, especially on pavement. I mean you're rotating a bunch of bumps around and around - it's going to be a rougher ride than a smooth rotating surface.

Fifth, I like the grips shaped like this better than the completely round grip - easier on my hands -

I haven't used that particular grip, just wanted the pic for the shape.

Finally, I've ridden some cheaper front fork suspension bikes (and by cheaper they weren't actually that cheap - I rode a Cannondale Bad Boy with an integrated front shock, the bike was like $1,000) and was very unimpressed with the shock. My wrists still hurt and my hand were still buzzy. Your mountain bike is probably a better ride partially just because it has wider tires. Shocks are good if you're jumping curbs and logs - not sure they do much for reducing road vibration. You can replace the front fork as long as you get another one with the same measurements, but I would think a decent front shock would cost you so much you might as well just buy a new bike with the shock built in. I think the cheapest and most effective solution (though it will slow you biking speed down a little) is bigger tires. Also, all the high end straight bar aluminum bikes like yours come with either a steel or carbon fiber front fork which dissapate some of the road vibration. That's an option, though it's not terribly cheap.
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Old 04-02-09, 09:10 AM   #21
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Did someone suggest adding a suspension fork?
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Old 04-02-09, 09:14 AM   #22
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Front suspension generally won't do much about high-frequency vibration like road buzz or gravel as they're typically tuned to respond much slower.
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Old 04-02-09, 11:14 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by dar.rom View Post
Reading the forums it looks like I can change to 700x32c tires. I really strongly needs some recommendations about which tires would provide the most plush ride?
Vittoria Randonneur;regular,not the Cross model. I swapped them onto my Big Buzz after the alloy fork started bothering my carpel tunnel and was pleased with the results. My Buzz Road came with them stock,and I've experienced the same ride quality. I've also never flatted any of my Vittorias(3 models) that had puncture protection,and you can get them with reflective sidewalls.

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Old 04-02-09, 11:21 AM   #24
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Carbon bars might help a wee bit...
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Old 04-02-09, 11:46 AM   #25
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hey, i just got a road buzz too! going to use it to ride all of C & O canal next month.
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