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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 09-16-09, 02:01 PM   #1
Jude
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Road bikes on rough pavement

So I just moved back to Philly after being in college in a town with nice smooth roads. I started biking in Philly but it was on a mountain bike, and so when I brought my road bike back to the city I found that many of the streets in town are more akin to riding off-road than to riding on actual streets. Massive cracks, potholes, craters, canyons, lumps and so forth, throughout the city. So with my high-pressure skinny tires it's been pretty nasty, not to mention the unpredictable cracks and holes that you can't see till its too late and end up giving the bike a nasty jolt, which cannot be good for it.

Aside from getting a hybrid or mountain bike, which is not an option because I'm still trying to find a job, does anybody know ways to combat this problem? The first (and only) thing that comes to my mind is to get as fat of tires as my current wheels can handle, or to ride with lower pressure in the tires I have now which seems like a bad idea. Any other tips? Anybody else live in a city where you basically are off-roading all the time?
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Old 09-16-09, 02:06 PM   #2
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Personally, I swerve a lot. A friend of mine put in a seat post shock and swears by it. Both of us run touring bikes, though, so the tires are neither as skinny or high pressure as a true roadie, so I'm not sure how well this will apply to your situation.
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Old 09-16-09, 02:07 PM   #3
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Put on the largest tire that will fit and use moderate air pressure.
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Old 09-16-09, 02:10 PM   #4
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I went to 36 spoke wheels and 700 X 28 tires.
Gained much more control and stabilty on bad streets.
Your bike may not take 28" but try it if you can borrow another riders wheels just to see.
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Old 09-16-09, 02:13 PM   #5
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Fat tires and bunnyhopping.
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Old 09-16-09, 03:21 PM   #6
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As others have said, you'll end up wanting to get the fattest tires your bike can fit. Michelin used to make a tire called the Dynamic that's cheap ($12 or so each) and comes in a variety of sizes between 25 and 35mm. I had a pair of 32's on my old touring bike and loved them. They probably still make them.

But the real trick, with any tire, is to figure out what pressure to run. If you run any tire, fat or not, at "road bike pressures," (120psi+), you'll be pretty uncomfortable on less-than-perfect roads. Fat tires might help a little bit, but any increase in comfort will come from the slightly increased outer circumference of the wheel and any minor differences in the casing of the tire.

Lower pressure allows the tire to absorb more of the force of a given shock before it gets to your hands/feet/ass. You can probably manage to make your current bike more comfortable by lowering the tire pressure a little, but you'll probably be limited in how much you can do that by the fact that skinny tires can't deform much before pinchflatting. For reference, I weigh about 200lbs. On my road bike, I normally run about 120psi in each 23c tire. I can get down to about 100psi and still feel comfortable that I won't pinchflat. I can limp along with 80-90psi, but I have to be careful.

The real advantage of fat tires is not that they're inherently more comfortable; it's that you can run lower pressures without getting a pinchflat. Exactly how low depends on your weight, your bike's weight, and the roads you ride. Again, just for a ballpark reference, on my bike with 32mm tires I feel perfectly comfortable in the 70-90psi range. At those pressures, you barely feel cobblestones. It's heavenly.

Sheldon brown has a page on tires here, with a special section on width and pressure:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tires.html#pressure

Last edited by alpacalypse; 09-16-09 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 09-16-09, 10:26 PM   #7
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Hm interesting. I'm already at about 100 PSI. I'll have to look into what fat road tires I can get for 27 inch wheels...or just start learning the streets and where the bumps are.
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Old 09-17-09, 05:48 AM   #8
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We call those road conditions you just mentioned "Pennsylvania"
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Old 09-17-09, 06:04 AM   #9
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Put on the largest tire that will fit and use moderate air pressure.
+1. It's the exact reason I love my Cross bike for commuting.
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Old 09-17-09, 09:58 AM   #10
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Are you looking for comfort or not to ruin your bike? Either way look for largests tires that'll fit. I dont recommend using lower pressures; with all those bumps, isn't there more of a chance of getting pinch flats?

I ride my 23mm-gatorskin-equipped road bike on crap roads. Even on trails. I thought it was ok to the point that I shouldn't bother getting a CX bike.
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Old 09-17-09, 11:41 AM   #11
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Any other tips? Anybody else live in a city where you basically are off-roading all the time?
That's why when I moved from Palm Springs to Little Rock, I put my road bike in the apartment and convinced my ex to give me her mountain bike. It works well.
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Old 09-19-09, 04:51 PM   #12
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I have a 27 inch wheelset too, what choice do we have? 27 x 1 1/4 or 27 x 1 1/8. They really don't make tires for those bikes anymore. Its now 700c.
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Old 09-19-09, 05:43 PM   #13
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The last thing you want to do is lower tire pressure unless you enjoy fixing flats.

I would get the fattest tire possible, get good at avoiding road hazards and always be ready to get out of the saddle. Your bike can put up with a lot of abuse if it doesn't have a few hundred pounds of rider pushing down on it, unsuspended. Your knees have way more travel than that skinny tire. Put them to work.

A pair of gloves with good palm padding wouldn't hurt either.
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Old 09-20-09, 12:29 AM   #14
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The last thing you want to do is lower tire pressure unless you enjoy fixing flats.

I would get the fattest tire possible, get good at avoiding road hazards and always be ready to get out of the saddle. Your bike can put up with a lot of abuse if it doesn't have a few hundred pounds of rider pushing down on it, unsuspended. Your knees have way more travel than that skinny tire. Put them to work.

A pair of gloves with good palm padding wouldn't hurt either.
...but part of the appeal of a larger tire is that you *can* lower the pressure (compared to skinnier tire) safely and without risking more flats.

If you were riding 120psi or something I would say lower the pressure, but at 100...I run mine at 95. Not sure what the real point is at which it's "to low of pressure".
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Old 09-20-09, 01:27 AM   #15
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Hm interesting. I'm already at about 100 PSI. I'll have to look into what fat road tires I can get for 27 inch wheels...or just start learning the streets and where the bumps are.
If you have 700c wheels, stay with them. As one member pointed out, 27" are not getting easier to get, they're more available than a few years ago but still, it may not last forever. 28mm tires fit on very skinny race type rims on racy bikes. Specialized Armadillos are as tough an fat as you need, much heftier than other 28s, they have quite a sidewall. Any bike that'll use a 21mm OR as large as a 34mm will accomodate them.
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Old 09-20-09, 04:51 AM   #16
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Larger diameter tires actually are supposed to be run at a correspondingly lower psi than skinny ones.

If you currently run 23mm tires at 120 psi for example, and then run 28mm tires at 120 psi -- you are overinflating and getting no cushion benefit from your 28's.

I have seen a lot of riders do this though.
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Old 09-20-09, 06:30 AM   #17
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Hm interesting. I'm already at about 100 PSI. I'll have to look into what fat road tires I can get for 27 inch wheels
Lots. But the problem will be the clearance on your frame and forks.

The best answer, when you have cash, could be a cyclocross bike - a toughened up road bike that can take tyres of at least 35mm and often past 40mm.
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Old 09-20-09, 08:21 AM   #18
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My LHT steel tourer with her 36-spoke touring wheels and 700x28's will take on just about anything. I've regularly taken cross country shortcuts (singletrack) while towing a single wheel trailer... good times.
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Old 09-20-09, 08:49 AM   #19
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Yeah, a Surly is my dream...but I'm broke :\
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Old 09-20-09, 01:08 PM   #20
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I have a 27 inch wheelset too, what choice do we have? 27 x 1 1/4 or 27 x 1 1/8. They really don't make tires for those bikes anymore. Its now 700c.
This isn't true. Schwalbe makes a Marathon available @ http://www.biketiresdirect.com and http://www.bikepartsusa.com has several choices.
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Old 09-20-09, 01:35 PM   #21
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...but part of the appeal of a larger tire is that you *can* lower the pressure (compared to skinnier tire) safely and without risking more flats.
Exactly, less pressure in a big tire still gives you more cushion than skinny racing tires jacked to 120psi
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Old 09-21-09, 11:26 AM   #22
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This isn't true. Schwalbe makes a Marathon available @ http://www.biketiresdirect.com and http://www.bikepartsusa.com has several choices.

Yes, but they don't make New stuff for 27 inch tires, those are the same ole tires I see on every website.
Conti only makes 2 tires for 27 inch, that's not much of a choice in my eyes. All new stuff is made for 700c rims.

Now getting back to the issue, Conti Gatorskins are fat tires compared to Nashbar Prima 2 Plus Road Tire which as skinny tires. Maybe the OP should try Schwalbe tires, those tires look fat...
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Old 09-21-09, 12:00 PM   #23
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Do recall that the Paris-Rubaix takes place on some of the least pleasant looking roads I've ever seen, and it's done yearly on carbon fibre bikes with 28mm tires.

Then again, every year, there is at least one spectacular failure. I rescind my comment.
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Old 09-21-09, 01:39 PM   #24
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Do recall that the Paris-Rubaix takes place on some of the least pleasant looking roads I've ever seen, and it's done yearly on carbon fibre bikes with 28mm tires.

Then again, every year, there is at least one spectacular failure. I rescind my comment.
I'm never sure there's much I can take from pro biking and apply to my own commute. I don't have a car following me w/ extra wheels and frames if mine give out, for starters.
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Old 09-21-09, 06:14 PM   #25
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New Zealand roads are bloody awful, I use 700x32 at a max pressure, not perfect but gets the job done. I've ridden 700x23 the vibration was terrible. Dunno how the roadies do it or enjoy it.
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