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Old 08-31-10, 10:37 PM   #1
wunderkind
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Roadie Commuters: Do you avoid all unpaved routes?

Just wondering if fellow roadies take their roadbikes on crushed gravel paths as part of their commutes or flat out re-route their commute to avoid them at all cost?
For me since I've put on some fatter 25mm tires, I've been mixing in with gravel trails. So far so good.
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Old 08-31-10, 10:43 PM   #2
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I don't think there are any unpaved roads in L.A., at least not anywhere near my commute, but if there were, I would avoid them.
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Old 08-31-10, 10:48 PM   #3
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I have 32mm tires on my commuter/brevet bike, so I ride it wherever I please.
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Old 08-31-10, 11:08 PM   #4
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Most bikes are going to be able to handle unpaved routes quite well, even on skinnier tyres... have taken my road bikes on the city's trails which are actually kinder and gentler to them than some of our city's streets.

Just set up my new old folder and it has 451 Kendas with a knobby but smooth rolling tread and tested them out on loose gravel and was most pleased... might have to go and hit the trails on the way home tonight.
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Old 08-31-10, 11:27 PM   #5
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I've been on some crushed limestone trails that were actually pretty nice. A gravel road? It would really depend on the condition but I'd only ride my road bike on loose gravel for short stretches. For more than that a different bike would be more appropriate. A hard-packed dirt road would be fine.
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Old 08-31-10, 11:59 PM   #6
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My long commute is 55km one way and I have 50km of road that has some treacherous spots and 5km of gravel which is usually good if it has been packed down but after they grade the road it can be more fun... when I was a kid there were gravel roads everywhere but they seem to have paved most of the roads in this province.
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Old 09-01-10, 02:59 AM   #7
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Yes roadies are absolutly terrified of anything that's unpaved. It has to be paved and smooth as glass or they can't ride it. I have never seen a roadie on an unpaved MUP.
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Old 09-01-10, 04:39 AM   #8
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For me, it actually depends on the bike.

I have one bike (my '00 Trek 1000) that absolutely, positively detests anything other than pavement under its wheels. If it doesn't throw its chain in anger, it tries to buck me off the top.

Two of my other bikes (a '96 Litespeed Classic and an '06 Trek Portland) have no issue whatsoever and as long as it's not loose gravel you sink into, they ride along just fine.

My fourth bike (a '99 Schwinn Peloton) hasn't been off-pavement enough for me to tell. Since it has a crit geometry, I suspect it wouldn't do well in the loose stuff.

FWIW, I run Conti 4-Seasons tires on all my bikes, in 25mm on three of them, with 28mm on the Portland.
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Old 09-01-10, 04:43 AM   #9
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I've ridden my road bikes with 23c tires on unpaved MUPs, which include, twigs, tree roots and large stones, but I don't really like doing it. They've handled it well enough, certainly less sure footed than my bikes more appropriately set up for it. Every bike is a tool and a 23c tire road bike isn't really the right tool for that job. They also don't spontaneously combust at the first sign of gravel.
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Old 09-01-10, 05:25 AM   #10
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There are a couple of unpaved options along my commute and I try to avoid them as much as I possibly can!
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Old 09-01-10, 05:56 AM   #11
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I would think (and more experienced commuters than me have mentioned this) road tires on a crushed-stone trail would lead to a lot of flats. Some of those little bits of gravel are shaped like arrowheads and they will work their way through the tread and pop the tube. I've gotten flats on my road bike this way (from a stone I picked up on our relatively clean roads) and on my mtb from riding on the MUP (through a WTB Slickasaurus 1.5" tire). Fairly rare on the mtb, but I would think a thinner high-pressure road tire would suffer a lot of flats.

Also, it seems like emergency braking would be more of an issue on a road bike, though you usually don't need to stop that fast on the MUP (except when dogs on retractable leashes dart across the entire path).
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Old 09-01-10, 06:05 AM   #12
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My road bike (Cannondale Synapse) with 23/25 tires can take crushed gravel okay, and I ride about an eight of a mile on it once in a while. With Armadillos, I've never had a flat due to nature.

My posterior does not take it quite as well.
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Old 09-01-10, 06:19 AM   #13
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This guy doesn't seem to need a road at all:

#!
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Old 09-01-10, 06:40 AM   #14
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Everything is paved for commuting. However, I have ridden my road bike on gravel and unpaved roads during non commutes.
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Old 09-01-10, 06:43 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by mikeinroch View Post
I would think (and more experienced commuters than me have mentioned this) road tires on a crushed-stone trail would lead to a lot of flats. Some of those little bits of gravel are shaped like arrowheads and they will work their way through the tread and pop the tube. I've gotten flats on my road bike this way (from a stone I picked up on our relatively clean roads) and on my mtb from riding on the MUP (through a WTB Slickasaurus 1.5" tire). Fairly rare on the mtb, but I would think a thinner high-pressure road tire would suffer a lot of flats.

Also, it seems like emergency braking would be more of an issue on a road bike, though you usually don't need to stop that fast on the MUP (except when dogs on retractable leashes dart across the entire path).
This might sound counter intuitive, and maybe it's just bad luck, but I always seem to get MORE flats on thicker tires than I do on thinner ones. I suspect some of that is that I'm probably more careful with my road bikes. Logic would certainly seem to say you'd be right, but I've experienced the opposite.

I'm not sure why you'd think roadie brakes would be compromised...the two pivot side pulls I have on my Merlin, De Rosa and Merckx are all positively teeth breakers. The single pivots on my Raleigh Pro are substantially weaker.
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Old 09-01-10, 06:49 AM   #16
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Caveat: I'm not a "roadie commuter" - I ride on a hybrid with 32s. But I ride gravel daily and thought I'd chime in.

No crushed limestone around here, but there are plenty of gravel roads. The proper gravel roads are made with a combination of courser gravel and pebbles mixed with a clay/sand mixture. They get graded about 4 times a year. Right after grading they're pretty rough, it smooths out the potholes and washboards but turns up lots of rocks. Within 3 or 4 days after grading, however, the rocks get pushed down into the clay mixture by cars, and the road becomes pretty smooth.

In fact, there are paved roads around here that are far rougher to ride on even with my 32s than the gravel is. They recently chipsealed a 2 mile stretch on my normal route, and I used a gravel route as an alternate for about 3 weeks, because the gravel was smoother than the chipsealed pavement.
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Old 09-01-10, 07:57 AM   #17
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there is no such thing as an unpaved surface anywhere along my commuting route, it is 100% paved and urban from downtown chicago up to downtown evanston. that's why my regular commuter is my road bike that i roll with 23s. fast, fast, fast!

when i ride deeper into suburban chicagoland (to visit friends/family or just for fun) there are times when i take my hybrid with 26 x 1.35s instead because there are a fair amount of crushed limestone paths in the burbs that are great to ride on, but can be a pain in the ass on my road bike with 23s.
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Old 09-01-10, 08:37 AM   #18
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I avoid any long stretches of gravel when on my road bike (23mm tires). One of my route variations has a ~100 meter gravel section that I'll take, but that's about it. Another route variation has about a mile of gravel path, but I only ride that on my MTB or cross bike.
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Old 09-01-10, 09:01 AM   #19
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I guess this is one of the reasons I never actually buy another bike when I get the urge and start looking. It's simply not practical for me to avoid gravel roads all the time. I have to go on much busier, more dangerous roads and go at least a couple of miles out of my way to stay off gravel pretty much no matter where I'm going around here. On one of my routes I use if I am running errands, the choice is between about 8 miles of gravel road or about 9.5 miles of pavement, and most of the pavement is good with a nice shoulder but the last 2.5 miles is really horrible patched crap with no shoulder, high speed traffic and narrow lanes, one in each direction.
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Old 09-01-10, 09:04 AM   #20
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I prefer to stay paved, but even with my 23 tires I don't feel too bad going on some of the dirt/gravel walking trails around here. Going off a curb however... I feel terrible.
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Old 09-01-10, 09:51 AM   #21
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Narrower, lighter road tires run best at full inflation. Using 23mm Conti Gatorskins, I'm not worried about durability of the tires on dirt/gravel, but ride comfort is terrible at 110-120 psi. Lowering the tire pressure to around 90 psi makes for a sluggish ride due to a lack of sidewall strength. This is particularly noticeable on the road, where there is about a 2-3 mph drop for the same effort.

So, generally I avoid offroading on road tires, but I will occasionally ride a couple miles on packed dirt/gravel. Using a road tire with stronger sidewalls (and therefore greater weight) would make offroading at lower tire pressure a little more comfotable, but would also compromise speed on the road.
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Old 09-01-10, 09:56 AM   #22
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I commute on my cross bike with 700x30 kenda quick tires.
Roll well on the street, give me a good workout on the road.
However, I avoid offroad and the shoulders because of one thing:

GOATHEAD THORNS.

Commute time is precious. I can't afford multiple flats going in to work.
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Old 09-01-10, 11:27 AM   #23
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Crushed gravel can be decent or even nice if it’s maintained. I’ll tell you what really sucks… “Rough Grooved Surface” when they dress down asphalt for repaving. That stuff ‘ll rattle you and your bike to bits!
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Old 09-01-10, 11:28 AM   #24
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Crushed gravel can be decent or even nice if it’s maintained. I’ll tell you what really sucks… “Rough Grooved Surface” when they dress down asphalt for repaving. That stuff ‘ll rattle you and your bike to bits!
Even worse than cobble stone!
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Old 09-01-10, 12:07 PM   #25
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I can't take my bike in the building, so my road bike stays at home, and my CX is my commuter. I've taken the CX bike on gentler mountain trails that seemed to be made out of gravel. The road bike has been through short stretches of it, and on grass, but ... it's most fun going at high speeds on good pavement, and making steep, winding descents.

Also, I have to go quite a bit out of my way to hit a dirt trail in a park in Seattle, and most of them don't allow bikes.
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