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  1. #1
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    Fat tires for long, rough road commute? 700c > 650b

    Hello all,

    Long time bike commuter here. Recently got a new job which is quite a ways from my house, 20.8 miles to be exact (by bike). I don't have a car, and no interest in ever getting one again. I did a dry run of the planned commute, and frankly it sucks. The roads I'm taking are narrow, 10 foot single lane highways with no shoulder, and 35-55 MPH speed limit. There is no way around it unless I want to add about 8 more miles to the trip.

    Luckily, there are sidewalks most of the way. Some parts the sidewalks are uninterrupted for almost a mile, which makes this a functional bike lane. However, the sidewalks are concrete with lots of mismatched expansion joints and terrible transitions where it meets the road. This persists for the majority of the commute. There is another portion over a mile long that is on choppy brick roads :-\ The problem is that I was beat up by this, and I'm feeling it today. Not good. I have extended work weeks, 7 days on, multiple days off. My main concern right now is that I won't be able to do this 7 days in a row because I will get injured eventually, or just really damn sore.

    I'm riding a 60 cm Salsa Vaya, 700x38 Schwalbe Marathon GG, 6'4" 230lbs. I'm seriously considering splurging on a 650b wheelset so I can squeeze some fat rubber in there. Looks like 650 x 50 Big Ben's will easily clear. Is this enough 'suspension' to smooth out the ride? Should I buy an MTB and put slicks on it? Any one else have this dilemma?

  2. #2
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    Cheapest solution is lowering tire pressure, but still avoiding pinch flats. If you can squeeze a slight wider high quality tire such as a Marathon Supreme, you may get good results with lower pressure. A new wheel set is going to be an expensive way to go, and running really fat tires will slow you down.

  3. #3
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    1. Yes, wider tires and lower pressures can help. Though you are pretty wide at 38mm, if it is a true 38mm.

    2. You can also try a sprung saddle, like the Brooks Flyer saddle or the B67. I have both. Flyer on the drop bar bike and B67 on my upright bike. That helped me more than lowering tire pressure.
    They really smooth out the bumps. I am 175 pounds and the Flyer and B67 bounce just enough over the ruts and rough roads. Feels like the road shock/bumps goes out the bottom of the saddle rather than up into my body, like with my unsprung saddle.

    3. You may need longer reach brakes if you convert to 650b.

    4. You may be lowering your bb by going to 650b, which can lead to pedal strike. The folks at Salsa should be able to answer that question for you about your bb height. Or, call the folks at Rivendell VBike Works and see what they say. They are one of the pioneers of modern day 650b bikes and conversions. They know all about that stuff.

  4. #4
    Senior Member JerrySTL's Avatar
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    You might want to check the local laws. It's illegal to ride on sidewalks in many places.

    Any public transportation? Many of our buses have bike racks on them.

  5. #5
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    According to Salsa:

    "Fits 26 x 1.9" tires (50/52cm sizes), clearance for 700c x 38mm tires with fenders or 700c x 42mm without fenders (54cm sizes and up)"

    So swapping on a MTB wheelset with fat tires shouldn't screw anything up(my BBU's were designed to take 700 or 26" wheels). 26" wheels and tires will be easier to find,prolly cheaper,and you'll have a much bigger variety of tires than with 650b.

    C'dale BBU('05 and '09)/F600/Super Six/Hooligan8and 3,Kona Dew Deluxe,Novara Buzz/Safari,Surly Big Dummy,Marin Pt Reyes/Novato,Giant Defy 1,Schwinn DBX SuperSport/Qualifier,Brompton S6L,Dahon Speed Pro TT

  6. #6
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    Going for wider set of tires is what I had in mind. Money's a bit tight right now but I had a plan to convert to either:

    - a 650B tubeless wheelset with Grand Bois Hetre 42mm tubeless (apparantly you can run Grand Bois Hetres tubeless)
    - a 26" tubeless MTB wheelset with schwalbe super motos 26"x2.35 tubeless
    - a 29" tubeless MTB wheelset with schwalbe super motos 29"x2.35 tubeless

    I'm still a bit undecided as to what it's going to be.
    I don't have any experience with tubeless wheelsets or tubeless tires, but apparantly you can run lower pressures with less rolling resistance and good puncture resistance.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrazyLemurBoy View Post
    Hello all,

    I'm riding a 60 cm Salsa Vaya, 700x38 Schwalbe Marathon GG, 6'4" 230lbs. I'm seriously considering splurging on a 650b wheelset so I can squeeze some fat rubber in there. Looks like 650 x 50 Big Ben's will easily clear. Is this enough 'suspension' to smooth out the ride? Should I buy an MTB and put slicks on it? Any one else have this dilemma?
    I don't commute but I ride primarily on pavement in an area that is not known for maintaining the streets and I also have this dilemma. It seems that most or all "general purpose" bikes max out in the low-to-mid 40mm tire range and you have to step up to a 29'er MTB for fatter tires. I really want to run Schwalbe Big Apples (come in 50-55-60mm size...I believe) but I don't want to ride a full-blown MTB. I've looked and looked and can't find a bike I like that will reliably fit even the 50mm Big Apples. Some people have squeezed them onto LHT's & Cross Checks but I have relatively wide rims and I'm skeptical that even those bikes would take BA's mounted on them. One option is that Velo-Orange is getting ready to produce and sell a general purpose bike that will take 50mm tires. It's called the Camargue or something like that. It's designed along lower-trail lines with a trail in the 50's with 50+mm tires.

    I'm riding a Handsome Devil and I think a BA would fit on the back but I don't want to spend $50 bucks on a "maybe" just to find out. I'm certain it won't fit on the front because they chose a really short fork length. Switching to a Long Haul Trucker fork MIGHT work but again, it's back to my wide rims and whether or not they are too much for the LHT's fork clearance.


    I'm pretty sure Salsa is adamant that people should not convert their bikes to 650b. I think the Fargo was the specific bike I was looking at when I read that but I don't know if the same Q&A applies to all of their bikes or not.

    Other than tire clearance issues, how do you like the Vaya? If the Vaya had cantilever studs and would take even just 50mm Big Apples, I would have one right now.
    Currently riding a 2013 Handsome Devil custom build and an 80's Takara Highlander (MTB built in the style of an 82-84 Stumpjumper).

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    A 700-38 is already pretty wide.. 20 miles each way is about 3 hours added to your work day ..

    and you may not be fresh when you arrive fatigued in the AM, so boss may not keep you, long.

    can you put the bike on the bus on the way in, then ride home.. ?

    Lower PSI , will increase rolling resistance.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-12-13 at 11:23 AM.

  9. #9
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    suspension fork in front and suspension seatpost?

    Last edited by erig007; 11-12-13 at 12:07 PM.

  10. #10
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    Notes:

    I have a suspension seatpost. Thudbuster LT hooked up to a B68 saddle. However, my feet and hands are not supported by this platform.

    My 700x38 Schwalbe Marathon GG measures 39.5 mm on my 700c Velocity Chukker rim, and is about the same height.

    I have room for up to 700c x 42mm tires. I've seen other Vaya users run 650b x 56 mm tires with room to spare. The overall wheel diameter is only 8mm different with 650b being smaller, the BB drop should be fine.

    I am commuting in a city with notoriously bad public transportation. It would be slower to take the bus, quite literally.

    The Salsa Dos Niner posted below is the kind of bike I'm considering. I have read that this bike will eventually crack somewhere in the frame due to the suspension design. If there is another soft-tail like it production that is not a $4k Moots YBB please let me know.

    I am anticipating 9000 miles of commuting this year. I need DURABILITY. I'm leaning more towards a new bike very much like the Salsa Dos Niner than kludging my Salsa Vaya.

    The Salsa Vaya is a sweet bike. I am very happy with it and I've ridden it about 10,000 miles. It's just not the right bike for the job in this instance.

    Question:

    How low of a PSI could I roughly reach with 700x42, considering i'm 225-230lbs, and my bike is balanced 40/60?
    Last edited by CrazyLemurBoy; 11-12-13 at 04:42 PM.

  11. #11
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by henkie327 View Post
    - a 650B tubeless wheelset with Grand Bois Hetre 42mm tubeless (apparantly you can run Grand Bois Hetres tubeless)
    - a 26" tubeless MTB wheelset with schwalbe super motos 26"x2.35 tubeless
    - a 29" tubeless MTB wheelset with schwalbe super motos 29"x2.35 tubeless
    YMMV,but I wouldn't ride either of those tires. Neither has any puncture protection,and there's just too much crap on our streets. I'd run Big Apples.

    Quote Originally Posted by corwin1968 View Post
    I don't commute but I ride primarily on pavement in an area that is not known for maintaining the streets and I also have this dilemma. It seems that most or all "general purpose" bikes max out in the low-to-mid 40mm tire range and you have to step up to a 29'er MTB for fatter tires. I really want to run Schwalbe Big Apples (come in 50-55-60mm size...I believe) but I don't want to ride a full-blown MTB.
    Lot's of 26" bikes will handle 2" tires. My Safari,Pt Reyes,and Novato will no probs;my old 1X1 came with 2.35"s. If you don't limit yourself to 700c,you'll have more choices. I prefer 26" for my bad weather bike because it's easier to fit and find wide tires.

    C'dale BBU('05 and '09)/F600/Super Six/Hooligan8and 3,Kona Dew Deluxe,Novara Buzz/Safari,Surly Big Dummy,Marin Pt Reyes/Novato,Giant Defy 1,Schwinn DBX SuperSport/Qualifier,Brompton S6L,Dahon Speed Pro TT

  12. #12
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    Cant inform you on your bike choices a I ain't familiar with them. I do have a similar 7 mile commute (recently voluntarily increased to 10 miles when time allows), also I jut rode a 50 mile loop this weekend very similar to what you describe.

    My old rigid '88 Rockhopper has 26" wheels and I'm really liking the 26" x 2.0" Serfa Drifters (REI) I put on last month.

    I think you will find uneven sidewalk riding considerably slower than roadways, at least that has been my experience.

    Mike

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynaryder View Post
    YMMV,but I wouldn't ride either of those tires. Neither has any puncture protection,and there's just too much crap on our streets. I'd run Big Apples.
    I thought about big apples too, but from everthing i've read and seen, the puncture protection with tubeless tires is pretty good
    (I realize it's a promotional video, but nonetheless: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a17-Jmtp41Q)

  14. #14
    Ghost Ryding 24/7 Ghost Ryder's Avatar
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    How about running tubular, or a fork that will accept wider tires?

    When I hit the trails on my road bike a few times(mistake, brought the wrong bike), my arms took a beating, my feet/legs were fine.

    Its a bit better on my gravel grinder I ride with 40(measures closer to 41) @ 70psi.
    I switched the ALU fork to a CF to help with the buzz.
    I've been thinking of getting a set of 29ers to have a wider rim for this bike, but finding a 130mm is hard, might have go the handmade route.
    Giant Defy Dura Ace : Rip/Hammer-Specialized Allez Ultegra/105 : Recovery/Spinner-Specialized Allez Red : Trainer-Kona Major(Rad) Jake : Down & Dirty

  15. #15
    Senior Member JAG410's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrazyLemurBoy View Post

    Question:

    How low of a PSI could I roughly reach with 700x42, considering i'm 225-230lbs, and my bike is balanced 40/60?
    http://www.dorkypantsr.us/bike-tire-...alculator.html

  16. #16
    Ghost Ryding 24/7 Ghost Ryder's Avatar
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    These #'s seem really low.
    Giant Defy Dura Ace : Rip/Hammer-Specialized Allez Ultegra/105 : Recovery/Spinner-Specialized Allez Red : Trainer-Kona Major(Rad) Jake : Down & Dirty

  17. #17
    Senior Member JAG410's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost Ryder View Post
    These #'s seem really low.
    Try it! I've used that calc on 2 of my bikes and it has served as a great starting point. I simply round up to the nearest whole number. On my 650B bike it suggests 47f/57r. I do 50/60 only because it's easier to see on the pump gauge! Been riding it at those pressures ever since...and it rides nice!

  18. #18
    Ghost Ryding 24/7 Ghost Ryder's Avatar
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    I looks like I'd be riding @ the minimum/or below of what the spec say on most of my tires. I'd be scared of pinch flats.
    Giant Defy Dura Ace : Rip/Hammer-Specialized Allez Ultegra/105 : Recovery/Spinner-Specialized Allez Red : Trainer-Kona Major(Rad) Jake : Down & Dirty

  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    go fat bike : 4" wide tires if you want cushioning of Max air.

  20. #20
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    Lovely calculator but I can only seem to get it up to 37 mm width

  21. #21
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost Ryder View Post
    These #'s seem really low.
    I know. Yet I've been trying it for the last year or two, and it's lovely.
    Please email me rather than sending me a private message. My address is noglider@pobox.com

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  22. #22
    George Krpan
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    20 miles, one way, is way too far. If I had to do it and I was dead set against buying a car, I would get an electric bike. It has all the advantages of a bicycle, no license, no registration, no insurance, no gas, no pollution, cheap tires that you can change yourself, and on and on. Someone in the commuting thread, JoeyBike?, test rode a Specialized Turbo and said it was spectacular. He said it would go 28mph. You would get to work in less than an hour and re-charge at work. Best of all, you wouldn't be a tired wreck when you get home.

  23. #23
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    The Specialized Turbo MSRP is $5900................. holy hand grenade.

  24. #24
    George Krpan
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrazyLemurBoy View Post
    The Specialized Turbo MSRP is $5900................. holy hand grenade.
    Here is a link to a review by an electric bike blog.
    http://www.electricbike.com/specialized_turbo/

    The reviewer actually did not think it was worth $5900, wasn't as fast or had as long a range as it's far cheaper competition.
    And Specialized calls it "The World's Fastest Electric Bike." Typical Specialized hype.
    The best thing about the review is that it mentions who the Turbo's competitors are, with links.

  25. #25
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost Ryder View Post
    I looks like I'd be riding @ the minimum/or below of what the spec say on most of my tires. I'd be scared of pinch flats.
    Unless the tires are almost flat already, it takes some doin' to pinch-flat 40mm+ tires. Most people overinflate big tires.

    Like JAG, I've had nothing but good results with the calculator/Frank Berto method. As a concession to real-world riding conditions, though, I choose the 45%/55% numbers regardless of whatever my actual weight distribution is, and round up, never down.
    Last edited by ThermionicScott; 11-14-13 at 07:30 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

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