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Old 08-27-06, 05:51 PM   #1
Bikin' Mack
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Road Bike on the C&O Canal Towpath?

(I posted this on the NE regional forum also)
I've ridden the C&O once before and I realize very well that a road bike is sub-optimal for it. For those of you unfamilar with the C&O, it's a couple hundred miles of hard-packed dirt, crushed gravel, but bigger gravel chunks too sometimes, tree roots and mud, etc. It looks like my buds and I might be doing it again before long. So I need some technical expertise: are there things I could do to my roadie to make it C&O compatible? Can you put wider tires on a given wheel? The tires now are 25c 120 psi. I know I can get gnarlier tires, but I'm thinking they are still too narrow. Anything else I can do? Would I be crazy to try it? FYI, I live in Colorado so I can't just go there for a trial run.

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Old 08-27-06, 06:01 PM   #2
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Get a set of 'Cross tires/rims?
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Old 08-27-06, 06:04 PM   #3
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Skinny tires = kaboom
Parts are rideable with road tires, but many parts are not.

I've heard 32's as the narrowest recommended.
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Old 08-27-06, 08:07 PM   #4
Bikin' Mack
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S'what I feared.

Thanks. 32 it shall be.
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Old 08-28-06, 09:38 AM   #5
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I run "Club Roost cross terra" tires on my canal trails bike. I ride the
canal trails near where I live on a converted road bike with these Cross
tires finding them to be an excellent balance for crushed limestone,mud,
loose dirt or pavement that make up the trail.

http://www.clubroost.com/TractionProducts.htm
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Old 08-28-06, 10:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikin' Mack
(I posted this on the NE regional forum also)
There is a NE regional forum? Where?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikin' Mack
I've ridden the C&O once before and I realize very well that a road bike is sub-optimal for it. For those of 1you unfamilar with the C&O, it's a couple hundred miles of hard-packed dirt, crushed gravel, but bigger gravel chunks too sometimes, tree roots and mud, etc. It looks like my buds and I might be doing it again before long. So I need some technical expertise: are there things I could do to my roadie to make it C&O compatible? Can you put wider tires on a given wheel? The tires now are 25c 120 psi. I know I can get gnarlier tires, but I'm thinking they are still too narrow. Anything else I can do? Would I be crazy to try it? FYI, I live in Colorado so I can't just go there for a trial run.

Thanks,
Bikin' Mack
Yea I would say the widest that you can. I use my Mtn bike on the towpath

-D
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Old 08-28-06, 10:54 AM   #7
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I would think that "snakbite" would be your worst problem. If you find that you've run out of room between your tires and forks, then you may be able to run Tufo tubular clincher tires. They are virtually immune to snakebite and you can run them at lower pressures (like the Tufo cyclocross riders do.) In fact, Tufo has a line of cyclocross tires that may be thin enough to fit on a road bike--like the Elite Cyclocross LPS; these are 28mm:



Check there line out here:

http://www.tufonorthamerica.com

*DISCLAIMER: I don't have any affiliation with Tufo. I just use some of their products.
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Old 08-28-06, 11:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cc_rider
Skinny tires = kaboom
Parts are rideable with road tires, but many parts are not.

I've heard 32's as the narrowest recommended.
I will echo this comment. I did the full ride from Pitt to DC in June and did so on the Specialized Borough CX tires which are 700x32 and I wouldn't want to ride it on less that that....that was fine, I had no issues and no flats but I think thinner would have been a bit rough. 32 allowed me to fly when the trail was good but also they absorbed the rough stuff that you get especially around mile 42-28 (why is the trail so bad there?).

Oh yea and clearance will be your biggest issue...my commuter took these tires even with finders but I had to mess with the fenders to keep them from rubbing...not an optimal setup on my bike with fenders...would have been fine without...this was a Marin Mill Valley with cantis.
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Old 08-28-06, 04:50 PM   #9
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Many (most?) modern road bikes have poor tire clearance. You may not be able to get anything wider than 25 or 28mm to fit in your frame.
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Old 08-28-06, 08:31 PM   #10
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I agree with Grasschopper - much narrower than 32's might be more of a challenge than you want, especially if you are carrying clothing/gear for overnight. 25's at 120psi is way too skinny/hi pressure. We did the canal towpath last summer with a Scout group; my son rode on 700x38s and I think one of the other leaders had a hybrid with 700x32. The other thing to consider is VIBRATION - anything not tight will be lose, and your hands and wrists may take a beating. How are you carrying gear? A seatpost rack may not be up to the loads.

Check the C&O Towpath group on Yahoo at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coTowpath/ for current info, trip reports, etc. Good luck!
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Old 08-29-06, 07:53 AM   #11
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Several years ago, I cycled on a towpath in Virginia (Greenbriar) on a road bike with 23's. I wanted to go through a tunnel. The path started off as crushed limestone, dirt, then nickel sized stones and finally, large 1/2 dollar sized gravel. I only got one flat for about 20 miles, but I had many small tears in the sidewalls of the tires and had to replace the tires after completing the trek out to the tunnel and back. It was a ride I would not repeat. I would be concerned about sidewall damage more than width.
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