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Thread: Sharp gravel

  1. #1
    Senior Member wheelspeed's Avatar
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    Sharp gravel

    We're thinking about using our road tandem on a 40 mile bike-path tour. (Tour the Montour in September.)

    I bought the bike used with it's stock 2004 Race Lites 700x28C. I was nervous of those, and in newby's excitement I bought a pair of the Ultra Gator Skins that everyone seems to suggest (in 700 x 28C).

    Do you think I can use the RaceLites on sharp gravel with maybe a thorn-proof tube? I was looking at CX tires for this little tour, but we're not like some of you guys who ride 1000 miles per season. We'll probably only do about 500 miles per year, so I'd feel kinda silly with a bunch of tires that may get dry-rot before worn out.

    But if you think the Ultra Gator Skins aren't good for the gravel, then I'll consider it worth my while to look for some cut-proof CX or touring tires to enjoy the day without flats.

    Thanks,
    John & Elsa

  2. #2
    Riding Heaven's Highwayson the grand tour
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    .......a few thoughts.

    Montour trail surface.....It has been a few years since I've been on the Montour Trail but a remember it as a pretty nice surface and I did not worry about flats in the least compared to some rail trails I've been on.

    Race Lite tires...The Race Lite tires are a surprizingly strong flat resistent 28C tire IMHO. The Trek we bought last year had them and I intended to replace them with some Conti's as soon as we used them up. But they wore pretty well and flated less that our GP 4 Seasons....... so when I wore out the rear I actually bought a couple more of them. I still prefer the Conti's for handling and ride quality and continue to use those on our C'dale.... but the Race Lite is a solid tire.

    Tire size on rail trails...I've never used a slick 28c on Rail Trails because I always worry about rain and a soft surface or wet grass .... I don't want the risk of loosing the front wheel and taking my stoker to the ground. FWIW on rail trails I use either a 32c or 35c CX Tire. If the trail has a reputation for a stable surface, I use a fast rolling 32c CX Tire....if it is known to get soft or muddy I'll go 35c CX with an aggressive tread.
    We are a 305 pound team and only ride about 500 miles a year on RT's but do put in a lot more miles on the roads.

    Thorn resistant tubes with the thick one sided rubber tube -.I'm not a big fan because it seems I flat the same....when I really have to worry about thorns I use the Slime tubes. They are good for thorns but not so much for rock or larger punctures.

    Bottom line Having stated my consevative approach to Rail Trails, I am pretty confident that when it is dry or only lightly raining, a surface as good as Montour's should be fine for your Race Lite 28's with standard tubes.
    Good Luck -have fun..

    Bill J.

  3. #3
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    Bring a tire boot to patch up possible cuts. If you have one, you could bring a spare folding tire, but I wouldn't bother for 40 miles. Most of our tire failures on gravel have been while bombing downhill over 20 mph.

  4. #4
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelspeed View Post
    ...and in newby's excitement I bought a pair of the Ultra Gator Skins that everyone seems to suggest (in 700 x 28C).
    You're looking at an unrepresentative sample here. I like Ultra Gatorskins fine - on my single, which is strictly ridden on-road. They're a lot more flat-resistant than whatever it was that I used before - and I've used them long enough to forget.

    For the tandem I prefer something beefier, and that's because I'm interested in loaded touring. The most vocal on this forum tend to be folks who generally ride where they know what the surface will be like. I'm currently riding Schwalbe Marathons. On 26" wheels. I'm still waiting for the first flat, so I don't know how long they're good for.

    But to your question, I'm not familiar with the surface you're talking about, but what I think of as "sharp gravel" should not cause a problem as far as flats are concerned, but might cause a traction issue with something that narrow. To me "sharp gravel" would be washed, crushed stone with pieces about 2-3 cm/ 1" in the longest dimension. If not packed well enough, this can be very hard to ride, and a wide tire helps.

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    I've used Conti Top Touring (35?) on rail-trails, both dry and in the rain, and they worked great! Comfortable, smooth, good traction, low resistance.

    I would not go to the extreme of cyclocross knobbies; get something with a more tour-ey tread.

    28's will be sub-optimal, but you can do it on 28's.
    I don't even use the offensive term "Fred." -- Sheldon "All Cyclists Are My Friends" Brown (1944-2008)

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    I highly recommend the Performace Bike Forte Metro K tire @700x35. I've run this tire for years in both its 26"x1.25 and 700cx35 version on both our tandem and triplet, including loaded touring on gravel and some bad rail trail surfaces that I'd just as soon forget. Best of all, they are crazy-cheap. Currently on sale for $11.99 each. At that price you can get them and keep them just for special occasions like this and not feel guilty.

    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes...1511000_400237

  7. #7
    Senior Member wheelspeed's Avatar
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    Thanks all. That give me some good options. Good to know the RaceLites aren't as bad as I assumed based on the words "race" and "light". But those cheap tires may be nice to have for this ride.

    The path is hard pack except for a few areas. We ride our road 1/2-bikes on it all the time with no problems. But there's the occasional stone sitting on top of the hardpack that's normally avoided on 1/2-bikes, but they seem to be magnets for me on the tandem.

  8. #8
    Senior Member CGinOhio's Avatar
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    You should be fine on the 28c tires you have...if the weather is good, and if you aren't a super heavy weight team. We rode our fully loaded (400lbs) tandem on the GAP last year and I'm assuming the good quality hard-packed surface continues on the Montour. As mentioned by others larger size tires will give you handling safety margin in on a soft surface, whether due to bad weather or thick gravel.

    Regarding durability, its greatly a function of miles and weight when riding on crushed stone and unimproved surfaces. For a short ride like you are doing you will be ok with the Race Lites. However, if you ride in wet conditions don't be surprised to get a puncture. Definitely inspect your tires after riding the Montour. Pick out any imbedded stoned chips before the work their way through to the tube on your next ride. We had on new 35c Schwalbe Marathon for our GAP and C&O tour last year. These are the basic bomb-proof (and heavy) tires preferred by touring types. With about 300 total miles on the tire we punctured on the C&O. It was a small stone chip that worked its way through the center of the tire carcass and abraded a small pin hole in the tube. If you've seen the thickness of the Marathon tread you'd be as surprised as we were! The moral of the story is no tire is indestructible, especially on a tandem.

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