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  1. #1
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    Rough roads and thin tires

    Hi All,

    I live in Southern, NH and on some of the routes that I like to ride, I encounter some gravel/dirt roads that have lots of pits/potholes in them (due to winter freeze/thaw and springtime washouts). i have been using my older Trek 800 mountain bike (steel frame, built like a tank) on many of these roads, but I would like to take my lighter Giant OCR3 road bike on these roads. The OCR3 is sort of a sporty road bike, but I would like to use it as a light touring bike.

    the problem is that the OCR3 is equipped with some very thin, high pressure road tires and wheels. Is it advisable to ride on rough roads with this type of tires? I try and keep the pressure in the tires at the recommended level (110 PSI) but the other day when i took the bike out for a ride, I hit lots of little rough spots and I'm concerned about the durability of the wheels.

    I like riding the OCR3 because it's lighter and I can ride much farther than I can with the heavy all steel trek. However, I am concerned about a few streches where the roads are pretty rough.

  2. #2
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    I wouldn't.
    Ride at least 28 or 30. Not too heavily pumped up, I guess.
    Don't you notice a substantial loss of traction in the rough stuff with those skinnies?
    I find I do...

  3. #3
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    Thanks awc380 - I haven't tried the skinny tires on the gravel roads yet, just some paved roads with really rough spots. However, I imagine the traction with them would be pretty poor. I guess I'll alter my route a little to accomodate the thin tires and avoid the gravel roads for now.

    Thanks for your reply!

  4. #4
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Don't go too soft either - you want to avoid a pinched flat and/or rim impact. Maybe some racing buffs can comment on the tires used on the very rough Paris-Roubaix course.

  5. #5
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    cynergy,
    You have a couple of choices. I used to keep a set of "training wheels" (no not THAT kind ) that I used on my good road bike for rides on bad roads and for...training. They typically had a couple of tire sizes up from what was on my good wheels. IIRC the race wheels were 26-28mm and the trainers ran 30-32's. As long as you aren't a clydesdale and know how to ride "light" their is nothing wrong with running the tires a bit lower on air. Most of my tires had an upper and lower limit, something like 90-110psi. I would run them about 5psi below the low limit. You could also try a larger tire on your rims if it will clear the brakes, fork, etc.

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  6. #6
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    I have ridden on logging roads and on gravel on 23 mm slicks. I kept the tire pressure at about the maximum. My rationale was that I was less likely to get a flat. I have never experienced a puncture under these conditions.

    On rough roads, I rode slowly, and tried to avoid bigger obstacles. These roads were never my favourites, but I always came through without incident. However, on the very few times I encountered sand or loose earth, I walked my bike; skinny tires do not work!

    So if most of your rides are on paved roads, you happen to like skinny tires, and you are OK about walking your bike once in awhile, consider changing nothing!

    By the way, this year I will be "moving up" to 32 mm tires...

  7. #7
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    Hey all,

    Thanks for the great posts! I think at the moment I'll try riding on the tires that I got, and slow down/walk on the bumpy parts. However, maybe I'll invest in a set of training wheels in the future if I notice any damage with my existing rims. I'm not out to break any land speed records. I originally bought my OCR3 because it was on sale and I didn't know much about bikes, but as I ride more and more, I realize that I probably should have invested in a touring bike based on the kind of riding that I like to do.

    Anyhow, this is a great forum. Thanks again for the good advice and info.

  8. #8
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    It's not the bumps that are so bad but narrow tires cannot deal with any kind of soft surface. So if you hit gravel or mud or soft dirt you are going to sink and usually fall off the bike.

    In my opinion if you are planning on hitting any dirt or unimproved roads you should use the widest tire you can put on the bike and run a little lower air pressure.

    I have an OCR3 but have not tried narrower than the stock tires which are probably 28's.

    Better options would be to find an older vintage steel frame bike and put 38-40mm tires on it or go with a mountain bike style touring fame.

  9. #9
    Member midnightsimon's Avatar
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    cynergy - what a lot of posters above have been getting at (but not making clear) is that you can keep your skinny WHEELS on the bike, and just buy some fatter TIRES, so long as they are the same diameter (I'm guessing your wheels are 700C, or possibly 27" if they are older).
    Look at the sidewall of the tire where it says what PSI to inflate to. It should say something like 700X23 or 700X25. If you're wanting to offroad your bike a bit you should look into picking up some 700X28 or larger tires. If you insist on riding your skinny tires on rougher turf, do let a little bit of air out (as full inflation will just rattle all your bones). I've ridden pea gravel trails on my road bike with 23c tires before and it wasn't a problem. Then again, I've gotten flats from various bits of debris on this type of path as well (thorns, whatnot) - so just be careful and make sure you carry a patch kit with you.
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  10. #10
    Gone, but not forgotten Shiznaz's Avatar
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    Another option if the OP plans on riding mostly on soft surfaces is a lower volume cyclocross tire. This would mean he would be able to fit them in the frame, and still have traction on soft or loose surfaces. They also tend to run well at lower pressures. They're not great on the road though, but its all about how much you want to comprimise. I'd ideally bring a set of 28mm slicks and a set of 30-32mm cx tires with me on a tour so I have the perfect tires for on and off road riding. I'm too lazy and don't want to carry the extra weight though, so I run some some big 37c conti travel contact tires with a smooth centre and knobby sides. They are heavy and you don't want to corner fast on pavement, but are bulletproof and will take you anywhere within reason.

    I may end up switching to something lighter though as they weigh 640 grams a piece!

  11. #11
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    Hi Folks,

    Thanks again for the great responses.

    I checked the sidewalls and saw that I have 700x26C tires. I took another ride this afternoon and while I avoided the dirt roads today, I rode on some stretches of roads with lots of little pot holes. I hit some holes pretty hard (unavoidable - cars were approaching from behind) and although I'm not a Clydesdale (6'1", 170lbs) and I try to ride light (using my limbs as shock absorbers and trying to jump the front wheel over the holes when i can) I had some bone jarring bumps! It's kinda fun, but I worry about rim damage. Last week when I rode, I lost my little blinky light that was clipped to my saddle bag. This week my replacement blinky light (actually it's my wife's light... I'm borrowing hers) flew off after hitting a bump, but this time I heard it so I rode back, found the light, cover and batteries, reassembled them and rode away.

    I may opt for the fatter tires in the near future if I start using the bike on a lot of dirt/gravel roads. I like the idea of a slightly wider tire to provide me a little better traction.

    Aside from the skinny tires on rough roads, I'm really starting to like my OCR3. It's a fun bike to ride! I didn't ride it that much last year when I bought it - I mostly road my heavy mountain bike. But this year I've been riding it a lot more and I can cover a lot more ground with it and it weights a lot less than the all-steel mountain bike.

  12. #12
    Member midnightsimon's Avatar
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    Consider looking into some of these:http://schwalbetires.com/node/120/ok

    You can run over pretty much anything...
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  13. #13
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    Here's a quick update - I went for a two hour bike ride today and decided to ride on the dirt road. I slowed down a lot and it wasn't too bad. Fortunately, it looks like the town/county has smoothed out the road with a grader since all of the pock marks were filled in. It was bumpy and the traction wasn't great, but it's a relatively short stretch of road so it was fine. I'm glad I wore my Casio G-shock watch though instead of my mechanical watch - it was very bumpy!

  14. #14
    Just ride it. MrPolak's Avatar
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    Rough roads are the reason why I bought a Cyclocross bike and put some 38c Maxxis Overdrive tires on the Campy Scirocco wheels. They measure more like a 42 tire. They are great when off road with lots of cushion. They also make hopping off curbs possible. They are quite tolerable on road. I think 32c-tires would work quite well off road too.

    I guess it's more a question of brake and frame clearance on a road bike.

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