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Factors for a soft ride on a sport tourer

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Factors for a soft ride on a sport tourer

Old 10-08-22, 11:20 AM
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Factors for a soft ride on a sport tourer

Forgive me if this has been covered, but I donít think Iíve run across a thread. On a recent ride on one of my sport touring bikes just a couple days after a ride on my Miyata tourer, I was struck by the sports plush ride over pavement imperfections. It has 32 Paselas vs 35s on the Miyata. It got me wondering.

Iím sure many more things are involved than tires. Frame material, geometry, trail, etc. One thing I noticed on my Cadillac ride was that this one had 4 cross on the spoke pattern. Has anyone built for comfort while still keeping it sporty? Is it just a lucky match of everything? Is it a sure sign that this must be a poor handling bike? Just wondering.
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Old 10-08-22, 12:03 PM
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Personally I've found tire size, pressure, and suppleness to be the biggest determinant in ride quality. If $ were no object, I'd put the fattest Rene Herse tires that would fit on all of my bikes. All of the other factors are important, particularly when you start to consider long distances, carrying a load, etc, etc, but fat and supple tires can absolutely transform ride quality.
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Old 10-08-22, 12:59 PM
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IMHO tire and tube selection and size make the most noticeable bang for buck improvement in all aspects, rim weight and quality wheel build are second

one tire to look at with a good balance of performance, ride and durability for you needs would be the Panaracer Gravel King

good tires (i.e 50$ plus even on sale) are work the cost

My 84 team miyata came with 25mm bontrager tires and inner tubes that were more like rubber hoses. ride was not good at all. Same wheel set but with panaracer gravel king 28 and conti race lite tubes rides super well and handled 2021 Cino wheel. (Note but with a set of mavic 330 rims and middle of the road Challenge Elite tubular at 130 psi, the ride was the best of any bike I have ridden)

I ran both conti GP5000 28 on my 85 team miyata...super great ride and when they died I put 28mm Gravel King on (cause I had a set) and the ride is not quite as good but still really good (bit surprised there was not more differnce)

my next wheel builds will be 32 mm Rene Herse with the super supple sidewall (white industries T11 hubs and H plus a sons Archetype rim and 29mm FMB Cobblestone tubular ( Ambrosio nemisis rims and hope hubs) so I do put my money where my opinion is

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Old 10-08-22, 01:11 PM
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Yes on those gravel kings. I have those in 32s on one bike and the ride is wonderful. Let’s say, identical tires; would perhaps more fork rake probably be softer as well as more relaxed frame angles? Too much of that gets one out of the sport tourer category. I did search the 4X spoking and did see a couple mentions of it contributing to a softer ride. I’m not really actively in pursuit of this, but found it somewhat interesting.
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Old 10-08-22, 02:43 PM
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I always build 4 cross and I think there is a tiny difference in comfort. I also fit 35mm gravel kings on most of my bikes. They are really an excellent ride.
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Old 10-08-22, 02:59 PM
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Probably building up a 82 Trek 412 this winter, and was wondering if I would go 32 or 35. I run my tires at maybe 65/60 f/r and that seems plenty. The 412 has less trail and longer wheelbase than my 83 700, so I would think it would be softer still. The 700 with 32 Gravel kings is a very pleasant ride.
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Old 10-08-22, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by sd5782
Yes on those gravel kings. I have those in 32s on one bike and the ride is wonderful. Letís say, identical tires; would perhaps more fork rake probably be softer as well as more relaxed frame angles? Too much of that gets one out of the sport tourer category. ....
With everything else being equal, additional fork rake is probably going to flex more.

However.... if you don't know the specific details about the fork blades, then there's really no way to predict.

My own relevant experience is with my Raleigh International, my Hetchins, and Raleigh Team. The International feels rougher over small bumps and such, but I can't say why. The International and Hetchins are built with Reynolds 531, and the Raleigh Team is built with Reynolds 753 (as far as I know). The International has more rake, so I'd expect more flex, but it doesn't seem to.

The International's fork blades are more ovalized than the other two, with the fore-aft dimension being longer and the side to side dimension being less than the other two bikes. This will make it stiffer in the fore-aft direction, so I'm inclined to believe that this is the critical difference. The tube wall thickness makes a big difference too, and I have no way to know how thick the fork blades are on these three bikes.

a quick comparison....

The fork blades on the International measure 28.7mm fore-aft just below the fork crown.


and a look at the fork rake...


by comparison, the Hetchins fork blade is 22.4mm fore-aft just below the fork crown.


and a look at the fork rake...


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Old 10-08-22, 04:17 PM
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That is interesting on the fork shape. I wonder if frame builders know these recipes for the smooth ride. I’m guessing that there are trade offs elsewhere. My softer rider is my 72 Fuji Newest. Interestingly it is listed as 74degree frame angles which one might think means harsher. Perhaps some of the vintage journey is coming across the Goldilocks one that suits ones individual style.
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Old 10-08-22, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by sd5782
I wonder if frame builders know these recipes for the smooth ride.
I hope no frame builders read that! We only have these "recipes" because of what frame builders know. No competent builder is just guessing about what kind of geometry to use in order to meet the requirements of the rider, it's all very deliberate and well-understood from an engineering and technical perspective.
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Old 10-08-22, 08:49 PM
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In terms of forks, the diameter of the fork tip plays a big role, too. Possibly even more than the amount of rake or where the rake is. I've seen references here that you want to make sure that fork tips are 12mm or less in diameter.
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Old 10-12-22, 08:22 AM
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I used to think tire width was the most important factor for a smooth ride. But after swapping bikes with a friend who had a vintage road bike with 25mm tires I'm not so sure. My comfort bike has cheap 50mm Kenda tires that I expected to have a much better ride then those 25 mm tires. To my surprise on many reasonably good roads those tiny 25mm tires had a smoother ride.

I'm sure the 50mm are better on very rough roads, And might survive striking a curb, But it makes me think a good quality supple tire of about 35mm ought to provide a smooth ride on most paved roads, good speed and can take some abuse.

Certainly frame and fork compliance play a role. Thats where an endurance frame comes in handy. The seatpost is also important. That and tires are probably the easiest changes we can make to achieve a smooth ride if either are not up to the task.

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Old 10-12-22, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by xroadcharlie
I used to think tire width was the most important factor for a smooth ride. But after swapping bikes with a friend who had a vintage road bike with 25mm tires I'm not so sure. My comfort bike has cheap 50mm Kenda tires that I expected to have a much better ride then those 25 mm tires. To my surprise on many reasonably good roads those tiny 25mm tires had a smoother ride.

I'm sure the 50mm are better on very rough roads, And might survive striking a curb, But it makes me think a good quality supple tire of about 35mm ought to provide a smooth ride on most paved roads, good speed and can take some abuse.

Certainly frame and fork compliance play a role. Thats where an endurance frame comes in handy. The seatpost is also important. That and tires are probably the easiest changes we can make to achieve a smooth ride if either are not up to the task.
I definitely think tire quality is up there with width (& pressure...) as a determinant. After blowing a lot of $$ on Rene Herse tires I decided to cheap-out (er..... do a test.....!) with some 42c tires. The ride on 38c Rene Herse's is noticeably better than on the cheaper 42c tires, and 35c Rene Herse's feel about the same. I'm looking forward to putting RH 42c tires on when I wear out the cheaper ones (not looking forward to the $$, but aging joints are worth it).
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Old 10-12-22, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by xroadcharlie
....
Certainly frame and fork compliance play a role. Thats where an endurance frame comes in handy. The seatpost is also important. That and tires are probably the easiest changes we can make to achieve a smooth ride if either are not up to the task.
Just to continue your train of thought... I'm of the opinion that the saddle can be a significant factor too (or did we already go over this?). I know that my Brooks leather saddles can have a half inch of flex in them, which is probably as much as my 25mm tires. Some years ago, a friend loaned me his Selle Italia Flite saddle that he found quite comfy. I installed it, did a short ride, and was just shocked at how awful it was! It was like sitting on a brick... no flex at all. Every little imperfection in the road was just hammered into my backside.
Maybe new synthetic saddles are better... but I do recommend that folks check how much a saddle flexes before committing to it.

To review... tires are a major source of flex or suspension, with the saddle potentially a significant contributor too. The fork can be, but it's hard to predict. I don't think anything else provides this degree of flex... i.e. a half inch or so.
Supple tires matter too, since they don't require a large force before they start to flex.

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Old 10-12-22, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by ehcoplex
Personally I've found tire size, pressure, and suppleness to be the biggest determinant in ride quality. If $ were no object, I'd put the fattest Rene Herse tires that would fit on all of my bikes. All of the other factors are important, particularly when you start to consider long distances, carrying a load, etc, etc, but fat and supple tires can absolutely transform ride quality.
+1

The biggest bang for the buck for a softer ride is tires. Pneumatic tires were invented for bicycles and replaced hard rubber ones, and made bikes rideable for most people.

I often ride with others on various road surfaces. People who complain about chipseal generaly ride skinny tires at high pressure (cough, cough, @Andy_K, cough, cough). Once I get above 32mm tire width I don't even notice it.
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Old 10-12-22, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie
+1

The biggest bang for the buck for a softer ride is tires. Pneumatic tires were invented for bicycles and replaced hard rubber ones, and made bikes rideable for most people.

I often ride with others on various road surfaces. People who complain about chipseal generaly ride skinny tires at high pressure. Once I get above 32mm tire width I don't even notice it.
700x35 is really a life saver for me.
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Old 10-12-22, 10:06 AM
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If any bike can be your Sport Tourer, soften the ride by some combination of lowering tire pressure, increasing tire width, or decreasing speed. Wider tires are slower. Low tire pressure increases likelihood of pinch flats. In sum: JSD (Just Slow Down).
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Old 10-12-22, 12:22 PM
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I'm with you guys about tires and frame geometry. And I believe that a fork should have bend and that the bend helps take the sting out of bumps. The sidewall and the pressure in the tire are the biggest suspension components on the bike.

We might be able to do more about the bumps getting to our bum. This is where the older saddles were more helpful than the newer plastic or hard bodied saddles. CyclingAbout recommends suspension seatpost and has some good experience and logic to back it up. He rides primitive roads, so that level of shock absorbing may not be relevant for the road bikes that we tend to ride. For me it was good for further perspective on the issue. I haven't changed to a suspension seat post either. But it got me thinking that perhaps a Brooks Flyer may not be as weird as I thought.

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Old 10-12-22, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Velo Mule
... But it got me thinking that perhaps a Brooks Flyer may not be as weird as I thought.
I rode a Brooks Champion Flyer for a few years, and it was impressive! The usual bumps and vibrations were greatly reduced or eliminated.
In fact, I realized that I couldn't tell when my rear tire was going flat. Usually you can notice that the ride gets really smooth and maybe a bit bouncy when the tire is at half pressure or so. This is usually just before you feel the rim smacking into the road (ugh!).
Well, the Flyer has that same bouncy and smooth feel, just like a half flat tire. Amazing.

The disadvantages of a Flyer?
Well, there is effectively a framework above and below the springs, which adds a bit of weight (not to mention those springs). This adds maybe a half pound of weight?? Not sure of the exact number, but it's not trivial.
Another issue is that the springs aren't damped. ...kinda like a car with worn out shock absorbers. If you hit a big bump/hole, you can just about get launched off the bike!
The last issue is that there is no pre-load adjustment. The springs will behave differently for a light person than a heavy person. I'm about 150 pounds, and I thought it worked pretty well. It might be that a very light person might not deflect the springs much at all, or a very heavy person might nearly bottom out the springs just sitting on it.

A shot of the underside of my Brooks Flyer:



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Old 10-12-22, 02:34 PM
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Factors for a soft ride
See rule 5.

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Old 10-12-22, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie
The biggest bang for the buck for a softer ride is tires. Pneumatic tires were invented for bicycles and replaced hard rubber ones, and made bikes rideable for most people.

I often ride with others on various road surfaces. People who complain about chipseal generaly ride skinny tires at high pressure (cough, cough, @Andy_K, cough, cough). Once I get above 32mm tire width I don't even notice it.
OK, but let me clarify for everyone else that when you say "skinny tires at high pressure" you're talking about 700x28 at 80 psi.
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Old 10-12-22, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
OK, but let me clarify for everyone else that when you say "skinny tires at high pressure" you're talking about 700x28 at 80 psi.
Yeah, like I said, skinny, high pressure tires. 32ís @ 65 psi are kinda skinny and high pressure.
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Old 10-12-22, 09:26 PM
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Not to get too into the weeds, but isn't a long seat post (carbon?) also a factor in comfort?
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Old 10-12-22, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie
Yeah, like I said, skinny, high pressure tires. 32ís @ 65 psi are kinda skinny and high pressure.
Hmm, I pumped my 650b x 42mm tires up to 40 psi this morning and felt like a real maverick.
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Old 10-12-22, 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ehcoplex
personally i've found tire size, pressure, and suppleness to be the biggest determinant in ride quality. If $ were no object, i'd put the fattest rene herse tires that would fit on all of my bikes. All of the other factors are important, particularly when you start to consider long distances, carrying a load, etc, etc, but fat and supple tires can absolutely transform ride quality.
+1000
A tire with a more flexible casing is what you need for a more compliant ride. The casing can be made more flexible by being made thinner, with higher thread counts, or with less rubber. Of course, the tradeoff is that these are more vulnerable to punctures. Or you can lower the pressure... and then you risk pinch flats. Or you can put on a fatter tire and have a more flexible casing by virtue of having more casing to flex. Take your pick.

Years ago I switched from (rock hard) 700 x 32C Specialized Armadillo tire to a 700 x 32C Panaracer Pasela TG. Even though I inflated both to 100psi (I am a large person), I couldn't believe the Pasela was fully inflated. I got off to check the pressure twice on my first ride. The difference in ride quality was phenomenal.
The Pasela was also phenomenally fragile. It didn't last a month before picking up a fatal glass cut that put a 1/2" cut through the casing. After that I switched to Continental Gatorskins- a decent compromise between compliance and puncture resistance.

As I've gotten older, fatter, and slower, I'm considering going full fat. The Soma Supple Vitesse EX tire sounds... supple... and my current bike will accept 700 x 42C. Someday I'll try them.
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Old 10-13-22, 01:09 AM
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Supple tires and latex tubes made the most difference for me. I'd have to give up my racing geometry road bikes without good rubber. My neck is on a deadline, with worsening cervical vertebrae stenosis, so eventually I'll need to give up the racing road bikes and switch to a more relaxed frame with fatter tires.

But for now it's more or less tolerable with Vittoria or Silca latex tubes and Soma Supple Vitesse or Conti GP Classic tires. I have 700x32 Continental Sport Contact Speed tires with butyl tubes on my old Univega with springy fork, and it doesn't ride quite as nicely as my road bikes with latex tubes. Mostly because of the differences in tires and tubes, less so because of any frame or fork factors. Conti Sport Contact Speed tires are basically like Gatorskin hardshells with a different tread, tough but harsh riding.
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