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Commuter bike in 'off-road' role

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Commuter bike in 'off-road' role

Old 05-23-16, 07:46 AM
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Commuter bike in 'off-road' role

I decided to mounted a set of CX tires on my commuter bike and give this thing a try 'off-road'. Of the 50km I covered, probably 30 km was 'off-road'. Here's what I discovered this morning:

1. CX isn't a MTB. Even with a triple up front I had to walk up a couple of steep inclines. Even if I had low enough gearing, the 35mm tires aren't wide enough for loose dirt, hard-packed lumpy dirt, tall grass, and a few others.

2. Disc brakes would have been a good idea for wet grass. The rims pick a whole lot of dirt and moisture and you can feel it on the cantilever brakes.

3. Riding on a winding, undulating gravel track is a lot of fun. On paved paths you don't have to worry about traction so much; you can basically go full throttle on most turns. No so with gravel. Grip plays a bigger role. You have to take good racing lines, brake before turn in.

4. CX tires are slow. I have to use one gear lower than what I normally use with road tires on the same bike. This part isn't really surprising. But I've ridden some of the same track on road tires and the CX tires feel much, much more sure-footed.

I'm still very new at this, but this was one of the most fun I've had on a bike in a long while.
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Old 05-23-16, 08:54 AM
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Cool! And yes, even during a CX race, it isn't uncommon for people to dismount and run their bike up steep inclines and other obstacles. It's all part of the challenge/fun. Tire selection and pressure also plays a large role. Mine are 32c Maxxis (I'm not sure of the model, but I think it is discontinued) and they have so far provided excellent traction on just about everything. I usually inflate 55-60 PSI. Sucks for any pavement I come across, but once I get off road, they just eat up whatever I throw at them.
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Old 05-23-16, 09:24 AM
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I've got a couple extra sets of wheels with CX tires mounted on them for riding on unpaved roads and trails. I use them on my touring bikes fairly often. I generally keep CX tires on my cross bike but swap road tires onto to it when I use it for commuting. CX tires are slower when riding on pave surfaces but allow you ride faster and more confidently on unpaved surfaces. I sold my mountain bike several years ago because my touring and cross bikes are sufficient for the kind of off-road riding that I do, nothing technical.
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Old 05-23-16, 10:09 AM
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My commuter is a CrossCheck with 700x50 Marathon Supremes. I take it on trails sometimes. You are right about all your points.

I once rode like 30mi road and trail, my son was getting dropped off at a campground that had some elevation, so I rode along and got dropped off at the top of a 'mountain' (3-4K feet maybe), and definitely wanted smoother tires to scream down it, but then had to ride about 10 miles of trails, sometimes kind of rocky. I was planning on dropping my tire pressure from 60/40 to more like 35/30 when I got to the rough stuff, but I just didn't feel like stopping. It was a boneshaking ride through there, and when I got past it I realized that my core had been working really hard!

Another interesting recent experiment, I recently rode the Hellfire Fat Tire mtb race in Camp Pendleton, with my high school son. In preparation, twice we rode home together from his school, 80% trail, some nicely groomed hardpack gravel, some chunkier. My son was on the same bike both weeks. The first week I was on my crosscheck, and we got home in a certain time, and my son was trailing somewhat far back for a lot of the ride. The second week I was on my hardtail (tires = kenda smallblock 8, 29x2.1), and even though I felt like I was riding just as hard, my son had no trouble sticking right on me the whole time, and total time was slower.

Once my marathon supremes wear out (years from now! they're at around 5K miles and still going strong), I think I'll replace them with Schwalbe Hurricanes, maybe a little narrower like 42, just so I can get some more trail use out of them.
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Old 05-23-16, 12:01 PM
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I race SSCX so I'm pretty used to running. Sometimes I've found I'm faster up short steeps on foot than guys trying to stay on the bike and mash it up.
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Old 05-23-16, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bmthom.gis
Cool! And yes, even during a CX race, it isn't uncommon for people to dismount and run their bike up steep inclines and other obstacles. It's all part of the challenge/fun.
Originally Posted by caloso
I race SSCX so I'm pretty used to running. Sometimes I've found I'm faster up short steeps on foot than guys trying to stay on the bike and mash it up.
One of the inclines I ran, no walk, up today must have been a 70-80% grade on tramped down wet grass. I can't imagine any gearing or tire that would have allowed me to get to the top without dismounting. MTB shoes were okay for this, but I don't think they're intended for this kind of abuse.
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Old 05-23-16, 12:39 PM
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I was also very tentative on some of the descents on gravel. I was riding the brakes hard on most of them, going very slowly. This was by necessity as the steep grade tended to zig-zagged every twenty meters or so. It wouldn't take much to lose it.
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Old 05-23-16, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
4. CX tires are slow. I have to use one gear lower than what I normally use with road tires on the same bike. This part isn't really surprising. But I've ridden some of the same track on road tires and the CX tires feel much, much more sure-footed.
That may not be universally true.

I haven't done a lot of dirt, but some gravel. I've got a pair of X'Plor Ush 120 tires on my Tricross and have been impressed by how "fast" they are.
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Old 05-23-16, 01:43 PM
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I have opposite experience, I rode MTB as a commuter for 4 years.
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Old 05-24-16, 02:10 PM
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I run 700X37 Continental Travel Contacts on my CX700 commuting/touring rig. Great tires, not the cheapest or easiest to find at LBS. Mount and inflate as 32's on my Velocity Dyads. Roll like 28's when running 75 psi on the road. Fast, smooth rolling, supple sidewall, flat resistant. Good in most conditions except sticky/deep mud and ice. Ride on single track, double track, decomposed granite, crushed limestone, pavement, concrete. Wide range of acceptable psi for surface conditions. Highly recommended.
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Old 05-25-16, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
One of the inclines I ran, no walk, up today must have been a 70-80% grade on tramped down wet grass. I can't imagine any gearing or tire that would have allowed me to get to the top without dismounting.
I watched some kids on fat bikes ride down a set of stairs then try to ride up the hill next to them which would be approximately a 100% grade. It looked like balance, not gearing or traction was the issue. When they lost momentum their front wheel would come up, and that was that.
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Old 05-25-16, 11:02 AM
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100% grade? Isn't that a wall by definition?
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Old 05-25-16, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso
100% grade? Isn't that a wall by definition?
That would be a 45* incline.

By definition, a wall would an infinite incline.
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Old 05-25-16, 11:17 AM
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Ah, right. Makes sense.
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Old 05-25-16, 11:42 AM
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Riding relatively skinny cross tires can be a challenge on some surfaces, but with practice a modern cross bike is surprisingly capable. Tire quality makes a big difference. Also helps a lot with speed. Good CX tires are pretty fast. During the fall, we do a Wednesday morning practice, and I ride from there directly to work on the roads with my cross tires mounted. Yeah, they're slower than road tires, but they're not that bad.

Originally Posted by mcours2006
That would be a 45* incline.

By definition, a wall would an infinite incline.
Actually, undefined (div/0). /nitpick
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Old 05-25-16, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Riding relatively skinny cross tires can be a challenge on some surfaces, but with practice a modern cross bike is surprisingly capable. Tire quality makes a big difference. Also helps a lot with speed. Good CX tires are pretty fast. During the fall, we do a Wednesday morning practice, and I ride from there directly to work on the roads with my cross tires mounted. Yeah, they're slower than road tires, but they're not that bad.
I normally have 32mm on the bike for the road. Not slicks, but close, Riding on the 35mm lugged tires feels similar to the 35mm studded tires I run in the winter months. Not quite as bad, but close.

The CX tires I'm running are cheap tires anyway. I just wanted to give it a try.



Originally Posted by grolby
Actually, undefined (div/0). /nitpick
Also =infinity, as we learned in grade school.
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Old 05-25-16, 01:33 PM
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Velo Orange Piolet with 29x3 Plus sized tires and 1x11 drive train.

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Old 05-25-16, 01:47 PM
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Wonderfully simple (with a comically small chainring. I'm sure it's about the same as the 27 smaller chainring which I use 90% of the time on my 29er, but without a 42 to hide it, it looks so tiny and cute!)

What pressure do you run those plus tires at? Are they tubeless?
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Old 05-25-16, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by GeoKrpan
Velo Orange Piolet with 29x3 Plus sized tires and 1x11 drive train.

That's an awesome bike! That would get me up the hill.
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Old 05-25-16, 03:21 PM
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26x2.0 Schwalbe Marathon Supremes are a good compromise for mixed terrain and surfaces. Enough grip and cushion for off-road and smooth enough for decent speed on paved surfaces.

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Old 05-25-16, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
That's an awesome bike! That would get me up the hill.
Thank you. : ))
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