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Gravel on 32mm tires

Old 01-31-18, 01:52 PM
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mack_turtle
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Gravel on 32mm tires

Looks like I am doing Hill Country Hundy (central Texas) this Saturday on 32mm tubed tires. Tubes, the horror! No time or budget for tire shopping. My last few gravel events were on 29x2.1 tubeless on a mountain bike. My current bike is a CX bike with clearance limited to <40mm. I might be able to squeeze a 38 in there, but 32 is what I've got.

Any tips for surviving 100 miles of dirt with "narrow", tubed tires?
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Old 01-31-18, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
Looks like I am doing Hill Country Hundy (central Texas) this Saturday on 32mm tubed tires. Tubes, the horror! No time or budget for tire shopping. My last few gravel events were on 29x2.1 tubeless on a mountain bike. My current bike is a CX bike with clearance limited to <40mm. I might be able to squeeze a 38 in there, but 32 is what I've got.

Any tips for surviving 100 miles of dirt with "narrow", tubed tires?
Squirt some orange seal in the tubes (assuming they have removable cores), and take it easy at the bottom of descents because that's where the chunky stuff goes. And take 3 tubes.
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Old 01-31-18, 03:29 PM
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Hope for lots of climbing, descents may be scary. That was my experience with 32s, anyway.
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Old 01-31-18, 03:45 PM
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Narrower tires will make things like rocks and roots more difficult.

An experienced mountain biker can probably compensate to a certain extent but rough surfaces will take significantly more effort to keep forward momentum when riding narrower tires.

Watch your effort on rough stuff is my point, especially at the beginning. A short section of gnarly rocks or heavily rooted singletrack could get the heart rate up more than expected.


-Tim-
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Old 01-31-18, 04:50 PM
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Yeah, watch for rocks.

my biggest problem with those tires is pinch flats. Putting Stans in there won't help at all with that.
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Old 01-31-18, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Yeah, watch for rocks.

my biggest problem with those tires is pinch flats. Putting Stans in there won't help at all with that.
Usually true but sometimes you get lucky. I did the 2016 dirty kanza with 38s and tubes with orange seal, no flats even though I bashed the $hit out of my tires on some rocks, especially in the second half when I was exhausted. So I can't say definitively that they plugged up pinch flats (how do you prove a negative?) but I know I didn't have any flats.

Anyway can't hurt, the guy's on short notice.
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Old 01-31-18, 06:27 PM
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32 not so much tire....go big young man
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Old 01-31-18, 07:37 PM
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ride light, try to avoid the bigger rocks, and maybe scrub a bit more speed before hitting the corners.
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Old 01-31-18, 08:09 PM
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Secondary question- I have a Clement MSO 40mm tire that just barely clears the inside of the chainstays. maybe 3mm. How much clearance should I need before the tire rubs on the frame due to frame and wheel flex?

Last edited by mack_turtle; 01-31-18 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 01-31-18, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
Secondary question- I have a Clement MSO 40mm tire that just barely clears the inside of the chainstays. maybe 3mm. How much clearance should I need before the tire rubs on the frame due to frame and wheel flex?
probably depends on the bike, youíre weight, how many watts you throw down, etc...

give it a go and see what happens. at the worst youíll probably just scrape a little paint off the inside of the stays. thatís been my experience with really tight tires. unless the wheel goes way out of true that is...
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Old 02-01-18, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by justin1138 View Post
unless the wheel goes way out of true that is...
I had not thought of that, but it's relevent. I can build and true wheels, but with only a hair's width of clearance, one boken spoke will be a huge pain to straighten out in the bush.
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Old 02-01-18, 08:03 AM
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to prove a negative: I've gotten pinch flats in tubes with sealants. they don's seal. Centrifugal force pushes the sealant to the outside of the tire. There is no sealant on the inside. I even got a nail in a tire once - sealant plugged the tread area, but when the nail went deeper and punctured the tube on the other side (rim side), the tire went flat. Either way, it doesn't plug holes near the rim.

Sealant may not hurt in tubes - just be aware of its limitations.
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Old 02-01-18, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
Secondary question- I have a Clement MSO 40mm tire that just barely clears the inside of the chainstays. maybe 3mm. How much clearance should I need before the tire rubs on the frame due to frame and wheel flex?
Industry standard is 6mm on each side.

Do a hard ride (with high torque intervals), take the wheel off and look at the chain stays - especially on the non drive side. You may see some polishing there.

I found my tire was cutting into my aluminum chain stays (with about 2mm static clearance). Rather scary, as that can ruin the frame. I ended up cutting the knobs on the side of my tire so they wouldn't cut into the aluminum. Riding in mud would make things worse..
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Old 02-01-18, 08:30 AM
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If you have a 40, use it on the front if it fits, with your 32 on the rear. That will give you more stability through the rough parts.
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Old 02-01-18, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
to prove a negative: I've gotten pinch flats in tubes with sealants. they don's seal. Centrifugal force pushes the sealant to the outside of the tire. There is no sealant on the inside. I even got a nail in a tire once - sealant plugged the tread area, but when the nail went deeper and punctured the tube on the other side (rim side), the tire went flat. Either way, it doesn't plug holes near the rim.

Sealant may not hurt in tubes - just be aware of its limitations.
I know this is pedantic, but you haven't proved that sealants don't seal pinch flats; you've only proven that sealant didn't seal some of your pinch flats. Though your explanation of the physical forces seems reasonable.
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Old 02-01-18, 09:30 AM
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I'm a skinny climber type person but i used 33mm Clements with tubes for all of my races and gravel rides so far. The dirt/gravel roads in VT were in really nice shape for the most part. even the Class B roads we did I could ride most of it on filetreads (LAS) and that was more limited by skill on the tricky parts.

no issues descending and i've hit plenty of stuff in CX races at around 25-30psi (125lb)
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Old 02-01-18, 10:50 AM
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You'll be fine. Run about 40-50 PSI, put your weight back on descents, carry spare tubes.
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Old 02-01-18, 11:15 AM
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I don't find descending on 32 mm tires scary. And we have very prolonged descents here.
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Old 02-01-18, 12:57 PM
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Much of the gravel around me is sketchy on 32s and better taken with something like a 45mm wide tire. Steep downhills with deep gravel on hardpack make the bike behave really twitchy and unpredictably with thinner tires. I notice a huge difference with confidence when I ride my mtb with 2.2s compared to my cross bike with 32s going downhill in much of my area.
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Old 02-01-18, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
If you have a 40, use it on the front if it fits, with your 32 on the rear. That will give you more stability through the rough parts.
This is a really good point.


-Tim-
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Old 02-01-18, 08:01 PM
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On the topic of tubes....
Meh. I use em in my gravel bike and havent had an issue in a couple thousand miles of gravel riding since i put em on 2 years ago. I am not light and just dont run the tires at stupid low pressue. 45psi is fine for comfort and traction for me using the MSO 40mm tire.

Good luck this weekend!
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Old 02-01-18, 09:26 PM
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thanks for all the perspectives.

if nothing else, I have learned that "gravel" is one of those things that varies widely with the region. just like "technical trails" or "descending", it's all relative. I have some options for a wider front tire (I have a 38mm Schwalbe G-One and a 42mm MSO in my closet) if I want or probably a larger rear and larger front. however, there's a part of me who want to just try it on 32mm tires and see what happens.

I have ridden a 100k GG on 32mm Race King tires and all I remember is that it was HARSH, but that was a few years ago and I started the ride with my tires over-inflated and my bike was over-packed. I rode 30 miles of 1/3-1/2 singletrack on these 32mm tubed tires this weekend and only got a puncture flat because a pebble got stuck in my tire. I felt the rim hit a rock a few times and didn't pinch flat yet, so maybe there's hope!
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Old 02-03-18, 09:17 AM
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Rode the 160K course last year at D2R2 in western Mass./southern Vermont with $20, 32mm Ritchey Speedmax tubed tires. No flats, and came upon many people with various setups dealing with flats (I saw one guy with big huge 650b tires by the side of the road twice!). I've also taken them on various singletrack and mtb trails with no problemo. And I spent most of that D2R2 ride with a woman on a Serotta with 25mm road tires who was 10 times the rider I was, so go figure.

Of course road and trail conditions vary, so you have a better idea of what you're up against. It seems to me that in a short time, gravel riding has quickly developed into an obsession with tire size. I think it's easy to get carried away with gear. You're already on the ride by now, and I'm sure your bike will survive. Let us know how it went!
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Old 02-03-18, 08:16 PM
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rode a 100k gravel event today on my 32mm cx tires. some larger tires could have made it a softer ride. i feel pretty beat up, even though most of the gravel was hard-packed and tame. so it was fine, but a little more volume would have been nice.

I acquired a 38mm G-One for a rear tire, which is the fattest thing that will fit in there. Just need to pick a front tire.
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Old 02-13-18, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
rode a 100k gravel event today on my 32mm cx tires. some larger tires could have made it a softer ride. i feel pretty beat up, even though most of the gravel was hard-packed and tame. so it was fine, but a little more volume would have been nice.

I acquired a 38mm G-One for a rear tire, which is the fattest thing that will fit in there. Just need to pick a front tire.
What about that 40mm MSO?
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