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Tires that will allow a road bike to ride ok on Rails To Trails gravel?

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Tires that will allow a road bike to ride ok on Rails To Trails gravel?

Old 09-16-21, 07:22 AM
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777funk
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Tires that will allow a road bike to ride ok on Rails To Trails gravel?

Can I ride a road bike on the small gravel you see on the old train track bike trails with the right tires? I wouldn't think the smooth 27x1 1/4 road tires would do great... but then again, it's usually a pretty straight line ride. I have close to zero road bike experience. I have one road bike with tires that look like skinny mountain bike tires. I haven't ridden it enough to know much about how those would do. Any thoughts on this setup?
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Old 09-16-21, 07:25 AM
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I have rode lots of gravel miles on 700x28mm. Most is ok, but if you get new gravel that isn't compacted or mud it can be difficult.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:35 AM
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27 1/4" tire equal a 33/34mm tire. While not the best choice, depending on the type of gravel and tires, they could be not so good , to very good. It is such an open question, "Can I ride", absolutely. How will the tires do, one way to find out. If the tires are old and/or have a lot of miles, I would not use them on gravel.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:41 AM
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The rails-to-trails gravel that I've ridden has been fine, hard-packed, and generally smooth. I wouldn't have any qualms riding several miles of that kind of stuff with my 28mm tires. Just be aware that you'll be grip limited and act appropriately.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:44 AM
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Moisture
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Its not just the tires I would worry about. You need quite a long reach and top tube length to feel comfortable on singletrack.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
Its not just the tires I would worry about. You need quite a long reach and top tube length to feel comfortable on singletrack.
Lucky we are talking about crushed stone rail trails then.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by 777funk View Post
Can I ride a road bike on the small gravel you see on the old train track bike trails with the right tires? I wouldn't think the smooth 27x1 1/4 road tires would do great... but then again, it's usually a pretty straight line ride. I have close to zero road bike experience. I have one road bike with tires that look like skinny mountain bike tires. I haven't ridden it enough to know much about how those would do. Any thoughts on this setup?
Depends on what you mean by "small gravel" I suppose.

Here in Illinois at least, the rail trails are hardpacked FA-6 gradation limestone screenings. Closeup, it resembles very small gravel. But it packs hard and makes for a very hard and smooth surface for road bikes. I've ridden countless miles on them, ever since about age 12 or so, first with 27x1-1/4 tires and now 700x25C tires on regular drop-bar road bikes. Nothing special about reach or top tube length. Same bikes I ride on the road.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:57 AM
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A 27x 1 1/4" tire is about the same width as a 700 x 32 road tire which is more than wide enough to ride on those sorts of trails. I have even ridden a rail trail on 700 x 23 tires without issues.
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Old 09-16-21, 07:59 AM
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You mentioned 27x1 1/4 road tires. If that's what you have, Panaracer Paselas are available in that side and they're pretty nice all-purpose tires. They'll work well on compacted gravel, although maybe not as well on loose stuff.
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Old 09-16-21, 08:03 AM
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All the rails to trails paths I've seen were made with bicycles in mind. Do you see people riding bikes on that particular trail? Look and see what they have on their bikes. Note what bikes they are using. Talk to them about their experience on the trail with that bike and if they'd want something different for their bike.

You don't need much tread pattern for packed gravel. 27 x 1¼ tires are about 32mm wide x 630 bsd, IIRC. So they should be okay for packed gravel, but wider might be better. I don't have much experience on gravel, but I've ridden it on 25 mm tires. When it becomes loose gravel, you won't want to ride very far. I'm not sure even 40 mm will work well on loose gravel.

Thankfully, our two rails to trails paths here are paved.

Tanglefoot Trail
https://www.longleaftrace.org/

Both about 44 miles.
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Old 09-16-21, 08:05 AM
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I rode one of the local rail trails with 25mm tires and I really wished I had 32mm tires. Probably larger tires would work marginally better, but 32mm seems fine.
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Old 09-16-21, 08:20 AM
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777funk
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
Depends on what you mean by "small gravel" I suppose.

Here in Illinois at least, the rail trails are hardpacked FA-6 gradation limestone screenings. Closeup, it resembles very small gravel. But it packs hard and makes for a very hard and smooth surface for road bikes. I've ridden countless miles on them, ever since about age 12 or so, first with 27x1-1/4 tires and now 700x25C tires on regular drop-bar road bikes. Nothing special about reach or top tube length. Same bikes I ride on the road.
I assume we've been on the same trail. I rode the old train trail in that area (Milwaukee to Chicago and maybe further north or south) many times. Nice packed gravel. I've never ridden that trail on a road bike (BMX as a kid and later mountain bikes), but it was always super smooth. Good to hear it's doable.
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Old 09-16-21, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by 777funk View Post
I assume we've been on the same trail. I rode the old train trail in that area (Milwaukee to Chicago and maybe further north or south) many times. Nice packed gravel. I've never ridden that trail on a road bike (BMX as a kid and later mountain bikes), but it was always super smooth. Good to hear it's doable.
Very close! I ride on the Illinois Prairie Path and the Great Western Trail west of Chicago. I see countless road bikes with "normal" road bike tires there every day.

The only time I wish I had more rubber is when I drive down to the south suburbs and ride on the Old Plank Road trail which is asphalt, but it is very bumpy.
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Old 09-16-21, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by 777funk View Post
Can I ride a road bike on the small gravel you see on the old train track bike trails with the right tires? I wouldn't think the smooth 27x1 1/4 road tires would do great... but then again, it's usually a pretty straight line ride. I have close to zero road bike experience. I have one road bike with tires that look like skinny mountain bike tires. I haven't ridden it enough to know much about how those would do. Any thoughts on this setup?
I have no experience on dedicated gravel/limestone trails as my "gravel" rides are country roads, pasture two tracks, and occasionally cross country. 26x1.50 tires with a smooth center and light tread on the edges work fine. I would not take skinny road tires on these surfaces. My son and I are considering the 109 mile gravel Mickelson trail in South Dakota. The guide book and promotional materials say "thin tired road bikes are not recommended."

Advice to see what others are riding is excellent. Were I you, I would opt for your road bike with the skinny mountain bike tires absent other input.
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Old 09-16-21, 09:35 AM
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Truly depends on the surface as everyone said. I've ridden 25 and now 28mms on untold miles of packed dust/gravel trails, and they do fine. Unless it's made of old ballast stone, the road bikes work fine for me. Go ride the trail you're interested in. And if it's too rugged, turn around.
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Old 09-16-21, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by c_m_shooter View Post
I have rode lots of gravel miles on 700x28mm. Most is ok, but if you get new gravel that isn't compacted or mud it can be difficult.
100% agree. Most crushed limestone or gravel paths are well compacted enough that they'll hold water in low spots just like asphalt, with the occasional loose spot. I ride on 35mm 700C tires on it just fine. I was able to traverse loose larger gravel (acorn sized to walnut sized road underlayment) on Mackinac Island, but handling was very compromised. That stuff doesn't pack under bike wheels. I'd look to much wider tires to handle long stretches of that.
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Old 09-16-21, 10:30 AM
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I ride a crushed limestone towpath fairly often (1-2x/week) and my 700x23's do just fine on them. "Bile trails" that consist of rail ballast suck for bicycles IMHO. I don't even like to ride a mountain bike on them.
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Old 09-16-21, 10:59 AM
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Rode 40 miles on a Rail Trail in Michigan on finely packed gravel. I probably could have used the stock 28mm tires. But not knowing what the gravel was like beforehand I put 35mm Schwalbe G-one tires on my bike and 38mm Specialized gravel tires on my wife's bike and we were both very happy.

Despite the surface being uneven (though finely packed) no vibrations reached my butt or hands. I was really surprised how pleasant the ride was. I'm sold and I'm glad I got a second wheelset and tires.
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Old 09-16-21, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Unca_Sam View Post
Most crushed limestone or gravel paths are well compacted enough that they'll hold water in low spots just like asphalt, with the occasional loose spot.
Yep, that's the down side. After a lot of heavy rain, there can be occasional puddles. I just steer around them. But more annoying is the spray that get kicks up by the tires. It has to be really saturated for that to happen though and I just use those days to ride elsewhere.

Right now though it is so dry that the path is dusty. I rode last night after work and in the low setting sun I could see the dust kicked up by almost every bike or jogger.
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Old 09-16-21, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by 777funk View Post
Can I ride a road bike on the small gravel you see on the old train track bike trails with the right tires? I wouldn't think the smooth 27x1 1/4 road tires would do great... but then again, it's usually a pretty straight line ride. I have close to zero road bike experience. I have one road bike with tires that look like skinny mountain bike tires. I haven't ridden it enough to know much about how those would do. Any thoughts on this setup?
make sure your frame can accomodate the wider tyres. I guess it’s obvious but still… just had to mention it
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Old 09-16-21, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Rdmonster69 View Post
I ride a crushed limestone towpath fairly often (1-2x/week) and my 700x23's do just fine on them. "Bile trails" that consist of rail ballast suck for bicycles IMHO. I don't even like to ride a mountain bike on them.
Agree. Years ago when they first opened one of the old rail grades to bikes, it was some form of crushed rock or ballast. We specifically took our mtn bikes. It was like riding through honey or molasses. After two miles we turned around and found an old forest dirt road - what a relief!
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Old 09-16-21, 12:10 PM
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All depends on the surface. You said you have 27"x1.25 tires? You should be fine for surfaces like what I see on the GAP. I would lower pressures to 60psi to help absorb the small bumps.
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Old 09-16-21, 01:32 PM
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You have a bike. Go ride some of the trail and see if you're comfortable. What's the worst that can happen? You won't be comfortable and turn back. Big whoop.
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Old 09-16-21, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Ogsarg View Post
You have a bike. Go ride some of the trail and see if you're comfortable. What's the worst that can happen? You won't be comfortable and turn back. Big whoop.
Agreed. There's so many rail trails with so many different surfaces that, as the saying goes, all generalities are incorrect.
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Old 09-16-21, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
Depends on what you mean by "small gravel" I suppose.

Here in Illinois at least, the rail trails are hardpacked FA-6 gradation limestone screenings. Closeup, it resembles very small gravel. But it packs hard and makes for a very hard and smooth surface for road bikes. I've ridden countless miles on them, ever since about age 12 or so, first with 27x1-1/4 tires and now 700x25C tires on regular drop-bar road bikes. Nothing special about reach or top tube length. Same bikes I ride on the road.
Same thing here in WI. Limestone TB or screenings. Ridden miles on 700 x 25. In spring when the frost comes out or after a major rain storm it's soft, but most any other time it's fine.
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