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Rails to trail bike

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Rails to trail bike

Old 11-29-10, 04:38 PM
  #1  
Ignatz851
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Rails to trail bike

So many different kinds of bikes now a days. What kind would be good for gravel/stone trails. Mostly flat old railroad beds. Thanks Rob
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Old 11-29-10, 05:07 PM
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Pretty much anything that lets you run wider high volume tires at lower pressures. I ride 700x35 tires but would suggest 700x32 or wider. Most tires this width will let you run them around 50-65 psi (or even lower if you like), which is pretty comfortable on gravel trails.

I've ridden for years on both rail trails (mostly paved though) and forest service/logging roads with big chunky gravel that sometimes made me think I must be pedaling through a dry creek bed. I've gone for overnight bike camping tours on the C&O Canal towpath near Washington, DC using both a mountain bike and a touring bike with 700x35 tires (currently Schwalbe Marathons). The touring bike provides the more comfortable experience in my opinion. For me the vibrations from the gravel were hardest on my hands and shoulders. The touring bike's multiple hand positions turned out to be better than the mountain bike's limited hand positions even though the mountain bike had front suspension and wider tires. So I would look for a bike with drop bars or some other kind of bar with multiple hand positions. I use mustache bars on my touring bike. But the main thing is to get wider tires that you can run at a moderate pressure, and the bike should be comfortable overall. You might have to tinker with the position or even change the saddle to find what works for you, but that's true no matter what surface you ride on.

Lots of riding on gravel can vibrate some things loose, so check your screws from time to time. Add-ons like racks can easily loosen up on long gravelly rides. Some people use thread-locker to keep that from happening. Speaking of add-ons - fenders can be really nice since gravel trails can get muddy in spots. Metal fenders can make an awful racket though. I like plastic SKS fenders for this reason. Be sure to carry spare tubes, tools etc. since many of these trails can lead you far off the beaten path. Even for just day trips you'll want a rear rack and panniers for carrying food, extra layers, etc.

Sean

Last edited by sean000; 11-29-10 at 05:13 PM.
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Old 11-30-10, 06:51 PM
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I set up my touring bike with 26" wheels and 1.5" Schwalbe Marathon tires for just this type of riding. Steel MTB frame, and a trailer for long-distance self-supported touring.

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Old 11-30-10, 07:31 PM
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I usually choose an upright style bike over a drop bar bike for Rails to Trails riding. A mountain bike is not necessary. One bike I ride on the R-T quite often is my old Raleigh 3 speed the tires on it are the 26x1-3/8" which is close to a 35mm width tire.

A hybrid bike or a mountain bike would be a good choice.

Aaron
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Old 11-30-10, 08:03 PM
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My recomendation is also a hybrid or mountain bike.
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Old 11-30-10, 09:44 PM
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My Worksman cruiser actually worked pretty good on those, too. Gearing is right for the gentle grades, fat tires are good for a softer ride, and you generally aren't going to be going that fast on the trails anyway, so that works out.
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Old 12-01-10, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
I usually choose an upright style bike over a drop bar bike for Rails to Trails riding. A mountain bike is not necessary. One bike I ride on the R-T quite often is my old Raleigh 3 speed the tires on it are the 26x1-3/8" which is close to a 35mm width tire.
How about an upright style bike with drop bars? That's what most touring bikes are.

But you make a good point that you want a comfortable bike with a fairly upright position so your not putting a lot of weight on your hands... your hands and shoulders will be absorbing a lot of vibration from the gravel. Many mountain bikes designed for trail riding are just as aggressive as a typical road bike that has handlebars several inches below the saddle height. A hybrid, touring, or sport touring bike should be sized so that you can set the handlebar height (drop, flat, mustache, or whatever) level with the saddle... or even higher if it feels good.

For multi-day rides I definitely prefer the multiple hand positions of a drop bar or mustache bar though. Last time I went on an overnight tour using my mountain bike the lack of hand positions was killing my hands and shoulders on Day 2, but part of the problem was that it was a trail bike with a more aggressive position than my touring bike. Still... for multi-day or even all-day rides I really like being able to change hand positions. For shorter rides it doesn't matter to me. I love riding my wife's mixte on trails. It has 650b 37mm tires and swept back albatross bars that put you in a very upright position.

Sean
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Old 12-04-10, 03:09 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. My old Humber 3 speed with new wheels and tires would be fun but I think I'll go shopping for something new. Thanks Rob
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Old 12-04-10, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Ignatz851 View Post
Thanks for all the replies. My old Humber 3 speed with new wheels and tires would be fun but I think I'll go shopping for something new. Thanks Rob
That is what I would be riding, unless you REALLY want a new bike, in which case...go for it.

Aaron
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Old 12-04-10, 05:06 PM
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Actually, I really liked my full-suspension MTB the last time I went on a gravel trail. There was a group of us on very different bikes, ranging from my rig to at least one rider with a skinny-tire'd steel road bike. The road bike rider bailed on the outbound leg, and on the return, the one guy to hang with me was on a cross bike -- and I think I was fresher than he was by the end.

If I'm going to ride that route again, I'm probably going to take the same bike. I might try taking my tourer/commuter to see how it fares, but having the ability to float over the ruts and occasional washboard sections at 20 mph was pretty nice.
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