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Tire for various urban terrain; 2 questions

Old 05-18-20, 10:15 AM
  #1  
koenbro
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Tire for various urban terrain; 2 questions

I am a newbie and need some schooling in tires. Have had a Trek FX4 Carbon Sport for about two weeks and love the way it feels. Riding mostly on urban paths, with asphalt or concrete surface and the stock Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite Road Tire is fast.

On Saturday I came upon a short interconnect with hard packed soil and sand in some areas, and I fell, because I lost traction and control. I am sure a more skilled rider would have handled it, but that made me think about getting a tire that can handle a broader terrain. I realize there is no ideal tire, but would like to understand the trade-offs in tire choice and get some example recommendations. I looked for tires with smooth crown (is that the word?) and knobs on the side. For example:Price is irrelevant, I'd rather have a top end choice and am ready to pay for quality and performance; no point in saving a few bucks and increase the risk of falling.

The second question is about width. My stock tires are 32 mm wide, and while I do NOT intend to go full MTB/beach cruiser, can I put wider tires and on the rims? The front fork has a 46 mm clearance, so I was wondering if 35mm width adds some options.

All I want is a bit more confident grip on the occasional sandy or loose gravel patch. Puncture resistance is a must in Arizona. Light weight is the third criterion.

Any suggestion is gratefully appreciated.
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Old 05-18-20, 10:44 AM
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The tread on the Schwalbe won't be any better than a smooth tire. The appeal of Schwalbe is, they are extremely durable, and puncture resistant.

The others look like they would offer better performance on dirt or gravel, but worse performance on pavement. Also, part of the problem you may have had with your Hard Case Lites is the tire pressure. Not much you can do, but you would want to run your tires at a lower pressure on dirt or gravel than you would on pavement. That doesn't much help you if you do a ride on mixed surfaces, but I can say that in general, when 99% of my riding is on pavement and only 1% on dirt or gravel, I would just ride slowly through the gravel portions, and optimize my bike for performance on pavement. When I know I am going on a ride that is more than half dirt or gravel, I switch out just the front tire for better control. And FWIW, I use the Panaracer gravel king (the version with side knobs) just on my front tire, keep my Continental road tires for the back wheel.
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Old 05-18-20, 11:14 AM
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I kind of disagree with MRT2, somewhat.

Although the Schwalbe tire you mention is not a gravel or mud or sand tire, it will be a little better than the smooth tire you are running -- but it won't be as fast. The minimal tread it has offers more traction in a variety of surfaces, you might encounter. A 35-37mm wide tire will ride considerably better than the tires on there now, but the tradeoff will be less speed.

I run Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 35 and 40mm tires on my Crosstrail, and can usually ride thru anything except soft dry sand. And it has way less tread than the tire you mentioned. I run 35 on the front, and 40 on the rear, for good handling, and better ride/higher capacity..

Schwalbe makes excellent tires for bicycles, and get one of their tubes for it also.

If you find sufficient space, a 35-37mm tire might be beneficial, but still not a real off road tire.

Sometimes, you just have to walk it thru!

Last edited by Wanderer; 05-18-20 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 05-18-20, 11:48 AM
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In my experience, the primary factor when it comes to stability on loose surfaces is tire width. A wide tire, even a smooth one, will offer more stability and control than a narrower tire. I have a few bikes in my collection, one with 54-584 tires (often called "650b x 2.1", or "27.5 x 2.1") and, despite not being super knobby, are FAR more controllable off the road than even the 38-622 (often called "700c x 38") all surface tires on my hybrid. If you have loose gravel or loose sand, even the knobbiest 32mm tire will sink right in.

The tightest spot on your bike, as far as tire clearance, will probably be the rear triangle area, probably down at the chain stays. About how wide are the chain stays here?
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Old 05-18-20, 06:27 PM
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Go the the Bontrager Ultimate. You should be able to fit a 38mm tire on your bike no problem (measure first).
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Old 05-18-20, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by koenbro View Post
I am a newbie and need some schooling in tires. Have had a Trek FX4 Carbon Sport for about two weeks and love the way it feels. Riding mostly on urban paths, with asphalt or concrete surface and the stock Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite Road Tire is fast.

On Saturday I came upon a short interconnect with hard packed soil and sand in some areas, and I fell, because I lost traction and control. I am sure a more skilled rider would have handled it, but that made me think about getting a tire that can handle a broader terrain. I realize there is no ideal tire, but would like to understand the trade-offs in tire choice and get some example recommendations. I looked for tires with smooth crown (is that the word?) and knobs on the side. For example:Price is irrelevant, I'd rather have a top end choice and am ready to pay for quality and performance; no point in saving a few bucks and increase the risk of falling.

The second question is about width. My stock tires are 32 mm wide, and while I do NOT intend to go full MTB/beach cruiser, can I put wider tires and on the rims? The front fork has a 46 mm clearance, so I was wondering if 35mm width adds some options.

All I want is a bit more confident grip on the occasional sandy or loose gravel patch. Puncture resistance is a must in Arizona. Light weight is the third criterion.

Any suggestion is gratefully appreciated.
Go tubeless for the puncture resistance. As for size, measure how much space is available around your current tires and guesstimate how big you can go. The tightest spot is usually at the chainstays behind the bottom bracket. Get the biggest tire you can that will leave about a 1/4" space between tire and frame.

Some other tires to consider: WTB Riddler and Panaracer Gravelking SK.
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Old 05-18-20, 08:32 PM
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As I am learning about the trade-offs involved, and the magnitudes of the various effects, I am grateful for all your meaningful answers.

Grip seems related to the size of the contact patch, and for a given wheel diameter, width and inflation are probably the main determinants. For a casual ride with the wife, I am not going to futz with the pressure up and down. Of course I can slow down, or even walks some short stretches, but ultimately, I am left with width as the main variable. I measured the frame clearance at the chain stays and it's about 50mm, so 38 is about as wide as I can go.

Further, reading around the interwebz, I found out that shoulder knobs may not help that much, or at a minimum, are subject to some debate:
It’s in the corners where these tires disappoint: The shoulder knobs don’t really help. When you’re on slippery surfaces, you simply can’t lean far enough to engage the shoulder knobs. You’ll start sliding while you’re still on the ‘semi-slick’ portion, and by the time the shoulder knobs engage, you’re already going down.

The opposite is the case on pavement. There you can lean much further, but once you get onto the shoulder knobs, they fold over and the bike suddenly breaks away.
So I decided to upsize to 38mm. Byway was sold out of my size, so I went ahead and ordered the Bontrager H5 HardCase Ultimate. Very interested to see where this road takes me.
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Old 06-11-20, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by koenbro View Post
As I am learning about the trade-offs involved, and the magnitudes of the various effects, I am grateful for all your meaningful answers.

So I decided to upsize to 38mm. Byway was sold out of my size, so I went ahead and ordered the Bontrager H5 HardCase Ultimate. Very interested to see where this road takes me.
How is the ride on the new tires? I just got an FX 3 and am having similar thoughts about switching from the stock H2 32mm to the H5 38mm.
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Old 06-11-20, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by koenbro View Post
As I am learning about the trade-offs involved, and the magnitudes of the various effects, I am grateful for all your meaningful answers.

Grip seems related to the size of the contact patch, and for a given wheel diameter, width and inflation are probably the main determinants. For a casual ride with the wife, I am not going to futz with the pressure up and down. Of course I can slow down, or even walks some short stretches, but ultimately, I am left with width as the main variable. I measured the frame clearance at the chain stays and it's about 50mm, so 38 is about as wide as I can go.

Further, reading around the interwebz, I found out that shoulder knobs may not help that much, or at a minimum, are subject to some debate:


So I decided to upsize to 38mm. Byway was sold out of my size, so I went ahead and ordered the Bontrager H5 HardCase Ultimate. Very interested to see where this road takes me.
I think the 38 mm H5 is a good choice for you. It might still be quick enough on pavement, but adds some stability for gravel. That said you must still be careful around sand, or dirt trails after a rain. The best tire for that might be at least a 50 mm knobby. But on paved roads they are slow.

I am looking for a quicker tire then the 50 mm Kenda "Multi surface" my Giant Sedona came with. They are a very good tire for what they are, But it might be fun to try out something closer to a road tire like the H5's. Too bad they don't make a 26" version.

Last edited by xroadcharlie; 06-11-20 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 06-11-20, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by sanger68 View Post
How is the ride on the new tires? I just got an FX 3 and am having similar thoughts about switching from the stock H2 32mm to the H5 38mm.
Quite a bit more stable on softer surface, and perceptibly slower (but not a lot) on asphalt than the stock tires. Keep them at 50psi in back and 40 in front. This tradeoff works well for me. Plus it is (more) puncture resistant, which is a must in AZ. Finally I like the reflective ring on the sidewalls.

When time comes to replace, will look for a tubeless choice in the 38-40 range.
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Old 06-11-20, 02:51 PM
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I put the plain old Schwalbe Marathons on my Fuji Absolute and they handle everthing well. No problem at all on any surface. YMMV, but they're bulletproof.
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Old 06-13-20, 10:47 AM
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Just get a street tire that is wide(r). I haven't reasoned any benefits to side knobs. If the majority of your ride is paved, smooth is better. Grooves help if you ride in the wet. The wider the tire is, the more important are the grooves to maintain traction on wet smooth surfaces.

On the skinny side, i have used Panaracer T Serv in 26x1.5 on hard packed soil and find them stable. 26x1.25 feels rough on hard packed soil. Panaracer Pasela in 700x32 feels comfortable on hard packed soil. 1.5 (35mm) starts to feel a bit heavy.

On the big side, i have used Schwalbe Marathon 26x2.0, Kenda K1052 26x2.1, Kenda K841 20x1.95 and find them stable on anything. But slow.

I would say for your kind of riding i would go for 35mm.
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Old 06-13-20, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by koenbro View Post
Quite a bit more stable on softer surface, and perceptibly slower (but not a lot) on asphalt than the stock tires. Keep them at 50psi in back and 40 in front.
just wanted to thank you for the info I just got the H5 ultimate 700x38c this morning and theyre perfect for me on the FX 3. Had been going back and forth between the FX and Verve but ultimately went FX to be more fitness oriented but the H5 38mm really seems to balance the advantages of the two bikes. Definitely feels more stable for me now on the FX. Thanks again.

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Old 06-13-20, 03:48 PM
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Nice! I also put the H5 Ultimates in 38mm width on my 2020 FX3 last August. I wanted a wider 45mm tire, but the LBS said it wouldn't fit. The 38's have been working great for me. Mostly ride on paved paths, but some are packed gravel trails. When I do hit some larger or lose gravel, I need to coast and be careful since I will slide a bit. But all in all, great tires. Also, I run at ~70 psi in the back and ~63 psi in the front. Maybe I'll try a little lower in each per koenbro sometime.

Verve 3 was my runner-up as well
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Old 06-13-20, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by stuman74 View Post
Verve 3 was my runner-up as well
Its funny I actually ended up making my decision to buy the FX last week after reading your posts about your decision process and ultimate purchase from last year, as well as rick53s comments. Was super helpful And Im really happy with the bike - have taken it out 7 of the last 8 days after having not biked in years.
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Old 06-13-20, 07:21 PM
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I have a Trek FX 2 that I bought like 4 years ago. The tires are actually thinner then my wife tires on her hybrid Schwinn but they have performed very well on dirt paths and gravel. I have rode on many kinds of bike paths and surfaces: pavement, gravel, grass, dirt, hills, had no problems with it when the ground was a little wet, and had no issues falling off the bike. I haven't attempted to ride it on a very rugged mountain bike trail or on a very muddy trail, but I haven't yet fallen off the bike on any of trails I have ridden on.

I think the key is air pressure like the other posters said, My bikes tire lists like 65 - 95 psi and I usually only inflate it to like 65 - 70 psi, so maybe thats why my tires have not had a problem on gravel, grass, dirt, or slightly wet surfaces.

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Old 06-15-20, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
I think the key is air pressure like the other posters said, My bikes tire lists like 65 - 95 psi and I usually only inflate it to like 65 - 70 psi, so maybe thats why my tires have not had a problem on gravel, grass, dirt, or slightly wet surfaces.
Actually, the most important is rider skill, like the OP already suggested. With enough skill you'll be able to anticipate potential problems with traction as well as handle them without crashing if you still happen to overstep the traction limits (or maybe do so on purpose).
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Old 06-15-20, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by xroadcharlie View Post
I am looking for a quicker tire then the 50 mm Kenda "Multi surface" my Giant Sedona came with. They are a very good tire for what they are, But it might be fun to try out something closer to a road tire like the H5's. Too bad they don't make a 26" version.
Look at the Maxxis DTH, it's light, fast, cheap, and maintain proper BB height. After using all sorts of 26" street tires over 30 years, I now have about five pairs of these for street and light off-road use.
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Old 07-10-20, 07:52 PM
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OK, change of plans. The 38mm Bontragers worked well, but basically I was restless and eager to experiment, so got a pair of Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass in Extralight version, and running them tubeless. The tan wide walls look great!! Very happy.

Took them on a short ride today before work and I am sure it's my imagination's placebo effect but they were faster than the 38mms and basically comparable to the stock 32mm in speed, with LOTS more grip. Not sure that's possible but that's how it felt. Will go on a longer ride tomorrow.

Interestingly, the width fits well in the frame, but these tires are taller, and the radial clearance is minuscule (~2mm) at the seat stays. They didn't seem to rub during the test ride today, but I was surprised by this.


Last edited by koenbro; 07-10-20 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 07-10-20, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by koenbro View Post
Took them on a short ride today before work and I am sure it's my imagination's placebo effect but they were faster than the 38mms and basically comparable to the stock 32mm in speed, with LOTS more grip. Not sure that's possible but that's how it felt. Will go on a longer ride tomorrow.
I think you're finding that tire rolling resistance or "speed" is a whole lot more complicated than just looking at the nominal width. I very much believe your RH tires are at least as good as narrower tires in this area of performance. There's a little bit of Jan Heine in all of us!
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Old 07-11-20, 04:27 PM
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Went for a 20 mile ride this morning before the day got too hot. Tires feel great and I love the looks (my left hand goes numb after about 3 mile, but there is separate thread about Isozone woes).



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Old 07-11-20, 06:32 PM
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The tires look ace on that bike. And it's a real purdy blue. I think Trek got off their game a little bit just a couple of years ago and seemed to paint all their bikes black. They're getting back into offering some really stunning colors. You just can't beat a blue bike.
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