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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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MRT2
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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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