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Riding (actual) road bikes on dirt/gravel

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Riding (actual) road bikes on dirt/gravel

Old 08-16-18, 05:05 PM
  #1  
cthenn
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Riding (actual) road bikes on dirt/gravel

I've been noticing an uptick in the trend of people riding dedicated road bikes (road bike models with carbon road wheels and 23's) on dirt and gravel lately. Mostly, I've seen this in pictures on certain social media outlets, advertising, Strava, etc. Have I just been asleep, or is this a new thing? And why? I know "adventure" cycling and gravel bikes is a hot thing right now, but why would you ride an overly stiff road bike with skinny slick road tires meant for pavement on this terrain? From what I've seen, it's mostly fire road type stuff, not like full on singletrack with tree roots and rocks, but still. I know...it's a bike, it has rubber tires, it's not like a road bike will fall apart once it leaves pavement, but it doesn't seem like the right tool for the job. Honestly, it all seems a little hipster-y, and trendy, and for the purpose of posting photos, and being one of the cool kids, but I'm sure I'll get flamed for saying that...

Does anyone here ride their designed and dedicated road machine off-road on a regular basis? If so, why? Is it fun/comfortable? I could understand going off road as a shortcut or link up between roads, but otherwise, seems like the wrong bike choice. Probably just my own issue, considering I'm weird in that I absolutely hate riding my road bike on anything but pavement.
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Old 08-16-18, 05:32 PM
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Maybe part of a route just requires you ride dirt ?

I used to live 1-1/2 miles down a dirt road in Santa Fe, NM. My bike at the time had 23mm’s and this was long before gravel bikes. Thus I just rode dirt on my road bike as the remaining 50 miles was pavement. It’s not like it’s going to kill you or the bike. Nowadays if I still lived there, I’m certain I’d be on a gravel bike with 32mm slicks and would incorporate a lot of gravel and dirt roads.
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Old 08-16-18, 05:38 PM
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I don't know that so many folks are using road bikes as gravel bikes per se, but a lot of people do like to go off road now and then, and even when the theme is gravel, maybe no more than a third of such a ride would be off road. For those, I don't know many who'd ride 23s, but more likely it's just a handful of miles in a much longer ride, but often that part happens to be the Instagram moment.

The first time I followed a "dirty roadie" down a trail, I was on the old Propel with skinny tires. Yes, that was memorialized on social media, but no, I didn't do it again. I got a TCX shortly thereafter instead.
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Old 08-16-18, 05:42 PM
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If I know ahead of time that my route is going to have a lot of dirt and gravel, I'll take my CX bike, but if it's just a short cut on well packed dirt, there's no harm. In fact one of my (very few) KOMs is on a gravel levee that I got on my Tarmac. Just thought I'd take a short cut to save a couple miles, avoid the busier highway, and for funzies. Truthfully, a lot of the dirt roads in the Delta are smoother than the "paved" roads.
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Old 08-16-18, 07:04 PM
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Some are riding road bikes on gravel roads to see what it is about. They want to give it a try.

It can also open up new routes and areas which might not be accessible on pavement alone.

Both are what got me started. I rode to a beautiful area which which was too far by pavement but very accessible by a two mile long gravel road. It was fun to ride, I wanted to go faster and now I own a nice gravel bike.


-Tim-
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Old 08-16-18, 07:08 PM
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I've ridden my carbon road bike on gravel and dirt, but only for short stints. No harm no foul.
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Old 08-16-18, 07:09 PM
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I never had enough control on 23s to ride much in the dirt. Straight line is easy peasy, turning works but isn't what you're used to, and you have to go slower than you're used to.
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Old 08-16-18, 07:19 PM
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I would never ride 23's on dirt or gravel if I could avoid it, but I find 28's are very reasonable on dirt roads that vehicles drive on, and along RR tracks if the rocks are not too big. I would not use them in deep mud or on singletrack, but 28's on dry dirt roads are cake.

As long as the rocks I am encountering are smaller around than my tires, and I pick my way through them best I can, I'm generally OK.

I guess I'm a minimalist as far as tires go, I try to stay as narrow as i can, contrary to current fads, which run the other direction.
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Old 08-16-18, 07:28 PM
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Going off on a nice gravel path or service road is awesome! It seems that I crave some off road riding after a few months of only pavement. My 25mm tires are probably closer to 27mm, and work on a surprising amount of gravel. It's just the top speed that really suffers, you're always watching for 2"+ lone rocks that will throw your wheel. It's fun in its own way of focusing on line choices rather then plowing over anything like the mtb.

I would love to have a gravel bike.
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Old 08-16-18, 07:41 PM
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Not exactly on a regular basis, but it happens quite a bit. Recent ride included some miles of dirt including singletrack.

Been doing it since the '70s so not such a new thing IMO.
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Old 08-16-18, 09:02 PM
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Sure, broken pavement + half dirt on my favorite weekend climb.

I take the supersix evo with 25mm tubies.
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Old 08-16-18, 09:06 PM
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Hard packed dry rail-trails, with a minimum of rock, is better than many paved roads. Riding a roadie on that isn't that big a deal.

It is actual looser pack or wet....or deep peak gravel...or single track...or any number of more technical surfaces that put a stop to that.
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Old 08-16-18, 09:23 PM
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Some of us don't have the budget to have multiple bikes. I started on a Roam and enjoyed taking gravel trails fairly regularly but decided to sell it to fund a road bike. I don't regret my decision as I get much more out of it than I did my Roam but I do occasionally miss the gravel trails so I've taken my Contend out a few times. I take pics, I share them with friends. I could care less about showing how cool I am or being hip. I'm 38 years old, I earned my street cred a long time ago.
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Old 08-17-18, 01:53 AM
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I have 28mm 4-Seasons on my bike, for the sole reason that where I live, I regularly encounter brick, cobbles, gravel, dirt, and I would miss out on a significant amount of variety, flexibility, and pleasure (not to mention peace a quiet and not being around cars) by trying to always stay on roads, especially in the forests surrounding my city.
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Old 08-17-18, 02:37 AM
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I ride road bike off pavement, mainly I don't have a real interest in investing in an MTB or dedicated off-road bike. At one time my lowest gear was a 39x24 which made things a bit difficult, but biggest problem is a steep descent because it takes a lot of effort with rim brakes. I was thinking some of those CX brake levers would be a big help. But mostly I use my touring bike since the 28x28 I have on that gets me up the steep terrain. When I leved in SocAl in the 90s I would ride Little Sycamore Canyon area from PCH to Thousand Oaks. I did get some amazed looks from MTBers. Back then I was riding Spesh Armadillo 23s.

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Old 08-17-18, 05:26 AM
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Did it for a year or so. Went to a 28mm at first but soon dumped that in favour of a 32mm which barely fit. That size tyre took me plenty of places in the dry.
The rockier stuff; at slow speed.

After getting a handful of snakes bites using tubes I started looking around for a proper frame taking wide tyres which would replace the road bike.
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Old 08-17-18, 05:42 AM
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I grew up in rural Iowa, home of gravel roads. I received my first road bike at age 12(a Coast King). We rode everywhere on the gravel roads and paved roads, no flats, an occassions scraped knee.
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Old 08-17-18, 12:20 PM
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Then you have the cobbles in France.
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Old 08-17-18, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I never had enough control on 23s to ride much in the dirt. Straight line is easy peasy, turning works but isn't what you're used to, and you have to go slower than you're used to.
That's what I'm kind of thinking. When I see photos of what I think of as true road bikes on the dirt, I think how nervous the steering must be. Plus the rigid ride. If you have 28s and are running low pressure, then I could see it as something viable. It just seems to me people are going out of their way to take pure road machines off road.
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Old 08-17-18, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Hard packed dry rail-trails, with a minimum of rock, is better than many paved roads. Riding a roadie on that isn't that big a deal.

It is actual looser pack or wet....or deep peak gravel...or single track...or any number of more technical surfaces that put a stop to that.
The fire roads around here are pretty smooth, but it still seems like it would be too squirrelly on slicks. Plus, anything more than 6 or 7% grade you'd have to have your weight balanced just right. Again, just seems like too much trouble unless the terrain is flat and in excellent condition.
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Old 08-17-18, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
That's what I'm kind of thinking. When I see photos of what I think of as true road bikes on the dirt, I think how nervous the steering must be. Plus the rigid ride. If you have 28s and are running low pressure, then I could see it as something viable. It just seems to me people are going out of their way to take pure road machines off road.
It's amazing how much difference 5 mm make.
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Old 08-17-18, 10:05 PM
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Back in the mid-90's, I used to ride mountain bike trails on my road bike. Slick 20mm tires and a 39x28 low gear. The slick tires weren't much of an issue on packed single track. It actually was easier to ride than my mountain bike. You just don't have the cornering traction.

Back then I also did a few mountain bike races on my cyclocross bike with 28mm Ritchey Speedmax tires.
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Old 08-17-18, 10:43 PM
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I've ridden my old road bike on the Katy Trail many times. Fine groomed limestone.

My newer CF bike... not exactly new, but newer..



I don't really like riding it on gravel, but this EWEB Canal Path is fine pea gravel, and seems safe enough.

I think the new tires are better than the old ones, and taking higher pressures. I can remember hitting a rock wrong in the past and getting an instant flat... that hasn't happened in years, so I've started riding down Mom's gravel driveway much more than when I was a kid.

Anyway, I'm not taking it on any intense gravel rides, but some gravel and dirt is just OK.

Ohhh... and last Wednesday I got to ride on freshly laid Chipseal. Like loose gravel on a hard base, and some tar peaking hrough.
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Old 08-17-18, 11:20 PM
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I don't think I would be able to ride 23s on-road. My latest on-road tires are 38mm Compass. My latest off-road tires are 38mm Compass.
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Old 08-18-18, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
Going off on a nice gravel path or service road is awesome! It seems that I crave some off road riding after a few months of only pavement. My 25mm tires are probably closer to 27mm, and work on a surprising amount of gravel. It's just the top speed that really suffers, you're always watching for 2"+ lone rocks that will throw your wheel. It's fun in its own way of focusing on line choices rather then plowing over anything like the mtb.

I would love to have a gravel bike.
Off road riding is not for the daydreamer. "Stay focused" is like the Navy Seal training.
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