Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Road Cycling
Reload this Page >

Are 28mm tires wide enough for gravel?

Notices
Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Are 28mm tires wide enough for gravel?

Old 04-08-12, 05:58 PM
  #1  
Moonnerd
Junior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 16
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Are 28mm tires wide enough for gravel?

I have a wonderful vintage Bottecchia team road bike with narrow rims that doesn't get as much attention now that there is a new bike in the house. I have two ideas for it... I could turn it into a fixed gear, or I could get wider wheels and put 28s on it.

I am not a racer, and I live in flat and windy west Texas. Alot of the roads around here are dirt and gravel. Would 28s be enough for that? If so, I would go that route. But if I need at least 32s for the dirt and gravel, then I would convert it into a fixie and get a CX bike in the future. What do you recommend? Thanks for any ideas!
Moonnerd is offline  
Old 04-08-12, 06:16 PM
  #2  
mechBgon
Senior Member
 
mechBgon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 6,957
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 6 Times in 5 Posts
It depends on the gravel in question. Firmly-packed gravel roads, yeah, as long as you don't try to corner too hard on fast descents, etc. The deep stuff can be sketchy even on mountain-bike tires.
mechBgon is offline  
Old 04-08-12, 06:58 PM
  #3  
cuda2k
Unique Vintage Steel
 
cuda2k's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Allen, TX
Posts: 11,585

Bikes: Kirk Frameworks JKS-C, Serotta Nova, Gazelle AB-Frame, Fuji Team Issue, Surly Straggler

Mentioned: 16 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 57 Post(s)
Liked 168 Times in 48 Posts
^ ^ this. If the dirt/gravel roads are fairly firmly packed, 28's are probably enough if you're not descending/taking fast corners. I would worry about rocks and such getting thrown up and tearing up the paint on your vintage frame though. If it were me, I'd turn it into a fixie, taking caution not to do anything to it that couldn't be reverted to original in the future, keeping all the parts stored as well, and getting a proper off-roader for the rough stuff.
cuda2k is offline  
Old 04-08-12, 09:03 PM
  #4  
Moonnerd
Junior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 16
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanks guys. Cuda - thats a good point about the vintage paint.
Moonnerd is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 09:40 AM
  #5  
Campag4life
Voice of the Industry
 
Campag4life's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 12,572
Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1187 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 8 Times in 8 Posts
If the gravel is anything loose...I live on a dirt road with gravel thrown down, then 28c tires really aren't very good for any distance. I have a 29er shod with 28c randy tires...I call it my hotrod towny...and I only ride it down my road to get to the smoother stuff. It goes down the road but not that great.
32c minimum...knobs preferred. A 29er with clearance and big apples if living on gravel roads is probably best...and I prefer a flat bar for that kind of riding as well. As to gravel kick up...just use Bikesaver tape on areas susceptible if you prize your paint job...sold by Colorado Cyclist...I put it on all my bikes.
Because you don't have wider tire clearance, I would take that frame and make it a fixie or single speed...or maybe 1 X something...can even do an internal rear hub with single chainring if you want gears. I like gears personally.
Campag4life is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 10:00 AM
  #6  
ColinL
Two-Wheeled Aficionado
 
ColinL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Wichita
Posts: 4,903

Bikes: Santa Cruz Blur TR, Cannondale Quick CX dropbar conversion & others

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 4 Times in 4 Posts
gravel is definitely a catch-all term; there are many types of road and trail surfaces that can broadly be called 'gravel'.

you don't need knobs for most gravel. for hardpack and shallow loose-over-hardpack file tread works best. it has a lot less rolling resistance than any knob.

microknobs are not necessarily fast-rolling. a continuous center contact area is most important, and a lot of microknob tires like the kenda small block 8 lack this.

you need knobs on the shoulders if you're going to corner in anything loose. ritchey speedmax cross is a great 700x28 gravel tire.
ColinL is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 10:04 AM
  #7  
topflightpro
Senior Member
 
topflightpro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,519
Mentioned: 54 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1831 Post(s)
Liked 651 Times in 411 Posts
OP, having lived in West Texas, you should be fine on 28s. I rode all over the place out there - caliche, gravel, sand - on 23s with no problem. In most places out there, the roads tend to be dry and packed. You should be fine.
topflightpro is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 10:10 AM
  #8  
pallen
Descends like a rock
 
pallen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Posts: 4,034

Bikes: Scott Foil, Surly Pacer

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7 Post(s)
Liked 16 Times in 8 Posts
I agree with the others here - I ride on crushed limestone, packed dirt and fine gravel pretty often with 28s. You start getting into that golfball sized gravel and things get sketchy though.
pallen is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 10:11 AM
  #9  
Seattle Forrest
Senior Member
 
Seattle Forrest's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 23,208
Mentioned: 86 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 18879 Post(s)
Liked 10,636 Times in 6,049 Posts
I've done gravel rail-to-trail "roads" on 28 mm cross tires. But not terribly fast.
Seattle Forrest is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 10:14 AM
  #10  
alexaschwanden
Bike rider
 
alexaschwanden's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: san jose
Posts: 3,167

Bikes: 2017 Raleigh Clubman

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 17 Post(s)
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
I have ridden on gravel with my with 25c gatorskins, not best handling but do-able.
alexaschwanden is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 10:18 AM
  #11  
adrien
Senior Member
 
adrien's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Alexandria, VA
Posts: 1,210

Bikes: Firefly custom Road, Ira Ryan custom road bike, Ira Ryan custom fixed gear

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 9 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
you should also think about tread. If most is mostly packed dirt (so it's almost like paved), then slick is good. I tend to throw on touring tires with a tread (conti touring plus 28s in my case) for wet weather an/or more loosely packed stuff. It makes some difference in how much the bike "floats" on the gravel before it sinks in, and that can make the difference between a fall and catching it.
adrien is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 11:09 AM
  #12  
halfspeed
Senior Member
 
halfspeed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: SE Minnesota
Posts: 12,275

Bikes: are better than yours.

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Originally Posted by Moonnerd View Post
I have a wonderful vintage Bottecchia team road bike with narrow rims that doesn't get as much attention now that there is a new bike in the house. I have two ideas for it... I could turn it into a fixed gear, or I could get wider wheels and put 28s on it.

I am not a racer, and I live in flat and windy west Texas. Alot of the roads around here are dirt and gravel. Would 28s be enough for that? If so, I would go that route. But if I need at least 32s for the dirt and gravel, then I would convert it into a fixie and get a CX bike in the future. What do you recommend? Thanks for any ideas!
Although I like 32s, gravel is definitely doable on 28s and even 27s.
__________________
Telemachus has, indeed, sneezed.
halfspeed is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 11:15 AM
  #13  
halfspeed
Senior Member
 
halfspeed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: SE Minnesota
Posts: 12,275

Bikes: are better than yours.

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Originally Posted by ColinL View Post
gravel is definitely a catch-all term; there are many types of road and trail surfaces that can broadly be called 'gravel'.

you don't need knobs for most gravel. for hardpack and shallow loose-over-hardpack file tread works best. it has a lot less rolling resistance than any knob.

microknobs are not necessarily fast-rolling. a continuous center contact area is most important, and a lot of microknob tires like the kenda small block 8 lack this.

you need knobs on the shoulders if you're going to corner in anything loose. ritchey speedmax cross is a great 700x28 gravel tire.
Good information here. This poster is spot on.
__________________
Telemachus has, indeed, sneezed.
halfspeed is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 12:08 PM
  #14  
Phantoj
Certifiable Bike "Expert"
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,647
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
32 is much nicer than 28 for gravel, IME...
Phantoj is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 02:14 PM
  #15  
ColinL
Two-Wheeled Aficionado
 
ColinL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Wichita
Posts: 4,903

Bikes: Santa Cruz Blur TR, Cannondale Quick CX dropbar conversion & others

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Originally Posted by Phantoj View Post
32 is much nicer than 28 for gravel, IME...
yeah, but you usually need a cross or touring bike to fit that. 28s fit on some road bikes, and I assume they fit for the OP since he's asking about that size in particular.
ColinL is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 04:21 PM
  #16  
Campag4life
Voice of the Industry
 
Campag4life's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 12,572
Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1187 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 8 Times in 8 Posts
Originally Posted by ColinL View Post
yeah, but you usually need a cross or touring bike to fit that. 28s fit on some road bikes, and I assume they fit for the OP since he's asking about that size in particular.
That's the point. The OP is trying to retrofit the wrong frame for riding on gravel.
Plain truth is, the OP's bike isn't the best for gravel period. 28c independent of tread or construction, or not ideal for any loose gravel. They are perfectly fine for crushed limestone or hard packed dirt however. I know because I live on a gravel road and own a 28c bike.
Minimum is 32c...wider is better for loose gravel...something in the 2" range is ideal. The volume of the tire and footprint and lower pressure completely changes comfort level and control. No pot holes?..or very few? Ride rigid with high volume tires. Riding my 29er down my road with Nanoraptors versus 28c...transforms the bike in terms of control and comfort.
OP...unless your roads are packed down, and you are going to do rides of any length, you need a wider tire than what you can fit on that frame. Your choice tho.

Last edited by Campag4life; 04-09-12 at 04:26 PM.
Campag4life is offline  
Old 04-09-12, 05:00 PM
  #17  
halfspeed
Senior Member
 
halfspeed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: SE Minnesota
Posts: 12,275

Bikes: are better than yours.

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
That's the point. The OP is trying to retrofit the wrong frame for riding on gravel.
Plain truth is, the OP's bike isn't the best for gravel period. 28c independent of tread or construction, or not ideal for any loose gravel. They are perfectly fine for crushed limestone or hard packed dirt however. I know because I live on a gravel road and own a 28c bike.
Minimum is 32c...wider is better for loose gravel...something in the 2" range is ideal. The volume of the tire and footprint and lower pressure completely changes comfort level and control. No pot holes?..or very few? Ride rigid with high volume tires. Riding my 29er down my road with Nanoraptors versus 28c...transforms the bike in terms of control and comfort.
OP...unless your roads are packed down, and you are going to do rides of any length, you need a wider tire than what you can fit on that frame. Your choice tho.
Nope. That's just not true. 32mm may be preferable, but I've ridden gravel on 28mm tires and they work. I also know at least one rider who wins 100+ mile gravel road races on 28mm tires. 28s are also common at the Iowa spring classics and, of course, the professional Strada Bianche is ridden on 28s. And no, I'm not talking about crushed limestone. I'm talking about this:


As for the OP, what is limiting the tire clearance? Is it the frame itself or the brake calipers? If the latter, the Tektro R539 brakes can be a big improvement. It's certainly worth a try to see if 28s work for you or if you can get enough clearance for 32s.
__________________
Telemachus has, indeed, sneezed.
halfspeed is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 07:45 AM
  #18  
ColinL
Two-Wheeled Aficionado
 
ColinL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Wichita
Posts: 4,903

Bikes: Santa Cruz Blur TR, Cannondale Quick CX dropbar conversion & others

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 4 Times in 4 Posts
I agree with halfspeed. 32c is not a real 'minimum', that's absurd. And while it's nice to tell the OP he needs a whole new bike, I think his plan has some merit and tires cost far less than a new (or used) bike just to meet this mythical 32c goal.
ColinL is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 08:05 AM
  #19  
djb
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Montreal Canada
Posts: 12,582
Mentioned: 32 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2490 Post(s)
Liked 778 Times in 648 Posts
along with halfspeed, Ive ridden 28s on roads like in the video a fair amount and for those conditions, its ok. I guess it comes down to how much you will be on dirt like that. If its most of the time, and if its more loose stuff, wider will be easier, more comfortable and a bit more forgiving. Thats the great thing with a cheap or used cross frame, you have all kinds of options of tires and less worry about dinging your "nice" frame.
djb is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 08:30 AM
  #20  
Phantoj
Certifiable Bike "Expert"
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,647
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
If the question is whether to put 28mm tires on a "wonderful vintage Bottecchia" or to subject it to the fixie treatment... go with the 28's!!!
Phantoj is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 08:58 AM
  #21  
prathmann
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Bay Area, Calif.
Posts: 7,239
Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 659 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 6 Times in 5 Posts
I'd suggest the OP just buy some 28mm tires and put them on the current wheels on his bike. Then go ride on some of the roads in his area. People vary so much in what they consider to be an acceptable ride that getting opinions on what tire width is needed for different conditions is pretty worthless.
prathmann is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 09:46 AM
  #22  
Campag4life
Voice of the Industry
 
Campag4life's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 12,572
Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1187 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 8 Times in 8 Posts
What a joke. I live on a gravel road. Have had a number of different tires on my 29er. 28c tires 'SUCK' on a gravel road. I can fly down my gravel road on my roadbike with 23c tires as well at 25 mph if I want. It sucks even worse. We aren't talking about racing. We are talking about riding for any length. A large volume tire at a lower pressure is a MUCH better solution than a higher pressure narrrow tire with small footprint that spits gravel out like rifle shots. Love this. Classic 41.

Last edited by Campag4life; 04-10-12 at 09:49 AM.
Campag4life is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 10:23 AM
  #23  
ColinL
Two-Wheeled Aficionado
 
ColinL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Wichita
Posts: 4,903

Bikes: Santa Cruz Blur TR, Cannondale Quick CX dropbar conversion & others

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Your world is black and white. The starkest example of this is what you think vs. what anyone else / the rest of the world thinks.

Doesn't mean that the rest of the forum is dumb.
ColinL is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 10:43 AM
  #24  
Commodus
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Burnaby, BC
Posts: 4,144
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Wider is better on gravel, that's for sure. That said, my route home is about 40% gravel, and I trundle along okay on 28s. I mean I don't really have to think about it very much, I just ride normally.

They are an acceptable compromise if you still want a bit of zip on your paved sections. Now if you are going out on a primarily gravel trip, yeah get some wider tires and you'll be happier. How wide? Depends on the gravel!
Commodus is offline  
Old 04-10-12, 10:58 AM
  #25  
Brian Ratliff
Senior Member
 
Brian Ratliff's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Near Portland, OR
Posts: 10,122

Bikes: Three road bikes. Two track bikes.

Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 45 Post(s)
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Originally Posted by Moonnerd View Post
I have a wonderful vintage Bottecchia team road bike with narrow rims that doesn't get as much attention now that there is a new bike in the house. I have two ideas for it... I could turn it into a fixed gear, or I could get wider wheels and put 28s on it.

I am not a racer, and I live in flat and windy west Texas. Alot of the roads around here are dirt and gravel. Would 28s be enough for that? If so, I would go that route. But if I need at least 32s for the dirt and gravel, then I would convert it into a fixie and get a CX bike in the future. What do you recommend? Thanks for any ideas!
If you are doing a lot of gravel riding, a cross bike is much better than a road bike. You can do gravel on a road bike, but it kind of sucks if the road is even just a little loose. I would give the bigger tires a try; if not to your liking, then fixie. As long as you don't make any frame modifications, you can switch drivetrains and tires back and forth at will. Perhaps you'll end up with a big tired fixie for gravel...
__________________
Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
"If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter
Brian Ratliff is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2023 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.