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25mm road bike on the TransAm?

Old 09-03-21, 07:08 PM
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25mm road bike on the TransAm?

I am planning to ride half of the TransAmerica (West to East) next summer, with my 13 year old son. I have a touring bike that I have taken on one delightful 500 mile tour, but am having a hard time finding a suitable bike for him (about 5 feet flat in height).

Is it a reasonable plan for him to do the tour on an unloaded road bike (he has a Fuji Newest 3.0 road bike that fits him with 25mm tires)? Or should I keep hunting for a budget xs touring-specific bike, perhaps on Craigslist? My plan is to carry his load on my front panniers, as he is pretty small and we are doing a credit card tour, so there is no camping gear.
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Old 09-03-21, 08:44 PM
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I'd be somewhat surprised if the newest can't take a 28c tire, have you tried them? If not carrying a load, I make my kids carry a small one, I would think 25c could be fine. Remember that he's probably small enough that the pressure of the tire should stay low which will keep the ride more comfortable. Although I haven't done the TransAmerica, as a 13yo I rode daily on rural country roads, the kind that get resurfaced every other year with a fresh coat of oil and a layer of gravel not to mention the seasonal highways. I did it with 23c tires and never had a problem with grip as long as I didn't take sharp corners faster than 25mph.
As for load for my kids, I bought the rockbros seatpost rack and the bag that goes with it that has mini-panniers that look like side pockets till you unzip them and let them drop. Upside to the bag is it also has a mesh pocket for a 3rd water bottle, your kid's bike can probably handle 2 bottles while my kid's could only take one so I found that very handy. I made the oldest two carry their water, snacks, spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, and rain coats. Because of the way we toured, the equipment was moved by car each day, so I didn't have them carry clothes on the most recent trip. On a previous one I also added 2 days worth of clothes to the oldest's bag, and she had no trouble with that, she was only 9 at the time, so I would think a 13yo could handle that much and it'll be that much less for you. A seatpost rack can only handle 20lbs, not too bad for a kid and a nice bit of weight off the burden you'll already have.
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Old 09-04-21, 03:44 AM
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I usually run my front tire at about two thirds or three fourths of the pressure that I have in the rear tire. If you pump up the front too high, handlebar vibration can be brutal. But too low, and you risk pinch flats. Getting the right pressure might take some trial and error, bring a gauge. Handlebar tape that has good cushioning would be good.

If you try a seatpost rack with side panniers, you should try to get the weight in each side as close to identical as possible. I loaded up a grocery pannier on one side one time and had my gym bag pannier on the other side which was much lighter, the rack kept shifting on the seatpost to rub against the rear tire. It was only a few miles home from the grocery store, but I had to keep shifting the rack on the seatpost. Such racks can be great, but if you get any tire rub, imbalanced load would be the first thing to check. I think such racks can't be used on a carbon seatpost.
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Old 09-04-21, 04:38 AM
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What does he weigh and how much is he carrying? I'd think 25mm might be a very reasonable choice depending on the answer. I rode the Southern Tier starting on 23mm tires until they wore out and then 25mm. The buzz was obvious on the Texas chipseal, but I thought they were okay and I was a fairly heavy guy with a very light load. Overall the surfaces on the TransAmerica are better than on the Southern Tier and your son's bike will likely be carrying less than mine was (I was over 200# and carrying 14# of UL camping gear). Most here probably wouldn't approve of my choice of bike and tires for that trip, but I enjoyed riding that bike (my old 1990 Cannondale Crit race bike) on the ride. If you sone is smaller and lighter and carry a light load it will be a much more reasonable choice.

Also as someone mentioned 28mm might fit. One caution on that is that if you go with a tire that barely fits and you wind up with a wobble due to spoke breakage or something, the bike becomes unrideable more quickly.
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Old 09-04-21, 06:20 AM
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Measure the distances between tire and sides of fork, a well as top, also at the rear with chain stays.
as noted, if too close it's not worth the risk, but if ok a 28mm will be a bit more comfortable--at the right pressure!
I weigh 135 and can run 70, 75psi on my 28mm bike front tire.

buuuut, one factor to take into account, the bike may fit now, but by next summer he may have grown 2 feet taller, so beware of that.

Last edited by djb; 09-04-21 at 06:24 AM.
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Old 09-04-21, 06:47 AM
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Tire size aside, I once rode a 2000 mile tour on a road bike and the tighter frame geometry kind of beat me up. I normally don't notice nuances in frame designs, but that was enough time in the saddle to make a difference to me. But I was in my 40s at the time, and a teenager may not notice. I say go for it.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
...
I weigh 135 and can run 70, 75psi on my 28mm bike front tire.
....
My road bike has 28mm tires, I run 55 or 60 psi in front, 80 in rear. I am about 185 to 190 pounds wearing summer biking gear. With handlebar bag, spare tube, water bottles, saddle bag for spare clothing and lunch, etc., bike might be 35 pounds. That said, I only ride this bike when I plan to ride good quality road surfaces. If I expect pot holes, etc., I use a different bike with wider tires.

I normally run durable tires with some puncture resistance. If his tires are supple thin tread ones, a spare tire that folds might be prudent. That narrow of a tire would be quite light and small to carry. Maybe carry a second in the bottom of a pannier.

On my road bike when my OEM tires are shot, I already bought 28mm Schwalbe Marathon (with Greenguard) to replace them. But I am sure that you will get dozens of other suggestions. Those tires when I start to use them are stiff enough I might raise the pressure a bit to reduce rolling resistance.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus
Tire size aside, I once rode a 2000 mile tour on a road bike and the tighter frame geometry kind of beat me up. I normally don't notice nuances in frame designs, but that was enough time in the saddle to make a difference to me. But I was in my 40s at the time, and a teenager may not notice. I say go for it.
I'm wriiting this more for Bjorn, but I can relate to your story to my late 90s aluminum framed mtb and its harsh ride--very typical for this era of alum bike. I ride it a lot with street tires and I really notice how tire pressures make ALL the difference with being beat up vs not being beat up by this frame.
I agree that a teenager won't notice stuff, but just like my wife doesn't notice stuff, I know she unknowingly suffers from too little tire pressure (never thinks to check pressures, can't use pump) or too high pressures, etc etc, so I also know that my taking care of things like this means that she will (unknowingly) be in better shape when we do long rides.
Its the same with not drinking enough or regularly enough on a hot hot day. Sometimes it's our responsibility to make sure/encourage that they drink enough, because I've been down this road numerous times with my wife being either wacked out and or getting a headache that night, simply because she doesnt keep on top of hydration.
I kinda figure its the same thing with a teenager, its in everyones best interests to use our experience to help them with stuff like this, makes for a more enjoyable experience for all and less chance of even stuff like a fall or whatever if someone is really tired etc.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
My road bike has 28mm tires, I run 55 or 60 psi in front, 80 in rear. I am about 185 to 190 pounds wearing summer biking gear. With handlebar bag, spare tube, water bottles, saddle bag for spare clothing and lunch, etc., bike might be 35 pounds. That said, I only ride this bike when I plan to ride good quality road surfaces. If I expect pot holes, etc., I use a different bike with wider tires.
I'm sure I run lower than 70 at times, but suffice to say that Montreal and Quebec roads and "good quality road surfaces" are never in the same sentence.
I've commented before here, but seriously, commuting and touring around here for decades meant that riding on Central American roads held absolutely no surprises for me, and was pretty much what I was used to (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not far off).
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Old 09-04-21, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus
Tire size aside, I once rode a 2000 mile tour on a road bike and the tighter frame geometry kind of beat me up. I normally don't notice nuances in frame designs, but that was enough time in the saddle to make a difference to me. But I was in my 40s at the time, and a teenager may not notice. I say go for it.
Everyone is different. I was 60 years old when I rode the crit bike on the Southern tier. At 70 I still enjoy that bike and would ride it on a long tour very lightly loaded.
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Old 09-04-21, 10:00 AM
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I did the NT on a Cervelo RS road bike with 25mm tires and only had a couple of flats the whole way. I would be more concerned about the strength of the wheels and the number of spokes.
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Old 09-04-21, 10:43 AM
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Okay, so I looked up the Fuji Newest 3.0. It looks like it has 32 spokes front and rear. It doesn't look like it has especially aggresive qeometry. You say you are credit card touring. At his age he probably isn't a large heavy rider. You also say you are thinking of carrying is stuff in your front panniers. Given all that, the Fuji Newest looks like a great choice to me with whatever tires fit. Even if a couple of those things were not the case I think it would be fine.

Personally I wouldn't take a touring bike over the Newest if I were him and had both, but that is personal preference. I used to ride a touring bike, but stopped when I started packing lighter.
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Old 09-04-21, 11:36 AM
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IMO 28mm tires are a good compromise. My wife and I have done many tours on 25 and 28 mm tires, including a ride across the U.S (28 mm). About 10 years ago we started using 32 mm tires and have been really pleased with them, but they are used on dedicated touring bikes. We switched to the larger tires when our riding surfaces were unknown or we knew that we would be riding on a lot of dirt,gravel, or cobble stone roads and trails. You won't find much of that on your route. If your son is on the light side, he might do fine on the 25 mm tires. One of our daughters used one of her mom's road bikes on a short tour that was mostly on paved roads and trails. She used the 23 mm tires that were on it. She is a 4' 11" light weight, and packed pretty light.

The daughter on the left is riding 23 mm tires on a road bike. The panniers were custom made for a bike with a short chainstay to prevent heel strike. She had all her camping gear, and her half of the tent in them. My wife packed all her gear, essentially in the same configuration, on our 74 day self supported cross country trip. The right bike's panniers are a set of Ortlieb front panniers, and is using her mom's old touring bike which could still have the 28 mm tires on it. It is the bike my wife used on our ride across the U.S.


This was taken on our cross country ride in Yellowstone N.P. The panniers are front panniers used on the rear. Her sleeping gear was carried on to of the rack.

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Old 09-04-21, 09:20 PM
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IMO the Fuji's gearing is too high for a touring bike. There are a lot of hills between Astoria and Yorktown. It might be better to look for a 50 cm bike that is or can be geared for touring. IMO that is a bigger issue than tire size.

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Old 09-05-21, 04:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Doug64
IMO the Fuji's gearing is too high for a touring bike. There are a lot of hills between Astoria and Yorktown. It might be better to look for a 50 cm bike that is or can be geared for touring. IMO that is a bigger issue than tire size.
Yeah, we didn't get into that. The stock gearing has a low of something like 31 gear inches. I have met a few people happily touring on similar gearing even with a fairly heavy self supported load but I'd still recommend lower. If he is unloaded a super low granny may not be required, but somewhat lower gearing will be worth the effort. I suspect that crank may not take smaller inner rings. If that is the case just going with the largest cluster that your RD can handle the cog size and amount of chain wrap may be the way to go. Otoh, putting on something like the Sugino XD 600 might be a good way to go. Going with that and maybe a 12-32 cassette would give a gearing range that lots of folks have crossed the country on even heavily loaded. I was pretty heavily loaded when I rode my first tour (Trans America) with that setup and found it okay. On a few of the steepest climbs in the Appalachians and Ozarks I woulld have used a slightly lower gear if I had one, but it was adequate. Using a 24t instead of a 26t on the inner ring probably makes sense for loaded touring. For his unladen bike it should be more than adequate.

On the other hand he may be happy with the stock gearing. Now and then I meet someone doing long mileage on gearing like that or even higher who are puzzled by why folks need lower gearing. I remember a guy in camp on the Pacific coast. Folks were talking about gearing and how steep the climbs were. He had just ridden form Chicago on a bike with a double and standard road gearing doing long mileage. He said he didn't get the complaining since everyone else in camp "had triples". He seemed genuinely puzzled.
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Old 09-05-21, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
On the other hand he may be happy with the stock gearing. Now and then I meet someone doing long mileage on gearing like that or even higher who are puzzled by why folks need lower gearing. I remember a guy in camp on the Pacific coast. Folks were talking about gearing and how steep the climbs were. He had just ridden form Chicago on a bike with a double and standard road gearing doing long mileage. He said he didn't get the complaining since everyone else in camp "had triples". He seemed genuinely puzzled.
It can be done. When I was 30 years old, and in racing shape, I covered 854 miles in 8 days with a medium load. I was on a Peugeot PX10 with a 52/45 crank and a 14/24 freewheel. The ride was from the Canadian border in northern Idaho to southern Oregon and it was not flat. It wasn't a problem. My longest day was 135 miles. It is type 2 fun, and I'm not sure 13 year old kids are into that yet

Pete, this is almost the driveline changes you used as an example. This is one of my wife's road bikes set up with a 46/36/24 Sugino XD 600 crankset, 11-34 cassette, and a LX mtn derailleur. It works well with her STI shifters. It is a hill climbing machine!


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Old 09-07-21, 08:45 AM
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Re: gearing, since OP is planning to ride from Oregon to about Kansas, I suspect stock gearing on the Fuji will be OK. The young knees of the son should be able to make it up the relatively mild grades of the western half of the TransAm, especially if he's only lightly loaded.

And lowest gear (walking) is still available.
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Old 09-07-21, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
Re: gearing, since OP is planning to ride from Oregon to about Kansas, I suspect stock gearing on the Fuji will be OK. The young knees of the son should be able to make it up the relatively mild grades of the western half of the TransAm, especially if he's only lightly loaded.

And lowest gear (walking) is still available.
I hadn't paid attention that the Ozarks and Appalachians were not in the plan. That does eliminate the steepest climbing. On the TA the climbs in the west are long, but generally not so steep.
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Old 09-07-21, 02:04 PM
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He might do OK, but it might be his first and last long tour. Why not make it enjoyable for the kid, instead of a struggle. I've never wished for a higher gear on a touring bike, but at times I sure wished I had a lower one.
If this is his son's first long tour the best way to keep his interest in touring is to make the ride fun. Some of the approaches to Oregon's mountain passes are 45 miles of uphill. We have two passes starting uphill in our town at 500'. The first one tops out at about 4500', drops a bunch, then climbs to 5500'. Most Cascade passes are similar. The TA goes over the second pass from Eugene. There is an alternate route on the TA, the Old Mckenzie Hwy., but it is probably more climbing. You folks who have done the TA will remember it.

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Old 09-07-21, 06:25 PM
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Looks like this bike was sold with triple chainrings and a 12-25 cassette. It shouldn't be hard to replace that with an 11-30 to get a 1:1 ratio, which should be good for the climbs you'll see.

The stock tires are nothing special. I'd put the fattest tires I could fit inside the brakes on that. Probably 28s.

I did some light touring when I was 13 years old, staying in hotels, and carried all my own gear. I see no reason your son couldn't do the same.
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Old 09-07-21, 07:22 PM
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25c tires could pose a challenge if you encounter a multi-mile stretch of road work where the paving has been removed.
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Old 09-07-21, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by adamrice
Looks like this bike was sold with triple chainrings and a 12-25 cassette. It shouldn't be hard to replace that with an 11-30 to get a 1:1 ratio, which should be good for the climbs you'll see.

The stock tires are nothing special. I'd put the fattest tires I could fit inside the brakes on that. Probably 28s.

I did some light touring when I was 13 years old, staying in hotels, and carried all my own gear. I see no reason your son couldn't do the same.
A 30/30 will give about 26 gear inches. IMO something in the low 20s or high teens is better for touring.

I'm just curious. What gear ratios did the folks who said that the son's bike's gears are OK for the "relatively gentle" slopes found in the west use when they rode the TA?

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Old 09-08-21, 05:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Doug64
He might do OK, but it might be his first and last long tour. Why not make it enjoyable for the kid, instead of a struggle. I've never wished for a higher gear on a touring bike, but at times I sure wished I had a lower one.
If this is his son's first long tour the best way to keep his interest in touring is to make the ride fun
. Some of the approaches to Oregon's mountain passes are 45 miles of uphill. We have two passes starting uphill in our town at 500'. The first one tops out at about 4500', drops a bunch, then climbs to 5500'. Most Cascade passes are similar. The TA goes over the second pass from Eugene. There is an alternate route on the TA, the Old Mckenzie Hwy., but it is probably more climbing. You folks who have done the TA will remember it.
As another parent and rider who completely agrees with Doug on this, I can't emphasize to those here how important this is.
It's one thing as an adult saying for another adult that "the gearing will be fine" but already we are talking about a 30 gear inch or maaaaybe even 26g.i. and we are talking about a 13 yr old kid.
All I can say is that as a parent, I learned from my early touring mistakes so that with my kids, they had an enjoyable time, and a bike with low enough gearing is just going to increase the chance of having a good time.
Not having low enough gearing is never fun, and quite simply as Doug put it, make the experience a good one, and use your adult experience to avoid making it harder than it needs to be.

thanks Doug btw for being realistic and up front about this
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Old 09-08-21, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Doug64
A 30/30 will give about 26 gear inches. IMO something in the low 20s or high teens is better for touring.

I'm just curious. What gear ratios did the folks who said that the son's bike's gears are OK for the "relatively gentle" slopes found in the west use when they rode the TA?
I was using a 21.9" granny on my Trans America, but I was in my heavy packing phase (my first tour). It should be noted that I was okay with over 50 pounds of stuff and made it up climbs like Vesuvius. He will be riding unladen and will be riding none of the really steep stuff in the east. I could have stopped in a bike shop at any point and put on a 24t ring and/or a cluster with 34t and never did.

Gearing choices can vary pretty widely with the rider. So it is hard for us to say what he would be happy with. Personally I think ratios in the teens are pretty extreme even for loaded touring and he won't be loaded. Something between what he has and that is probably sensible. He can get a 13-32 or 13-34 and that gets him to 25.3 or 23.8 respectively. That is probably a pretty good place to be and doubt he would wish for lower gears often if at all.
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Old 09-08-21, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
25c tires could pose a challenge if you encounter a multi-mile stretch of road work where the paving has been removed.
Oh, like the perpetual roadwork in and south of Yellowstone? (Except in winter.)
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