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Tires: How wide is too wide?

Old 07-06-23, 04:27 PM
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He had a cross-country mountain bike. He tried both the slick and the knobby versions of the 55mm tires, as they are approximately the same width of tire as those specced on the bike. The bike was designed around 29" wheels and 2.2 to 2.3" tires, as are most modern XC bikes. The tires behaved normally on that bike, and rolled faster on the road than the standard non-supple mountain tires. (I doubt he could get 38 mm tires on mtn rims; he had no reason to try.)

The geometry of modern mountain bikes is a lot slacker than older mountain bikes, and even more so than road bikes, so it isn't really a relevant comparison. The main point is weight and rolling resistance were not problematic in that context, and since they are quantities inherent to the tire, rather than the geometry of the bike, it is in some sense a control (although admittedly not a compelling one).

Trail is a big enough deal that racing road bikes typically have significantly lower trail than touring bikes. If you ever tried to race on a touring bike, even with moderate-width tires, the differences are quite pronounced. Pneumatic trail is a somewhat less intuitive quality, and the best illustration of the effect is in that wikipedia article I linked. I think it becomes important on climbs, especially when slow (say 3mph), because one tends to move the front wheel from side to side a bit while grinding up a hill. Higher trail (and pneumatic trail) tend to resist this, which would in turn impede climbing, whereas on level ground or going downhill, where the rider tracks a straight line, it wouldn't matter. (For touring, that kind of stability is usually thought of as an asset.)
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Old 07-14-23, 03:12 PM
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I just finished up a 10,500+ mile tour of the perimeter of the US. Left Massachusetts 9 May 22 and got back home 23 March 23 and published my journey as "Keep the Lonely Places Lonely", available on Bookbaby and Amaon if interested. I used my indestructible Bombtrack Hook EXT-C running a 1x drivetrain with a 38 tooth chainring and a 10-42 cassette and 47mm WTB Byways. Was the best ride of my life. For me touring wasn't about speed, it was about comfort and enjoying America, and having a bike that would go anywhere without issue. And it did, it went through everything I threw at it.

Actually, I went through four sets of tires, one set was destroyed in SE New Mexico because of goatheads and the replacement set I got was absolute garbage, a set of Scwalbe Hurricanes. But it got me moving. I also used a set of Terravail Sparwoods in Montana, but the 47mm WTB Byways are by far the best tire I have ever used.
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Old 07-14-23, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
I just finished up a 10,500+ mile tour of the perimeter of the US. Left Massachusetts 9 May 22 and got back home 23 March 23 and published my journey as "Keep the Lonely Places Lonely", available on Bookbaby and Amaon if interested. I used my indestructible Bombtrack Hook EXT-C running a 1x drivetrain with a 38 tooth chainring and a 10-42 cassette and 47mm WTB Byways. Was the best ride of my life. For me touring wasn't about speed, it was about comfort and enjoying America, and having a bike that would go anywhere without issue. And it did, it went through everything I threw at it.

Actually, I went through four sets of tires, one set was destroyed in SE New Mexico because of goatheads and the replacement set I got was absolute garbage, a set of Scwalbe Hurricanes. But it got me moving. I also used a set of Terravail Sparwoods in Montana, but the 47mm WTB Byways are by far the best tire I have ever used.
thats a hell of a long trip, quite an accomplishment.
What about the Hurricanes were you not happy with? Ive used a set here and there and found them fine for what I got them for, looser surfaces mixed with pavement. Mine are much wider, 2.15 inches or 54mm , but overall I found them to be perfectly fine, an ok weight for the width and flexible enough to have a decent enough ride to them. Reasonably priced also.
I have put only limited miles on them so dont have any long term wear opinions on them.
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Old 07-14-23, 04:07 PM
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At the time I was using them I was going through goathead country in the southwest. They were extremely thin and I just had flat after flat with them. I can't say how they are anywhere else in the country but in goathead territory they just don't hold up. Got really frustrated and had a set of Byways delvered to the next town. They rolled ok, I think they were the same, 54mm. It could have been just me, I put about 400 miles on them before I found a set and switched them out.
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Old 07-14-23, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
At the time I was using them I was going through goathead country in the southwest. They were extremely thin and I just had flat after flat with them. I can't say how they are anywhere else in the country but in goathead territory they just don't hold up. Got really frustrated and had a set of Byways delvered to the next town. They rolled ok, I think they were the same, 54mm. It could have been just me, I put about 400 miles on them before I found a set and switched them out.
ah, gotcha. In these neck of the woods we thankfully don't have goatheads, and even with some of my travels in other countries, I have never had to deal with lots of thorns, so havent had the pleasure.
In all the stuff I have read of riding in certain areas with goatheads, it sounds like going tubeless really is the best approach, but just havent had the need to try tubeless yet.
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Old 07-14-23, 05:59 PM
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I'm not tubeless either. I constantly change out my tires, from gravel to road to more technical stuff. Dealing with the sealant just wouldn't work for me. They make a version of Slime for bike tubes, that helped out a bunch. If you're prone to flats, it works really well.
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Old 07-14-23, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
I'm not tubeless either. I constantly change out my tires, from gravel to road to more technical stuff. Dealing with the sealant just wouldn't work for me. They make a version of Slime for bike tubes, that helped out a bunch. If you're prone to flats, it works really well.
Is there any reason why you can't just put something like Orange Seal inside your tubes? Is Slime better or cheaper or what?
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Old 07-14-23, 06:29 PM
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I would imagine you could. Because those goathead thorns were everywhere, all the places I went to sold Slime. I don't see why the orange seal wouldn't. You have to make sure you have the removable valve cores with your tubes. If not there's no way to get the Slime or Orange Seal in.
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Old 07-15-23, 02:13 AM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
I would imagine you could. Because those goathead thorns were everywhere, all the places I went to sold Slime. I don't see why the orange seal wouldn't. You have to make sure you have the removable valve cores with your tubes. If not there's no way to get the Slime or Orange Seal in.
I have never done this, but I have read that some people will cut a slit into a tube, add sealant, then glue on a patch. Is that practical or possible?

I have only used Slime in removable core Presta valves, and that was for one trip about eight years ago, Slime was available for tubes and a different formulation for tubeless. I bought the tube version.
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Old 07-15-23, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
I'm not tubeless either. I constantly change out my tires, from gravel to road to more technical stuff. Dealing with the sealant just wouldn't work for me. They make a version of Slime for bike tubes, that helped out a bunch. If you're prone to flats, it works really well.
I also like to change out tires depending on the situation, and for me, flats have never really been an issue, even when touring, so just not worth getting into the whole sealant in tubes thing either.
Ive typically gotten a flat a year average, commuting and this and that while riding about 5000kms per year and ride most days, including our winter in Canada eh.
touch wood touch wood of course.
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Old 07-15-23, 06:27 AM
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I've heard that you can cut a slit and put a patch over it. I wouldn't trust it but I can see why if you don't have removable cores in the tube. On my tour I never worried about flats until NM. From Massachusetts heading west and north, I only got 3 flats up until NM. From there to Del Rio in Texas, I averaged 3 a day. Those goathead thorns made my life a hell for a couple of weeks. Slime helped but I learned too late to use it. It never affected the balance of the wheel or how it rode, but I don't think I'd use Slime again unless I was back in an area like that.
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Old 07-15-23, 06:37 AM
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A few comments from the peanut gallery and yes, I read every post in the thread. I measure my tires Crr and my overall CdA fairly often (several times per year). I measure my speed (time) on a known climb once per week. 1/3 faster climbing due to wheels is not credible unless they are rubbing the stays. 1/3 means the tires are absorbing 1/3 the energy as gravity. If you are on a 6% gradient, it means the tires Crr is acting like a 3% hill. Both effects are linear. For instance, going from a 0.004 to 0.005 tire is like constantly riding up a 0.1% hill.

I've toured on RH El tires. Don't do it. Unless you like fixing 13 flats in 50 miles. These are milk and cookies century and amateur randonneur tires.

As to the question how wide is too wide? My approach is to use the narrowest suitable for conditions. I have always liked around 35-38 mm on roads. The aero penalty is measurable but not of something I care touring.

If someone is interested to estimate the effects of weight or aerodynamic changes, load your course into bestbikesplits and monkey around with the parameters. I'm doing that now with Paris Brest Paris. I found a certain bag is incredibly dragging, it would have cost me 70 minutes sleep. I still have to compare 35mm actual front tire (32mm nominal) to 29mm (28mm nominal), anything more than 20 mins will get it swapped out. Touring? NFW. The 35 mm stays.
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Old 07-15-23, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
I've heard that you can cut a slit and put a patch over it. I wouldn't trust it but I can see why if you don't have removable cores in the tube. On my tour I never worried about flats until NM. From Massachusetts heading west and north, I only got 3 flats up until NM. From there to Del Rio in Texas, I averaged 3 a day. Those goathead thorns made my life a hell for a couple of weeks. Slime helped but I learned too late to use it. It never affected the balance of the wheel or how it rode, but I don't think I'd use Slime again unless I was back in an area like that.
sounds like that must have been a royal pain in the arse, and frustrating.
A friend recently tore a valve on a tube and I changed it out for her. We were both surprised to see that the previous owners had put in a heavy duty extra thick tube, and holy bananas it was heavy, like twice as heavy or more than a regular tube, and it didnt even have slime in it.
I'm not looking forward to one day riding in thorn country.

I've had a remarkable run of not having flats while on tour, (touch wood big time here) including riding through a good chunk of Mexico and down through Central America riding sometimes over bad roads with glass etc. Tire choice for sure is a big factor, plus I've mentioned this before, but while I keep an eye out all the time to avoid riding over crap, if I know I've missed seeing stuff and ride right over it, I will stop and take 10 seconds to brush off my tires to dislodge any little bits of glass that start to get stuck in the tire, to avoid them getting worked further into the tire. Figure the odd time doing this is way faster than dealing with a flat.

Problem is those little wires from car tires, you just can't see them, but luckily havent had too many times with them, and have been pretty lucky with thorns too. I have made a point of not pushing my bike through brush too much, just trying to reduce the chance of thorns, but have picked thorns out of my tires before, but luckily caught them before they went in further.
Again, good tire choices have helped a lot, but I realize that frankly Ive been lucky too.
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Old 07-15-23, 06:55 AM
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I thought slime was only for bikes where high speed (>30km) was unlikely, i.e. because of the risk of the slime unbalancing the wheel, and causing irritating vibration.
Is this no longer an issue?
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Old 07-15-23, 06:59 AM
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Tubeless pretty much solves tire wire and goathead problems

Sealant in tubes helps but isn't as good.

What I like about sealant in tubes is the extra time it affords me on a high speed flat, although the flat will often seal but when it doesn't I still get much more time to slow down
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Old 07-15-23, 07:00 AM
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I had a lot of wire debris in Texas. I did the same, every now and then pull over and give them a good cleaning. It really was nice having a 47mm tire on a 650b rim, but because of the larger contact patch, the more the chance of a flat. The WTB Byways have a thick reinforced center tread that stops a lot, but yeah, those little wires work themselves in. Thats what make these forums so useful, trading info that works for us and hoping it helps the next guy.
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Old 07-15-23, 07:11 AM
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It probably is an issue, but I didn't go over 30mph. I was touring solo and didn't want to take any chances so I kept my speeds below 30. They say add 6oz, I'm sure it has an effect at speed, physics just says yes.
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Old 07-15-23, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
Tubeless pretty much solves tire wire and goathead problems

Sealant in tubes helps but isn't as good.

What I like about sealant in tubes is the extra time it affords me on a high speed flat, although the flat will often seal but when it doesn't I still get much more time to slow down
Yep it does. I reuse to go tubeless and I don't know why. I must be a glutton for punishment, although I can change a flat in record time with the best of them now.
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Old 07-15-23, 07:15 AM
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My fat butyl 650B tubes weigh 1/2 pound each. 2 pounds. Assuming I have two spares. (my latex ones are more reasonable but not something I would tour on)

My only concern with tubeless when touring is how quickly the sealant dries up and topping tires up with air. If you run RH tubeless, plan on topping up at lunch every day
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Old 07-15-23, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
My fat butyl 650B tubes weigh 1/2 pound each. 2 pounds. Assuming I have two spares. (my latex ones are more reasonable but not something I would tour on)

My only concern with tubeless when touring is how quickly the sealant dries up and topping tires up with air. If you run RH tubeless, plan on topping up at lunch every day
Damn, that's a hefty tube. I just used the run of the mill Walmart ones, Goodyear I think. Finding a bike shop at times was impossible, finding a Walmart was easy. Plus patch kits. I can't tell you how many I used. The other issue with sealant is the mess. When you're in the middle of the desert and minimal water, the last thing I want is dealing with sealant, if I even have some with me. Staying clean is staying healthy. I always wore full fingers just for that reason, keep my hands clean.
I think tubeless gives a false sense of security at times, especially on the road. Most tubeless riders carry a spare tube with them also so it just goes to show the old tech still works.
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Old 07-15-23, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
I had a lot of wire debris in Texas. I did the same, every now and then pull over and give them a good cleaning. It really was nice having a 47mm tire on a 650b rim, but because of the larger contact patch, the more the chance of a flat. The WTB Byways have a thick reinforced center tread that stops a lot, but yeah, those little wires work themselves in. Thats what make these forums so useful, trading info that works for us and hoping it helps the next guy.
somewhere I have the same photo we all taken of our bikes when riding along the west coast, but mine is in black and white and from '94. Bikes change but those trees don't change much though, although would have been a smidge shorter 30 years ago.
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Old 07-15-23, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by chief9245
Damn, that's a hefty tube. I just used the run of the mill Walmart ones, Goodyear I think. Finding a bike shop at times was impossible, finding a Walmart was easy. Plus patch kits. I can't tell you how many I used. The other issue with sealant is the mess. When you're in the middle of the desert and minimal water, the last thing I want is dealing with sealant, if I even have some with me. Staying clean is staying healthy. I always wore full fingers just for that reason, keep my hands clean.
I think tubeless gives a false sense of security at times, especially on the road. Most tubeless riders carry a spare tube with them also so it just goes to show the old tech still works.
Have you actually weighed a big old fat tube? Have you run tubeless in the desert?

The situation you pose dealing with sealant in the desert is trivial. The question to consider is whether sealant in appropriate tubeless tires significantly reduces the probability of flatting due to tire casing wires and goatheads. The answer is obvious to me.

As to dealing with sealant, it is already in the tire. There is nothing to deal with. If you get a puncture that cannot be plugged, the repair is to either replace the tire or boot it. Isn't that the process irrespective? The only additional step is removing the tubeless valve stem and littering the countryside with latex.
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Old 07-15-23, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62
Have you actually weighed a big old fat tube? Have you run tubeless in the desert?

The situation you pose dealing with sealant in the desert is trivial. The question to consider is whether sealant in appropriate tubeless tires significantly reduces the probability of flatting due to tire casing wires and goatheads. The answer is obvious to me.

As to dealing with sealant, it is already in the tire. There is nothing to deal with. If you get a puncture that cannot be plugged, the repair is to either replace the tire or boot it. Isn't that the process irrespective? The only additional step is removing the tubeless valve stem and littering the countryside with latex.
Of course, sealant definitely works and is more than likely the best solution. Same with wireless shifting and hydraulic disc brakes when it comes to going and stopping Running tubes before my tour, I had maybe two flats in two years. I learned a lot on this tour, what works and what doesn't, and I'd consider tubeless in the future if I was in that environment again, but until then I'll run tubes. I use this bike for everything, one day I'll go for a road ride and the next I may be in the woods. I'm constantly changing tires to what discipline I'm riding. Tubeless would just be a complete hassle for me, but yes, for the most part, tubeless is superior.
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Old 07-15-23, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
somewhere I have the same photo we all taken of our bikes when riding along the west coast, but mine is in black and white and from '94. Bikes change but those trees don't change much though, although would have been a smidge shorter 30 years ago.
Same with the overlook at Tillamook. I googled Tillamook and what came up was the exact same picture. And I thought I had that one in a million shot!
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Old 07-15-23, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
...
A friend recently tore a valve on a tube and I changed it out for her. We were both surprised to see that the previous owners had put in a heavy duty extra thick tube, and holy bananas it was heavy, like twice as heavy or more than a regular tube, and it didnt even have slime in it.
I'm not looking forward to one day riding in thorn country.
....
The heavy tubes were probably the ones marketed as thorn resistant. I bought one of those to use on a trip in thorn country. We car camped in North Dakota and were day tripping on the Maah Daah Hey trail and nearby roads. The tube was really thick, except it was very very thin where the valve stem was. That was a disaster, when you have a very thin spot like that and the rest of the tube is thick, any stresses are only applied to the thin spot, as that is the only spot that can flex, stresses are concentrated there. And the valve stem where it was bonded to the tube came loose from the stem. We had stopped to chat for a minute, and suddenly I hear this psssssssssssssssssssssst noise, and that was when my rear wheel went flat.



Fortunately I only had one of those tubes, no trouble at all with my other tubes that I had added Slime to.

And when far from home I always carry two tubes instead of only one. In this case, one was enough, the tube I put into the tire lasted the rest of the trip.
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