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Tires and rough roads question

Old 03-22-14, 09:25 PM
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Tires and rough roads question

How do you handle segments of rough roads on your rides? What if everywhere you ride is rough?

I think the simple answer is drop tire pressure, but I'm curious how you guys handle things. Has anyone gone to a meaty'er tire? How about racks and panniers - do you have much concern for them?

I am battling northern plains roads that have gone through the harsh winter and haven't fared so well. looking for some ideas.
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Old 03-22-14, 09:51 PM
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Big wide tall cushy tires - as wide as you can fit on your bike. Adjust tire pressure to suit. Please note, that the larger the volume of tire, at the same pressure will give a smoother ride because the pressure inside the tire does not increase as much with same tire deflection due to a particular bump.

Dropping the pressure too much will result in pinch flats.

Thorn resistant tube are much more resistant to pinch flats than normal tubes, but of course add rotating mass.
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Old 03-22-14, 09:53 PM
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I don't have tons of experience but it sure does seem to me that the equipment does need to fit the situation. My bike from 1996 to 2010 was a Trek 520... I think it had 28mm tires. Hauling down hills and hitting potholes at speed... I do believe that's how my rims got a bit funny. At that was without luggage! So on my new bike I have 50mm tires! Plus a Brooks Flyer = a sprung saddle.

There are lots of reports of broken racks around. Actually wider tires at lower pressure ought to cut down on shocks to the racks, too! The challenge of course is that wide tires needs wide enough rims and frame space.

Wider tires are nice but probably thicker tires won't help much. If you're on gravel or something then tread is nice but if the surface is solid then smooth tires should work. Thicker tires can help with flats too but that's more a matter of debris that roughness.
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Old 03-22-14, 09:55 PM
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Here is my nifty table of suggest tire pressures, just as starting points:

Interdependent Science: Bicycle Tire Pressure
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Old 03-23-14, 12:26 AM
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I have a Cane Creek suspension seatpost under my saddle. 559-47 tires

bike friday has 406-47 on it ..

winter freeze is not as hard on the roads, here, though heavy trucks still to their job on them ..


How about racks and panniers - do you have much concern for them
I do check the rack mounting bolts and screws on the bag fittings.



Adding, thorn resistant tubes are OK, I took a 9 month tour without a puncture using a pair

But they let you know if the PSI drops , as the rolling-resistance is noticeably, greater ..

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Old 03-23-14, 06:52 AM
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Racks and panniers - I think the biggest problem is the panniers falling off the racks when you hit the big bumps. Some panniers that just hang from hooks are more likely to fall off than those that have a locking mechanism like Ortliebs. I have some cheap panniers that just hang from hooks that also have a velcro strap to wrap around the rack between the hooks, the strap is intended to keep the pannier from being launched.

Some manufacturers that rate their racks for weight cut the rating in half for rough off road use.
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Old 03-23-14, 07:45 AM
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KC8QVO, General rule for rough riding conditions are more air volume, less air pressure. How much air pressure will be determined by the load and tire size.

35 mm, for me, has been a pretty versatile size. I recently swapped to 32 mm tires on my regular T bike and maybe less desirable for rough riding, but if they are, I expect the difference to be slight. My recent back-up T bike build has 37 mm tires and looks to be at the least as good as the 35 mm tires. More experience on either tire could've answered you question better, I know.

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Old 03-23-14, 09:02 AM
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Tires are 622x37 now. I will have to check pressure, but i want to say they are 60-62psi.
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Old 03-23-14, 10:20 AM
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If I'm mostly going to be on roads 25mm tires work perfectly well and can handle the limited amount of rough stuff. Where they have real trouble in is mud and sand.

If you are going to be on rough stuff a lot, through a winter, you'll need wider tires with more tread....check out Schwalbe Marathons Duremes etc. They worked well for me
on a mix of rough roads and gravel. Here is my bike with 35x700c Duremes

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Old 03-23-14, 12:15 PM
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Tire pressure was right about 60psi. I dropped it to 50 then 45 and 40. I could tell a difference with every step. Though, the specs on the tire say 56-85psi is their range so I am well below. Continental Contact II's. I weigh 146lbs so I am not putting a huge load on the bike/tires, but I also don't want to bottom out the rims... Loading up with gear would change the parameters too, when I get that far.
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Old 03-23-14, 12:39 PM
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Continental Travel Contact bike tires ..
Rough roads are what they made them to handle.. unpaved included.
I had the 26-1.75" this is the other one in that 622-37.

Continental Bicycle -Travel CONTACT

Continental Travel Contact Tire > Components > Tires and Tubes > Tires | Jenson USA Online Bike Shop
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Old 03-23-14, 02:27 PM
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I won't intentionally drop pressure on my 32s below 75 psi or so, because that big pothole you dropped pressure for is also the one that'll give you a pinch flat.

Best way to deal with rough roads, at least for a while, is to gear up and get off the saddle to pedal. Let your legs take the abuse (they take so much they won't notice a little extra) instead of your sit-upon.
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Old 03-23-14, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO
Tire pressure was right about 60psi. I dropped it to 50 then 45 and 40. I could tell a difference with every step. Though, the specs on the tire say 56-85psi is their range so I am well below. Continental Contact II's. I weigh 146lbs so I am not putting a huge load on the bike/tires, but I also don't want to bottom out the rims... Loading up with gear would change the parameters too, when I get that far.
I weigh ~180 and 65 PSI was good for unloaded riding w/35 mm tires. IIRC I dropped to 55 PSI for a tree rut strewn trail to quell some kick out. Lower pressure would have me worried about snake biting the tube.

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Old 03-23-14, 04:22 PM
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I went out for 12 miles. The tire pressure change made a huge difference. It didn't feel like the cracks were going to shake me and the bike apart. I hit about 3/4 -1 mile of gravel road and it wasn't real bad.
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Old 03-24-14, 03:02 PM
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1.75 tires and a sprung Brooks Saddle... what rough roads?
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Old 03-24-14, 04:42 PM
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too many variables to even begin making recommendations.. so i'll just relate an appropriate personal experience and the OP can extrapolate... or not.

at the beginning of a nine month loaded tour, i had 650c wheels with pretty much the standard width tire for that sized rim of 20mm. they didn't at that time come much wider. i didn't know better. i probably ran them at about 100PSI. they wore out in about 800 miles. so i put on another pair when in Phoenix.

after crossing Texas from El paso to the Sabine River and it's chip-seal from hell roads, i'd had enough, so when i got to Gainsville Florida and needed new tires yet again, i took a grest interest in wheels and tires and t found that 26" MTB rims and tires (1 inch in front and 1 1/4" in rear would work. so i built a set in my motel the next day rode for the next 6 months at about 90PSI in front and 75PSI in back. it was much better and the tires lasted for the entire 6 months and then some.

take from it what you will.
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Old 03-24-14, 08:02 PM
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I used to have a 700c touring bike and because of issues with the rough roads and road shock in addition to not being able to get enough cushion effect from 700x38 tires (largest I could run with fenders), I chose to change bikes. I scraped the 700c frame and bought a 26" Surly Disc Trucker. I now run 26x2.0 Schwalbe Marathon 420 Greenguard tires. They soak up pretty much everything the roads dish out and I've even been able to handle light off-road singletrack on them. Now that we're still stuck in the depths of "winter" (I know, first day of Spring was just a few days ago) with ice and snow still a problem, I'm running Marathon Winters in 26x2.0. The studded tires still have the same shock absorption capabilities even though they're way slower than the Marathon 420s. Both tires have a max rating of 80 psi. I typically run them at about 70 psi or so and that seems plenty good for everything I come across from a frost-heaved mulit-user path to singletrack strewn with roots and rocks to potholed city streets.
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Old 03-25-14, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO
How do you handle segments of rough roads on your rides? What if everywhere you ride is rough?

I think the simple answer is drop tire pressure, but I'm curious how you guys handle things. Has anyone gone to a meaty'er tire? How about racks and panniers - do you have much concern for them?

I am battling northern plains roads that have gone through the harsh winter and haven't fared so well. looking for some ideas.
Wider tires will help but how you ride is as important as the tires you ride on. Jim Kukula's comment

Originally Posted by Jim Kukula
I don't have tons of experience but it sure does seem to me that the equipment does need to fit the situation. My bike from 1996 to 2010 was a Trek 520... I think it had 28mm tires. Hauling down hills and hitting potholes at speed... I do believe that's how my rims got a bit funny. At that was without luggage! So on my new bike I have 50mm tires! Plus a Brooks Flyer = a sprung saddle.
is indicative of someone who doesn't understand how to ride rough roads. He's not alone. Most people sit in the saddle like it's a Barcalounger and just slam the bike into whatever is under the wheels. This is the wrong way to ride a bike when the going gets rough.

Even with a loaded touring bike, you should never plant yourself in the saddle and just plow through potholes and rough roads. Go find some videos of mountain bikers and watch how they negotiate just about any trail. The rider is up out of the saddle...even with dual suspension bikes...and using their legs and arms to absorb the impact. Your arms and legs will do a far better job than any kind of spring...including sophisticated suspension systems.

Even on the road, you should be doing this with regularity. If you are a dead weight in the saddle, the bike (and you) are taking all the impact and will eventually start damaging something. In the case of the bike, the wheels and frame suffer while you beat up delicate tissues that can get painful quickly.
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Old 03-25-14, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
Even with a loaded touring bike, you should never plant yourself in the saddle and just plow through potholes and rough roads.
It's certainly a good idea to get up off the saddle to navigate rough patches. But that tactic has its limitations too. If you've got loaded panniers etc., then getting your own weight off the pedals still leaves a lot of weight on the rims, racks, etc. Plus, out in the real world, there can be a lot going on, e.g. traffic and road signs and beautiful landscape etc. etc. so it does happen that one encounters a pothole by feeling it before seeing it.
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Old 03-25-14, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim Kukula
It's certainly a good idea to get up off the saddle to navigate rough patches. But that tactic has its limitations too. If you've got loaded panniers etc., then getting your own weight off the pedals still leaves a lot of weight on the rims, racks, etc. Plus, out in the real world, there can be a lot going on, e.g. traffic and road signs and beautiful landscape etc. etc. so it does happen that one encounters a pothole by feeling it before seeing it.
Generally speaking, the load on the bike isn't going to outweigh the rider. The rider's sprung mass is going to be larger than the bike's unsprung mass so getting off the saddle at the moment of impact will take a lot of stress off the wheels.

As to avoidance, it certainly isn't possible to avoid all potholes but you shouldn't be so enthralled with what is going on around you that you don't keep an eye on the road surface to avoid most of the potholes you might encounter. If you regularly find yourself in a pothole before you see it, you probably should pay more attention to the road than what is going on around you. You don't have to stare at the road constantly but you should be aware of what is coming up so you can avoid the wheel/frame bending holes.
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Old 03-25-14, 02:43 PM
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As we see in the above posts, tire width is a very personal thing, and everyone has their preferences for valid reasons.

I tend to agree with hueyhoolihan that:
too many variables to even begin making recommendations.. so i'll just relate an appropriate personal experience and the OP can extrapolate... or not.
I've never felt the need to use a tire wider than 32 mm for loaded touring. They are a good compromise between weight and comfort.

My wife and I have done a lot of loaded touring on 28 mm tires including a 3700 mile cross country tour. We encountered gravel, chip seal, Iowa frost cracks, and just some plain bad roads. However, we are light weights. My 155 pounds plus gear seldom puts more than 190 pounds on the bike, which allows me to get away with a narrower tire.

I tried running lower tire pressure in my front tire on a tour last summer, and had 2 pinch flats on the front wheel. I was using 32 mm Continental Gatorskins, and once I increased the tire pressure they were a great tire.

On another tour a couple of years ago part of our route took us on 400 miles of unsurfaced roads and trails, and over 500 miles of cobblestone roads. The 32 mm Schwalbe Marathons did well, even if they are on the heavy side.


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