Author Topic: Skinny tires on gravel?  (Read 963 times)

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Offline Jmw58

Skinny tires on gravel?
« on: April 20, 2022, 07:55:11 pm »
What has been your experience, if any, riding skinny tires (say 25’s) with no heavy load on gravel? I want to try some gravel rides, but do not want to buy a gravel bike just yet.  Is it a waste time, like no fun at all, to try modest rides under (40 miles) with an unadulterated road bike on a gravel trail such as the Palouse to Cascade trail in WA? In other words, is it just stupid to try?

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2022, 08:18:30 pm »
The answer is it depends.  The problem with your question is what is "gravel".  I would say that you could ride on dry chat (finely crushed & screened gravel similar to what is found on a running track).  The bigger the pieces of gravel and/or the looser the compaction is, the harder it is to ride.  I would think that a freshly graded gravel road would not be too fun to ride as the tires would sink in too easily.  The wider the tire, the better the bike can "float" over poor road conditions.  Since I am not personally familiar with the Palouse to Cascade trail, I can't say whether skinny tires would work.  I would at least use as wide a tires as your bike fits. 

Tailwinds, John

Offline Jmw58

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2022, 09:32:33 pm »
Thanks!  :)

Offline staehpj1

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2022, 06:44:58 am »
Most places that state parks list as bike trails usually have good enough surfaces for 25mm tires in good weather, but 28mm or wider are typically more pleasant.  Don't assume that will always be the case though, sometimes the surface may be looser.

The trail you mention looks fairly well groomed for much of it's length judging only from the pictures I have seen, but there is mention of an "undeveloped section" that looks loose and rough for 25mm tires in the pictures I have seen.  I'd check into it before commiting to a long ride there.  A ride on the developed portion looks promising, but I'd be hesitant to travel too far without more info with the intent of riding with 25mm tires.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2022, 09:39:16 am »
For the Palouse to Cascades Trail, east of the Columbia river is much more mountain bike country versus the west side. We will be finishing our TransAm ride there this summer and we are planning on roads to parallel the trail as far west as Ellensburg WA. I joined the P2C Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/355582289627913 and they provided me with a wealth of information about the trail. You should also apply for a permit to obtain gate codes if your are riding east of the Columbia.
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Offline Jmw58

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2022, 10:33:12 am »
Thanks for all the replys….I do have the option of using a bike with 32s, which is what I think I will use for some day trips on the P2C trail. But sometimes I just get a crazy contrary notion, and have to be talked down from it.

Offline froze

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2022, 06:58:05 pm »
There was a day when all we had were road bikes, road bikes with tubular tires, tubular tires that went from 18 to 23mm, and in those days, which I was part of, we rode on gravel, it was all about learning and gaining bike handling knowledge.  Deep loose gravel was impossible, but gravel roads are not made of that, thus riding on gravel roads was more than doable, howbeit we couldn't go as fast as a modern bike floating on 45mm tires, but it was far from impossible.  Even to this day, in my late 60's, I still am able to ride on gravel roads with my road bike and 25mm tires, and move along at a pretty good clip.

It depends on what you're comfortable with, if you feel your skills are not up to handling a bike on gravel with narrow 23 or 25 tires than don't do it, that is why gravel bikes are now all the rage because those skills are not being practiced anymore like we did back in the day when we were forced to, so gravel bikes make it easier for younger generation to handle gravel.

Offline ray b

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2022, 11:09:59 pm »
As above. Usually once these pros reply, not more needs to be said.

If not said, I'd note that if your bike's geometry is so tight you cannot slip in some 28 mm tires, then your frame might be a little stiff for a comfortable tide.

I'll also note that a popular mtn bike set up sports a bigger tire on front then back.

If you can successfully take your creative notions on the road, you'll have some inexpensive fun.

And as I'm fond of saying, it's good to keep the adventure in adventure cycling.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2022, 01:28:39 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline froze

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2022, 11:22:25 am »

If not said, I'd note that if your bike's geometry is so tight you cannot dlip in some 28 mm tires, then your frame might be a little stiff for a comfortable tide.

And as I'm fond of saying, it's good to keep the adventure in adventure cycling.

It's not the geometry that allows or disallows 28mm tires, it's the fork and the width of the rear stay, but mostly the fork, that will allow or disallow wider tires.  They can, and have, made wonderful riding bikes that couldn't take more than a 23mm tire, bikes like the Cinelli Supercorsa, known to be the most comfortable riding road race bike ever made and yet could not take tires bigger than 23mm when they first came out.  But the comfort of the geometry is mostly about the length of the rear stays, bottom bracket drop, and the fork angle, plus the steel material and thickness of the tubes, (explaining all of this as simple as I can, there is a lot more technical stuff involved), the only reason the wider stays and forks are comfortable is due to the wider tires and lower PSI and not so much because of the width them.

Offline ray b

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2022, 01:37:41 pm »
It's not the geometry that allows or disallows 28mm tires, it's the fork and the width of the rear stay, but mostly the fork, that will allow or disallow wider tires. 
I was specifically thinking of my old crit and track bikes - the short wheel base put anything more than a ~25 mm tire into the seat tube. Width on my old Bob Jackson Messina was fine, and I dropped from 700C tubulars down to 27X1.25 (32 mm) tires for my first transcontinental ride in the late 70s.

“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline froze

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2022, 03:09:55 pm »
It's not the geometry that allows or disallows 28mm tires, it's the fork and the width of the rear stay, but mostly the fork, that will allow or disallow wider tires. 
I was specifically thinking of my old crit and track bikes - the short wheel base put anything more than a ~25 mm tire into the seat tube. Width on my old Bob Jackson Messina was fine, and I dropped from 700C tubulars down to 27X1.25 (32 mm) tires for my first transcontinental ride in the late 70s.

Yeah, crit and track bikes for sure were like that, heck even my old racing bike I still have and used for racing, a Trek 660, the wheel base was so tight that nothing larger than a 25 would go onto the rear, and then in order to take the wheel off and put it on I had to deflate the tire all the way so I could squish the tire against the seat tube in order to put the wheel on or off.  That was a road bike, not a crit or a track bike.   But wouldn't a track bike come off easier since the dropouts are made so you have to move the wheel back to get it off instead of forward towards the seat post?  Never owning a track bike, I would think it would be easier anyways.

Offline OHRider

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2022, 08:56:57 pm »
I have a gravel bike that I use for touring and gravel roads (such as Forest Service Roads).

For my on road tour from San Diego to El Paso last fall I used 700 x 32's.  They are a smooth tread and generally fairly good on crushed limestone and I will use them on gravel.  For example, they're perfect for the Towpath in Ohio and the GAP trail in Pennsylvania  and MD.

For riding gravel I have a separate set of wheels with 700 x 42 knobby tires.  They are much better on mixed surfaces with heavy gravel.  The skinnier tires dig in more and don't always go the direction you want.  I'd probably try larger tires if they'd fit on my bike but that's about the limit.  Both types could be run tubeless but I don't have that set up as of yet.

Your 700 x 25's would be fine for crushed limestone but I'd got with larger tires for chunkier gravel.  Then again, I've been in situations where I've ridden fairly long trails with my 700 x 25's - I just don't think they're optimal.

Offline Jmw58

Re: Skinny tires on gravel?
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2022, 09:58:22 pm »
Thanks, appreciate you sharing your experience!