Author Topic: Road tourists: gravel roads?  (Read 6319 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline TCS

Road tourists: gravel roads?
« on: December 08, 2006, 05:22:41 pm »
A stretch of gravel road on a touring route:

-0- Why not?  A good touring bike shouldnt have any trouble, it gets me out in the true countryside, and its no worse than a rail trail.

-0- No way.  White knuckle ride and flat tire city.  Add some bad weather and your talking one miserable experience.  A narrow shoulder on a busy highway is more fun.


Fun fact: the original Bikecentennial Trail included some gravel roads.

"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline RussellSeaton

Road tourists: gravel roads?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2006, 06:06:06 pm »
Long ago on my loaded tour of Europe I rode more than a few miles of gravel on the first day out of Rome.  Up steep long hills on gravel with a loaded touring bike is not enjoyable.  I planned my route based upon the small untraveled roads on the map I had.  I discovered my map had quite a bit of detail and showed roads that would never appear on a USA map.  Tricking me into thinking they were real roads.  I made sure to avoid gravel roads for the rest of the tour.

I ride gravel roads when forced to or to avoid a high traffic road or to create a shortcut if the paved lightly traveled road adds excessive miles.  But I usually don't plan routes to include them.  There are enough lightly travelled paved roads winding through scenic countryside to get me to wherever I want to go.

As for a gravel road being no worse than a rail trail, not true at all.  Unpaved rail trails are on abandoned rail beds.  Max grade of something like 3% or less.  Flat.  No steep hills.  They are also packed very solid with very fine limestone.  Far, far, far harder packed and finer than any gravel road for cars.  You also won't usually find big potholes (caused by vehicles) and pockets of loose stones/gravel (caused by the grader redistributing the gravel) on a rail trail.  An unpaved rail trail and a gravel road are not comparable.

Offline wanderingwheel

Road tourists: gravel roads?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2006, 08:27:54 pm »
In general I'd say go for it, but it depends on the road.  In many cases I've found dirt roads to be smoother than paved roads in the same area.  Logging roads and fire roads lead you through such wonderful places that you can only see in the distance from the main roads.  However, roads that have heavy, deep gravel are nearly impassable by bike.  The tires, even moderate off-road tires, sink through the gravel and get no useful traction.

I've recently been searching out what few unpaved roads are left around me, and been including them in my rides whenever possible.


This message was edited by wanderingwheel on 12-8-06 @ 4:28 PM

Offline TCS

Road tourists: gravel roads?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2006, 08:45:53 pm »
And Russel votes no gravel!  :)

For touring neophites that might be reading this, I've ridden some of
the nice crushed and packed limestone rail trails that Russel
mentioned, and also some that were mud, some that were still the old
railroad ballasting (loose handball-sized rock), one I shared with a
group of galloping equestrians, one that was deep sand, one that had
fences every few miles you had to lift your bike over and one -
especially memorable - that was carpeted with puncture vine - 19 flats
in 32 miles!!!!


"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline litespeed

Road tourists: gravel roads?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2006, 11:44:45 am »
For non-paved bicycle travel it's best to have tires no smaller than 28mm. I have 37mm tires on my touring bike. It will go most anywhere. If your rims are too small a set of custom wheels are a good investment.


  • Guest
Road tourists: gravel roads?
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2006, 09:06:30 am »
52% of Vermont's public highways are unpaved, including many fine bike rides. We ride touring bikes, one with 28mm and one with 32mm tires, on these frequently.

Yes, loose gravel is terrible. For a day or two after the grader goes through, we stay away. The rest of the time, the quiet, the views, and the lack of traffic are wonderful.