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  1. #1
    eminence grease
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    Riding your road bike on gravel and dirt?

    Is this a good idea? Especially with CF frames?

    I do this from time to time, but I always wonder. I hear the crap hitting my downtube and that can't be good, can it? When I lived in China I had two bikes, one steel and one ti and they were pretty much set up as cross bikes with bigger tires so no worries.

    But every once in a while I want to go off road when I'm out riding around and I'm just not sure about whether it's good for my bike. Or good for me for that matter, 23 tires aren't exactly grabby in loose stuff and the last thing I want to do is ride an hour home with crusher finds embedded in my knee cap.

    What prompted my question was this - the overflow parking for our good MUT is a big gravel/dirt/rutted lot and I always see people carrying their road bikes from the end of the pavement to their cars. I've never seen anyone riding in that lot. It's not very far, but no one rides it. And these guys look like they know what they're doing - nice bikes, the right clothing, etc.

    I know that pros do this in races like Monte Paschi Eroica but it's not like they're paying for their bikes.

    What do you think?
    You'd be better off with a netbook, they do everything better.

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  2. #2
    corning my own beef
    Reputation: JustTooBig's Avatar
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    you have too many pretty bikes anyhow, terry. Dinging one up a bit riding in the gravel ain't going to mean much, IMO.

    ... and yeah, I venture off pristine pavement now and again too.
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  3. #3
    Idiot at large
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    there are cyclocross bikes with carbon frames these days.... maybe add a cyclocross bike for the dirt/gravel paths (or singletrack)
    2010 Specialized Secteur Elite upgraded with 32T cassette and does not have Stan's (yet)
    2009 Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29er upgraded with 36T cassette and Stan's Arch EX rims and tubeless. Considering a 1x10 upgrade
    2013 Cannondale CAADX-6 Tiagra upgraded to 32T cassette and Stan's Alpha 400 rims and tubeless
    2008/2009 Burton T6 156cm with Burton Triad Bindings & DC Judge boots

  4. #4
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    No problem, just grab yourself some of this- even comes in colors so your bike can stay fashionably color coordinated!!
    We'll be back soon, there will be more of us, and next time we won't be dropping leaflets.

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  5. #5
    Bianchi-Campagnolo
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    Just hit it. I use 25 mm tires and slightly lower pressures than I do with my customary 23s.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Riding your road bike on gravel and dirt?-img_0382-640.jpg  

  6. #6
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    Careful. Hitting gravel unexpectedly got me a nasty concussion after a crash.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by NJBiker72 View Post
    Careful. Hitting gravel unexpectedly got me a nasty concussion after a crash.
    gravel on the side of the street or rail-trail gravel?
    2010 Specialized Secteur Elite upgraded with 32T cassette and does not have Stan's (yet)
    2009 Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29er upgraded with 36T cassette and Stan's Arch EX rims and tubeless. Considering a 1x10 upgrade
    2013 Cannondale CAADX-6 Tiagra upgraded to 32T cassette and Stan's Alpha 400 rims and tubeless
    2008/2009 Burton T6 156cm with Burton Triad Bindings & DC Judge boots

  8. #8
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    I ride 25 mm tires all the time, so dirt/gravel, some embedded rocks are usually no issue.

    As for your down tube,
    Put a 2 X 18 inch piece of "frame tape" or clear automotive protective tape on there. It will protect the CF more than nothing.
    It's a fire road.............
    I'm on a road bike..........

    They have enough in common to blast down it.

  9. #9
    sometimereader
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    Some folks won't ride with me because I often choose to take the rough path (at least I think that's the reason).
    Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
    -- Steven Wright

  10. #10
    Fecal indicator
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    I seek only smooth asphalt...no interest in unpaved stuff.
    eff all y'all...

  11. #11
    Bianchi-Campagnolo
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    Mixed surface racing is fun:
    Pix from a race

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tednugent View Post
    gravel on the side of the street or rail-trail gravel?
    In a corner on the side of the street, after a steep downhill to be followed by a steep uphilll.

    Not a good result.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by terry b View Post
    I've never seen anyone riding in that lot. It's not very far, but no one rides it. And these guys look like they know what they're doing - nice bikes, the right clothing, etc.
    That right there is a dangerous assumption.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by NJBiker72 View Post
    In a corner on the side of the street, after a steep downhill to be followed by a steep uphilll.

    Not a good result.
    that's an entirely different scenario than riding on a dirt/gravel path, like a rail-trail (ie.. the D&R canal trail).

    6-mile run, that I see a lot of cyclocross bikes there... (though I'm on my 29er hardtail)
    2010 Specialized Secteur Elite upgraded with 32T cassette and does not have Stan's (yet)
    2009 Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29er upgraded with 36T cassette and Stan's Arch EX rims and tubeless. Considering a 1x10 upgrade
    2013 Cannondale CAADX-6 Tiagra upgraded to 32T cassette and Stan's Alpha 400 rims and tubeless
    2008/2009 Burton T6 156cm with Burton Triad Bindings & DC Judge boots

  15. #15
    Steaming piles of opinion
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    In the nice riding areas (that is, not built up) around here, you generally have a choice to make. Either head to the MUT, which like in the CVNP is a crushed limestone path; or take to the farm roads.

    Crushed limestone, as long as it's not soupy, makes a good solid riding surface. Not wanting to take crit turns on it, but JRA is fine. The larger material is moved off / compacted, and the actual surface is 'solid' dust. Makes a mess of the drivetrain, but doesn't hurt the bike.

    The paved surfaces are another story. They're most often chipseal. In the past, that was OK, because the 'chip' was fine enough (say, matchhead sized) that it rolled well and compacted into the tar easily. Was sketchy the first few weeks after they redid a lane, but no worries after that.

    Since we're all being stimulated, however, they are grabbing whatever thing they can find for gravel to re-pitch roads, and it's obvious they're getting quite a markup on it. Nothing quite like turning down a road and coming into a mile-long patch of marble-sized loose rock an inch or so deep. If you can stay up, you are going to be shooting rocks everywhere.

    The one to look out for is the one that gets tarred to the front tire, then wedges under the fork crown. No, this does not result in happy memories.

    I don't think we'd generally hit the down tube, etc. often enough or hard enough to structurally matter, though it might be an aesthetic concern. I'd think some sort of clear tape application - similar to giant chainstay protectors - would present a bright, enterprising person with international manufacturing contacts an interesting low-load business opportunity.

    re: the parking lot: A lot of people worry about flatting in gravel, though I've not personally found it to matter all that much. That might explain some of that behavior.
    A good habit is as hard to break as a bad one..

  16. #16
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    Riding your road bike on gravel and dirt?
    I never have. I'm sure it would cause any structural damage to do that occaisonally. I just can't bring myself to do it no matter what the frame material.

  17. #17
    MB1
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    If you can't have fun on your bike there is no reason to own it.

    It is a rare ride we don't hit some dirt, no matter what bike we are on we just keep going.

    BTW as you know, we own several carbon bikes......
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Riding your road bike on gravel and dirt?-imgp4672.jpg  
    Quote Originally Posted by the_dude
    these are better than i was expecting, and my expectations were already rather high.

  18. #18
    waterproof*
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    Dirt is easy. TerryB is talking about gravel. I dunno if he has the same kind we have in Texas, but around here "gravel" means sharp-edged limestone chunks in the 2-3 inch size range. Kick one of those up and it'll put a nice gash in your shin, or gouge in your frame.

    It's also really good at causing pinch flats. Even in cx tires.



    Terry, for a short/slow roll across a parking lot, no prob. For cruising at speed... why risk it?
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  19. #19
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    Gravel, rocks, fire roads in the Nat'l Forest - they are all harder on the tires, and sometimes wheels than the frame, whether Carbon or otherwise. If you can handle it and your tires can handle it, your bike will be fine. If youre nervous, protect the frame. A lot of times when someone is carrying their bikes around here it is to avoid known goat-head areas, through and around gates to roads that are closed to vehicles in the winter. Good luck.
    A while back I decided to ride a bike as often as possible. These are my observations from the saddle, one pedal stroke at a time, on my way to being a better cyclist.

  20. #20
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    You should sell one of the Strongs on CL and get a CX bike. Otherwise you'll get passed by MTBr's on the gravel. Sheesh.

  21. #21
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    "Ride it like you stole it!"
    "It ain't a teacup that the Queen gave you - it's a bike. Ride it!"

  22. #22
    PhotonFreak
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    Quote Originally Posted by MB1 View Post
    If you can't have fun on your bike there is no reason to own it.

    It is a rare ride we don't hit some dirt, no matter what bike we are on we just keep going.

    BTW as you know, we own several carbon bikes......
    Hard-packed dirt is fine. those are the routes I prefer the most -- things like fire roads usually have interesting rolling terrain and nice scenery, plus typically few to no cars to worry about.

    I'm presently running Gatorskins in 25s on my road bike as the roads in my area are littered with glass. Moreover, I'm a lightweight (125lb) and the roads in my area bumpy as hell, so I like to run pressure lower than recommended for most 23s--95/85psi front/rear. I notice a slight dip in my speed after switching to these tires from the greater rolling resistance and air drag, but am enjoying the rides a lot more, and my average speeds are still better than many prior rides where I would flat and had to replace tubes halfway through (happened to me 3 times in a week... )

    Outright gravel roads I tend to avoid. That might change if I get a CX bike.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by kbwh View Post
    Just hit it. I use 25 mm tires and slightly lower pressures than I do with my customary 23s.
    That unpaved road is a hell of a lot better than the paved roads we have around Baltimore!!!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by MB1 View Post
    If you can't have fun on your bike there is no reason to own it.

    It is a rare ride we don't hit some dirt, no matter what bike we are on we just keep going.

    BTW as you know, we own several carbon bikes......
    Have to agree! That looks like some tightly packed sand, which is fun to ride on.

  25. #25
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    If you have to worry, you shouldn't ride carbon.
    Quote Originally Posted by JustTooBig View Post
    Your Logical-to-Dumbass ratio is way out of kilter, buddy

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