Anyone tour on narrow wheels?

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by lugger, Jun 15, 2005.

  1. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    Any suggestions about how narrow tires can be for touring? I love the ride of 700 x 20 tires, but realize I might have to go wider for unsupported touring in order to avoid pinch flats. If I have to give up my 700 x 20's, I would like to use 23mm or (sigh) 25. I prefer not going all the way up to 28mm tires.
    What is the most narrow tire size I can use?
    What are some good, moderate price, rims for narrow tires that are strong enough for touring?
    Can I use narrow tires on touring rims that are made for 28mm tires?
    Thanks.
     
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  2. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    Why do you prefer 20 mm tires?
    How much do you weigh?
    How much weight will you add for touring gear?
    You don't want to have large mismatch in tire/rim sizing.
    What touring routes do you plan to take?

    I have just over 250,000 miles of loaded touring experience. I have used 25 to 37 mm tires.
    My observations are:
    28 mm is as narrow as I ever want to go. Most people I see on tour are using 28 - 37 mm tires.
    Wider tires weigh just a little more, but last longer and provide for better rim and rider protection.
    Rolling resistance is not just a function of tire width; in fact Avocet 28 mm Carbon 12 "slick" tires will likely measure lower rolling resistance than your 20 mm tires.
    More aggressive tread patterns don't much help on paved roads and they cause more tread squirm.
    I crossed the USA many times without flats, but I have stopped to help (or at least offer help) to those with flats. Most of the flats I observed were on 25 or narrower tires.
     
  3. hilljunkie

    hilljunkie New Member

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    I was planning a late summer tour on a road bike. I have seen a lot of pictures of fully loaded road bikes touring so I didnt' think a lot about it. However now your post has me thinking twice. I've got a Giant TCR 3 which is sort of a poor mans racing bike. I bought a rack which attaches to the seat post and I was planning on loading it up for three week tour. I won't be taking camping gear and will be fairly close to civilization however so I think my load will be relatively light. Are pinch flats when touring a road bike a real issue? Obviously I could switch to wider tires but is that really going to be absolutely necessary. my bike clearly isn't optimal for touring but I have to the ride the bike I have at the moment. So If stuck between a choice of touring on skinny road tires or not touring at all what is the better option?
     
  4. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    Hi Hilljunkie,
    I have been asking a lot of bike shop folk about minimal tire width for touring. 28 cm seems to be the minimal width that they recommend. It is when I start talking about using more narrow tires that the experts get concerned. 28 cm seems to be minimum recommended width. If you go with less than 28, I think you have to be extra sure to keep your tires fully inflated to avoid the pinch flats. I got very few flats when I toured, in the distant past, on 27 x 1 1/8 inch tires, which equals 28.5 mm wide.

    Also, I remember my rack slipping down when clamped to the seat stays, no matter how tight, so I am wondering if your rack might slip down the seat post? Maybe mount a rack to the break bolt, but I would definitely ask an experienced pro about that.
     
  5. hilljunkie

    hilljunkie New Member

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    Lugger thanks for the tips. I'm glad i'm hearing this now rather than finding out when i'm out on the road. This will be my first time touring on a road bike and I'm hoping everything holds up without problems.
     
  6. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    Here are some answers I found to my questions. I thought I would share them.

    For rims, Mavic Open Pro is unanimously recommended for narrow wheel touring by everyone I ask in bike shops. They can take tires from 19-28 mm, allowing experiments with different tire widths. They say the rims should have holes for 36, not 32, spokes.

    The brand of spokes should be DT. That is the consensus. They should be the straight, not butted, spokes and laced 3x.

    Hubs depend on rear dropout spacing. For 130mm dropouts, Shimano 105 hubs are said to be fine. For 135 mm spacing, Deore or LX hubs are good.

    Wheels like these are hard to find pre made, but Quality Wheelhouse makes the rear wheels with 105 hubs. I got one from aebike.com for a good price. It seems front wheels have to be custom made because pre made fronts all have 32 spokes. Maybe that is ok for riding without front panniers, but I understand 36 spokes are much stronger than 32.

    For tires, Continental Gator Skins, 23-28 cm, are said to be very resistant to puncture flats, but I am not sure about pinch flats. They say Specialized Armadillo are good too, but the Gator Skins are said to provide a more comfortable ride. The most narrow I found is 23 cm in both brands.

    I hope that is helpful to anyone who, like me, wants that feeling of skimming over the road, even when touring. When I get to serious training, I will put a lot of extra weight on my thin wheels, bring spare tires, tubes, patch kit, pump and tools and ride on rough roads and see how it goes before heading far from home or car.
     
  7. Don Shipp

    Don Shipp New Member

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    Tourists used to use 27" by one-and-a-quarter. That would be 700c by 32.
    The rolling resistance depends not only on the contact area of the tyre and the ground, but also the shape of that area; the thinner the tyre, the more oval the shape. A 700 by 32 will give a round contact point, which is supposed to give the lowest rolling resistance. This does of course depend on the pressure in the tyre, but with a touring load you would need a very high pressure indeed to give a round contact area with a narrow tyre, which might lead to all day discomfort on anything other than the smoothest roads.
    Wider tyres are more robust and give greater protection to the rims, why are you so against them?
     
  8. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    Hi Don,
    Yes, there is a tire called Rolly-Polly, I think, made by Rivendell, that they say has very low rolling resistance and a wide touring width. Maybe, as you suggest, something like that is best. You make a lot of sense saying the round contact point and wide tire would be more comfortable, reliable, protecting and more efficient than a thin oval contact point.
    But here is the but. Since I started riding on 20c tires, I feel like I am skimming over the surface of the road a lot more. I felt similar exhilaration when I switched from 1 1/4 tires to 1 1/8 when I was a kid in the late 1970s. Back then, people thought I was crazy to tour on such thin tires, but it was fine. A fully loaded bike with thin tires felt lighter, in a way, than an unloaded bike with wide tires. I did not mind the rough ride at all, maybe because I was young. I just held on either very tightly or very loosely on rough roads. Skimming over the road day after day with thin tires on a heavily loaded bike was one of the reasons I liked touring so much. It is one of the reasons I want to tour again. Now that there are even thinner clinchers, I want to try them. Have you ever tried?
     
  9. Don Shipp

    Don Shipp New Member

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    Never gone less than 1". Perhaps I should try it.
    Go to "difference in grip" thread and follow the link given by pp.
     
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