How "off-road" can you safely take a road bike?



babybunny

New Member
Oct 5, 2004
151
0
0
This question has been plaguing me recently. Ever since I got my road bike I've been trying to stay on pavement as much as I can. I don't even ride on grass because I'm scared for my thin little tires that are so fragile-looking compared to the mountain bike tires that I'm used to using.

Where should I draw the line with terrain that I should avoid on a road bike? A LBS guy once told me that he's gone down stairs on a road bike and it was perfectly fine!
 

ItsikH

New Member
Sep 24, 2004
178
0
16
58
babybunny said:
This question has been plaguing me recently. Ever since I got my road bike I've been trying to stay on pavement as much as I can. I don't even ride on grass because I'm scared for my thin little tires that are so fragile-looking compared to the mountain bike tires that I'm used to using.

Where should I draw the line with terrain that I should avoid on a road bike? A LBS guy once told me that he's gone down stairs on a road bike and it was perfectly fine!
In spain, I have cycled on roads which were only about half-paved on the average. On my first day there, between Yunquera and El Burgo, the road was totally gone for about 10km, just a dirt road. All that time I was riding with a rack and panniers and quite a heavy load for road bikes...
 

babybunny

New Member
Oct 5, 2004
151
0
0
fixit said:
Yeah right. :rolleyes:
Ok, so stairs are a no-no then. But unpaved roads are fine? What about moderate trail use, like over some tree roots or something?
 

adamallstar

New Member
Jun 13, 2004
22
0
0
41
babybunny said:
Ok, so stairs are a no-no then. But unpaved roads are fine? What about moderate trail use, like over some tree roots or something?

i doubt your wheels could take a beating like that for very long. I've ridden on dir t trails before without problems, but if you're gonna be hitting roots and big drops you might want to look into heavier tires or maybe even a cyclocross frame. Then again your bike might be ok, but i'd imagine you'd loose your balance more often on thin tires.
 

sparknote_s

New Member
Jun 13, 2004
167
2
0
I dunno, the people I ride with hop over railroad tracks, ride down curbs, and one guy even rode up the side of a driveway entrance and used it like a ramp...

I however try to avoid bumps. I even shift my weight when going over road bumps.
 

keydates

New Member
Mar 9, 2004
882
0
0
I wouldn't recommend going over tree roots, boulders, etc, at least not on a regular basis. As for unpaved/gravel roads, limestone paths, etc, the bike can probably take it...you may not. It depends on your handlings skills, which I have found (for myself) aren't exactly as good as I would like.
 

Ottis

New Member
Aug 19, 2004
100
0
0
33
it all depends on the bike! i have this ~15 year old bike and give it too much abuse. i.e. riding in woods, unpaved surfaces rails etc... It holds like a new born baby :p as soon as it breaks i am buying a new one...
 

neednoexcuse

Member
Jun 2, 2016
165
24
18
31
I really love the off road cycling. I am one of the guys who love challenges. Most people simply like to ride the bike on a plain road, but in my opinion, the off-road cycling is much more interesting than the simple road by. I don't take the bike too far but off-road makes me more interesting.
 

SirJoe

Well-Known Member
Mar 8, 2016
232
54
28
47
Road bikes are more robust then what they look, but they aren't off road bikes. It doesn't mean that they will brake if you ride on grass or on a little dirt, but I would avoid large stones and roots. The distance between the tire and the rim isn't that big.
 
Apr 26, 2016
43
20
8
72
northern Wisconsin
I do a lot of off pavement riding with a wide variety of bikes, including road bikes with typical 700x25 tires.

It is important to understand that even though there are many types of pavement, there are many, many more types of surfaces you'll encounter when you go off pavement. Things get more complicated when you leave pavement.

In general, though, it's mostly about surface hardness. Road bikes do just fine on firm, hard dirt without a lot of ruts and without too many obstacles such as roots, rocks and such. Have ridden my road bikes on many an unpaved bike path with firm, very fine gravel, too. If you have such trails in your area, well worth exploring. Have even managed typical gravel roads with larger sized gravel as long as the gravel wasn't too deep and soft or the road badly rutted.

When surfaces get soft/mushy/loose or deeply rutted or less than smooth, things get tricky for a road bike with typical 700x25 tires. Still sometimes (key word, sometimes) doable for an experienced rider, but sometimes even an experienced rider will have to throw in the towel and walk in order to be safe. (By the way, loose sand and gravel and cracks or ruts are also dangerous on pavement, so keep that in mind when riding a road bike.)

It won't take you long to know you have the wrong bike when you try some offload surfaces with your road bike. You'll loose traction, fishtail and overall find the bike very hard to control and ride, safely. That's when you need a different kind of bike.
 
Last edited:

sharkantropo

Active Member
Apr 11, 2016
305
40
18
31
Thin tires are not up for the rough road punishment, in comparison to fat tires. I will assume were you live, the roads are generally well paved, so I guess is unlikely you will find a neglected road with craters instead of holes and rough dirt instead of asphalt. Uphill road can put both you and the bike into a strain, so you can consider that too. Avoid steep rocky roads and drive over puddles of mud.
 

Steve5

Active Member
Feb 3, 2018
305
32
18
52
I just avoid rough terrain as much as possible. I don't want my bike to get injured or damaged over time. It's just not meant for that. Best to stay on the right path.
 

DenisP

Member
Apr 13, 2018
147
18
18
30
Call me a bit of a softie, but when it comes to road bikes, I would honestly avoid riding over someone's well-trimmed lawn, let alone terrain any rougher than that. It's going to vary depending on your tire size and traction, but in my experience, every road bike I had road terribly on anything other than perfectly smooth asphalt.

Sometimes even transitioning to sidewalks is difficult, especially when people have pathways with those smooth pebbles in them. Between poor suspension and tire traction/surface area, road bikes simply aren't made for anything but the road, in my opinion.
 

cyclintom

Well-Known Member
Jan 15, 2011
1,274
194
48
Yeah right.
:rolleyes:
You can always tell the full suspension guys, they're afraid to ride off a curb or over bridge gratings. And yeah, I've ridden down stairs on the streets.

As for riding off-road: get some good endurance tires such as Continental Gatorskins and just about your only limitations on 23 mm tires is deep gravel or mud and steep, slippery downhills. A cyclocross bike with 32 mm knobbies will go just about anywhere.
 

Henrywrites

Member
Feb 12, 2018
328
18
18
30
All you need to do is to get comfortable with your bike. This is the same way that I used to behave as well back in those days until I got comfortable.
 

Henrywrites

Member
Feb 12, 2018
328
18
18
30
I just avoid rough terrain as much as possible. I don't want my bike to get injured or damaged over time. It's just not meant for that. Best to stay on the right path.

Avoiding the rough roads is the best especially when you are riding with a simple tyre that is not that strong. You've got to understand how everyhever with your bike to be able to enjoy your ride.
 

Steve5

Active Member
Feb 3, 2018
305
32
18
52
Avoiding the rough roads is the best especially when you are riding with a simple tyre that is not that strong. You've got to understand how everyhever with your bike to be able to enjoy your ride.

That's true. Some people just go anywhere they want. They don't think about the damage it does to their bikes. As a result, their gears don't last very long.
 

Pilot321

New Member
Jul 6, 2018
2
0
1
63
My Cannondale Road Bike has 700x25c tires, and my personal limit is to gingerly ride over a few feet to maybe 20 feet of short grass from one stretch of pavement to another, but that is rare.
 

Similar threads