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If your tour was roads and off-road/wilderness...

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If your tour was roads and off-road/wilderness...

Old 05-14-19, 07:44 PM
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KC8QVO
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If your tour was roads and off-road/wilderness...

What would be your tire selection? I am most interested in size/width, but if you have a specific model/tread in mind that would be good to hear also.

The way I see it is the wider the tire, within reason, the better it is off-road. In general terms, on-road is the opposite - smaller is better.

I ride 38mm 700c tires now on roads - and they are OK. Before, I ran 42mm's for a couple years and prefer that size for the kind of riding I do (and am going back to them).

By off-road I envision a mix of dirt and rock, forest roads, and some mud when its wet.

Is a tire in the 2" width range sufficient? Can pressure be regulated to accommodate for the difference in surface well enough?

This is just theory for now to wrap my mind around the subject. I have wanted to build up a Surly ECR - with the thought of multiple wheel sets for all-year-round riding. I didn't really consider the scenario of needing to multi-purpose one wheel/tire set before, though, so that is the reason for the question.
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Old 05-15-19, 07:48 AM
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Single track in the question? Just built up a Krampus with 40 mm rims and running 3" Maxxis chronicles. A sort of low profile knobby tire. Works well for mixed terrain. For me, 2.5 to 3" is ideal for bikepacking. I'm 235 lbs, plus bike and gear. Ever ridden washboard or loose railroad ballast for hours? Potholed " paved" roads? I'd rather have some cush for my back and traction than walk. There are a whole host of tires in the29 x 2.6, 2.8 and 3.0 that roll well. I have a 29 x2.6 rekon on the back of my Karate monkey.
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Old 05-15-19, 08:04 AM
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My Koga WTR Came with continental travel contact, the tire made for that mix , road to its end, and beyond..
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Old 05-15-19, 08:20 AM
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Krampus would also be my choice ...
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Old 05-15-19, 08:27 AM
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When I had my Troll, I like Surly Extra Terrestrials. Solid off road, surprisingly good rolling on pavement. Some people have complained that they wear down quickly on pavement, but that was not my experience.
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Old 05-15-19, 08:43 AM
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I think you are asking about what tire to use. When I do mixed touring (pavement & gravel/dirt forest service roads but not technical single track), I use something like a 38mm Schwalbe Marathon Mondial (or whatever is this version currently). This is for a 70/30 pavement/off-pavement ratio. The more it leans toward off-pavement, the wider I would get. A 2+" tire on pavement is, to me, very sluggish, so I don't prefer that. If you want something for more technical riding, I don't have any recommendations. However, if I wouldn't go less than 35mm regardless of terrain.

This is what a lot of around the world cyclists use but again, this based on actual gravel roads, not trails in the Andes.

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Old 05-15-19, 09:55 AM
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I think it depends in part on how much weight you plan to carry and how you really define off road. Also, do you plan to have fenders on the bike or not, as fenders can cut down on tire size with some frames. And once you decide on a range of tires, you might want to size your rim width for that range.

I do not have a mountain bike, my expedition bike also doubles as my mountain bike, I can fit it with a 100mm suspension fork instead of the stock solid fork. For mountain biking (unladen) I have used 57mm tires, they were the biggest I could put on the bike and they worked fine when I rode the White Rim trail on a supported trip where a 4X4 truck hauled our gear, food and water for four days.

On that bike I have also loaded it up with weeks worth of food and carried much greater weight than the typical touring bike will ever carry, for that I also used 57mm wide tires, they were adequate.

In the photo I do not have fenders on the bike, I could not fit fenders into my S&S case for that trip. The tires are older (now discontinued) Schwalbe Marathon Extremes in 57mm width, it was a good compromise tire as it rolled well on pavement but was adequate on difficult terrain. But on steep uphills in really rough gravel and cobbles I often broke traction from the torque at the back wheel, perhaps a pure mountain bike tread would have had better grip. But the pure mountain bike tire would not have worked as well on the paved portions of that trip. Thus it becomes an issue of where you want to compromise.



If you are building up the bike, think about size of tires now so you can size your rims properly. But brands and models of tires change, you can pick the specific tire you want later.
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Old 05-15-19, 11:03 AM
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From my time on the Tour Divide, I ran WTB 2.1" Nano's the first year. The second and third years I went with Vitoria Mezcals and have never looked back. Great rolling resistance and they gripped like crazy when I needed it such as coming down off of Koko Claims in B.C.
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Old 05-16-19, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
(now discontinued) Schwalbe Marathon Extremes in 57mm width, it was a good compromise tire as it rolled well on pavement but was adequate on difficult terrain. But on steep uphills in really rough gravel and cobbles I often broke traction from the torque at the back wheel, perhaps a pure mountain bike tread would have had better grip. But the pure mountain bike tire would not have worked as well on the paved portions of that trip. Thus it becomes an issue of where you want to compromise. If you are building up the bike, think about size of tires now so you can size your rims properly. But brands and models of tires change, you can pick the specific tire you want later.
I think the new Marathon GT 365 tires are akin to the old Extremes. I just sold a bike that had the GT 365's on, and the new owner called me, gushing about how nice they were for on/off road. I may build up an Ogre shod with these.
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Old 05-16-19, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by NoControl View Post
I think the new Marathon GT 365 tires are akin to the old Extremes. I just sold a bike that had the GT 365's on, and the new owner called me, gushing about how nice they were for on/off road. I may build up an Ogre shod with these.
Could be, tread pattern looks similar. The Extremes I have have a folding bead, if I recall correctly at that era the folding bead Schwalbe Marathon series of tires rolled much better than the wire bead ones.

I commented that it was a good compromise tire, there is more rubber on the road than you get with a typical mountain bike tire so they roll pretty well but with the big blocks they are quite noisy on pavement. But the larger blocks with smaller grooves between the blocks results in a tire that does not grip on rough terrain as well as a mountain bike tire might. Those same tires are going on my next tour, roughly a third of it is planned to be on gravel trail, two thirds on pavement.

I added a better photo of the tread.

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Old 05-16-19, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
What would be your tire selection? I am most interested in size/width, but if you have a specific model/tread in mind that would be good to hear also.

The way I see it is the wider the tire, within reason, the better it is off-road. In general terms, on-road is the opposite - smaller is better.

I ride 38mm 700c tires now on roads - and they are OK. Before, I ran 42mm's for a couple years and prefer that size for the kind of riding I do (and am going back to them).

By off-road I envision a mix of dirt and rock, forest roads, and some mud when its wet.

Is a tire in the 2" width range sufficient? Can pressure be regulated to accommodate for the difference in surface well enough?

This is just theory for now to wrap my mind around the subject. I have wanted to build up a Surly ECR - with the thought of multiple wheel sets for all-year-round riding. I didn't really consider the scenario of needing to multi-purpose one wheel/tire set before, though, so that is the reason for the question.
The fact that a 2.125 was sufficient for mountain biking for about most of the last 40 years should tell you something. Honestly, a 2" tire should handle the job as long as the tread is capable. A 2" slick tire on "dirt and rock, forest road, and some mud when it's wet" is a recipe for getting intimate with the ground. That usually doesn't end well. Get a tire that will handle the off-road part rather then one that is optimized for the road part. A knobbed tire will work well enough on pavement, although it will be slower. On the other hand, nothing impacts your average speed like hitting the ground.

I've been using Maxxis Ardent Race tires on my bikepacking bike for about a year now and find them to work quite well. They are a bit faster on pavement...think of it as extreme "hardpack"...than some other tires I've used in the past. They also seem to wear quite well. They also handle all the things you are looking at quite well.

I have a set of Schwalbe Racing Ralphs that I obtained recently on another mountain bike and they seem to roll nice and fast as well. I'm not sure how they will wear and I'm not as pleased with their handling as a more aggressive Dart/Smoke tire set that I've used for a very long time but they do roll a lot better than the Dart/Smoke tires.

A 2" tire can be pumped to 60 to 70 psi which makes them roll well on hard surfaces.
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Old 05-16-19, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
On the other hand, nothing impacts your average speed like hitting the ground.
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Old 05-16-19, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by revcp View Post
When I had my Troll, I like Surly Extra Terrestrials. Solid off road, surprisingly good rolling on pavement. Some people have complained that they wear down quickly on pavement, but that was not my experience.
Yeah, I vote for ETs too. But I was one of the people that had one wear out on me quickly and that was mostly on gravel!. It's a QC issue. Some tires don't have enough tread compound rubber, so the tread blocks are like a soft centered chocolate. As soon as the hard rubber wears away from the top of the tread, you're left with a very soft center that visibly wears each day, surrounded by a thin rim of hard rubber. I had a look under a microscope.. Surly refunded me and sent me a new tire(and some swag).

They are still probably the most versatile tire I've used, so I'd say get 'em, but if one starts wearing out real quick, immediately notify Surly for a replacement. It'll be pretty obvious if it's faulty, hold the tread up obliquely to a light source, you'll be able to see a slightly prominent thin rim of rubber around a tread block with a coarser texture.



You really can see the rim of harder rubber. Under the microscope the center is a porous rubber with large silica crystals.
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Old 05-16-19, 04:23 PM
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Incidentally, on any tire that has a directional tread, like the Mondial, ET etc etc, I always reverse the front tire direction so the point of the arrow is pointing forwards on the ground. It improves braking a heap when on gravel. Instead of the tread pulling gravel under the middle of the tire like it does with the aesthetically pleasing arrows pointing forwards on the top of the tire, with the tire reversed the tread now tends to clear gravel away from under the tire under braking giving a much more stable feeling. I guess there is a small risk of the tire maybe disintegrating because the lay of the casing is the wrong way, but it hasn't happened to me yet , though thinking about it, reversing the tire duplicates the same force you input to the rear wheel when pedaling, so go figure.
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Old 05-16-19, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Trevtassie View Post
Incidentally, on any tire that has a directional tread, like the Mondial, ET etc etc, I always reverse the front tire direction so the point of the arrow is pointing forwards on the ground. It improves braking a heap when on gravel. Instead of the tread pulling gravel under the middle of the tire like it does with the aesthetically pleasing arrows pointing forwards on the top of the tire, with the tire reversed the tread now tends to clear gravel away from under the tire under braking giving a much more stable feeling. I guess there is a small risk of the tire maybe disintegrating because the lay of the casing is the wrong way, but it hasn't happened to me yet , though thinking about it, reversing the tire duplicates the same force you input to the rear wheel when pedaling, so go figure.
I have a set of Hutchinson mountain bike tires that are labeled with two rotation arrows, the front and rear arrows match what you propose. So at least for that tire, the casing was designed for both directions.
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Old 05-16-19, 05:43 PM
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I'd say for mixed pavement and off-road where it's about 50/50 of each, I'd get a ~2-2.5" tire that's geared toward mountain biking speed. The ones that come to mind immediately because I've had very good experience with them are the Vittoria Peyote or the Continental Race King. The race king will wear a littler better, the Peyote will be a little faster and lighter. I'd think the Mezcal Bakerjw mentioned would be great too. Basically you just want to have some knobs for the off-road stuff, but the fastest tires you can, due to the pavement. You Don't need an aggressive MTB tire. Those are for "real" MTBing, not slow riding along on some fairly tame singletrack. The light tread, "xc" style tires will be plenty of tread for touring, bike packing, etc.
Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
The tires are older (now discontinued) Schwalbe Marathon Extremes in 57mm width, it was a good compromise tire as it rolled well on pavement but was adequate on difficult terrain. But on steep uphills in really rough gravel and cobbles I often broke traction from the torque at the back wheel, perhaps a pure mountain bike tread would have had better grip.
Having some mountain biking experience, I will say you likely would have broken traction anyway. There's only so much a tire can do on loose terrain up a steep hill. Add the weight of the touring bike and it's even worse. The tire can grip the loose gravel, etc, but if you're putting down a lot of torque and there's a lot of weight resisting going up that hill, that gravel is gonna slide on the gravel underneath it. No tire can keep the gravel in place. Stupid gravity and physics...
Originally Posted by bakerjw View Post
From my time on the Tour Divide, I ran WTB 2.1" Nano's the first year. The second and third years I went with Vitoria Mezcals and have never looked back. Great rolling resistance and they gripped like crazy when I needed it such as coming down off of Koko Claims in B.C.
I ran some Vittoria Peyote in 2.1" on my last tour that was a mix of gravel and road. Some very steep climbing on very large gravel. Those tires are awesome. I don't think you'd find much faster for the road section, but they still get the job done for off-road traction. The Mezcal is along the same lines, but with a little more tread and a center ridge in the middle that should help road rolling resistance. I plan on maybe doing some of the divide next year. Thanks for the tire recommendation.
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Old 05-17-19, 10:01 AM
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Your comment below was in regard to my comment on breaking traction with the Schwalbe Extreme (now discontinued) 57mm tires and I suspected a mountain bike tire might not have broken traction some of the times where mine did.

Originally Posted by 3speed View Post
....
Having some mountain biking experience, I will say you likely would have broken traction anyway. There's only so much a tire can do on loose terrain up a steep hill. Add the weight of the touring bike and it's even worse. The tire can grip the loose gravel, etc, but if you're putting down a lot of torque and there's a lot of weight resisting going up that hill, that gravel is gonna slide on the gravel underneath it. No tire can keep the gravel in place. Stupid gravity and physics...
....
In general terms I would agree. But one day in the middle of the Iceland interior I frequently broke traction on hills that were about 8 to 10 percent grade with very poorly maintained gravel. That day I was riding with an Italian that had mountain bike tires on his bike, he often could keep pedaling up the hill without losing traction.

I had a heavier load, at that time I think I had two weeks of food on my bike, I think he was down to maybe 5 days of food on his bike.

My bike on that trip is shown above in post 7, his bike in the photo below. I dug into the original photos to look more at his tires, he had GearX Mezcal 54mm wide tires.

That day was the day when I decided that my Extemes were not that great of a mountain bike tire. They seemed to be adequate, but his definitely had better grip.

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Old 05-17-19, 04:46 PM
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Ah. Well perhaps the Marathon was just not a great tire, then. I'm not surprised his Mezcals did well, though. They're the same as the Vittoria Mezcal we were discussing above. I guess I'll put this down as another vote for using the Mezcal for off-road tours.
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Old 05-17-19, 05:27 PM
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For what it is worth...

I am thinking of a tour riding out from home base to an off road route - like the continental divide. Maybe if it is that "segmented" (like 1000 miles mostly paved then the "trail" then another round of mostly paved) that may lend itself to a tire change at each segment.
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Old 05-17-19, 05:35 PM
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I wish they still made Avocet Cross tires. I did 1500 miles on road and dirt (~200 miles), fully loaded for five weeks. Not a single issue. I think they were 1.9's.

(And now I see that when I search for them, the second hit is a thread here asking "What the heck ever happened to Avocet Cross tires?" - !
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Old 05-18-19, 04:53 AM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
Maybe if it is that "segmented" (like 1000 miles mostly paved then the "trail" then another round of mostly paved) that may lend itself to a tire change at each segment.
I have wondered if it would be worth while to change a tire for something like that. Even just changing out the rear would probably make a noticeable difference. My final thought was that I guess it just depends on how much of a hurry you're in. If you're one to ride straight though, sun-up to sun-down, putting down big miles, it wouldn't be worth the time. If you're just enjoying yourself and in no hurry, it might be worth it to stop and take a 15 minute break and swap out a tire.
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Old 05-18-19, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
For what it is worth...

I am thinking of a tour riding out from home base to an off road route - like the continental divide. Maybe if it is that "segmented" (like 1000 miles mostly paved then the "trail" then another round of mostly paved) that may lend itself to a tire change at each segment.
If you were touring with panniers and had the room to carry them, maybe. But if you are doing off-road bikepacking, you are very limited in terms of extra space. Every cubic inch on my bike is utilized

DSCN1197 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

In fact, I could have used a bit more space to carry more food...grocery stores and convenience stores are few and far between. I even made some micro-panniers to get a bit more food space. Food is far more important when traveling off-grid than getting more a more efficient ride.
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Old 05-22-19, 05:40 AM
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I won't claim to have compared a bunch of tires for this usage, but will say that I was surprised just how well I liked 26x2.1 Kenda Slant Sixes. I am usually inclined to want a racy road tire for on road and wasn't bothered by the fat slant sixes on the road sections of a mixed road/dirt tour. There are other similar choices so something else with light casing, flexible sidewall, and lots of low knobs that would be similar
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Old 05-22-19, 10:29 AM
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Rob_E
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It's not clear to me if you are looking to fit tires to a specific bike? If so, that might be relevant info. Suggesting 26" tires on a 700c bike won't be helpful. Suggesting 2.5" tires on a bike that maxes out at 45mm won't be helpful.

I agree with others that I like the ETs for that kind of riding. I've happily ridden them on pavement and off road, but the tread is pretty mild for any really challenging off-road situation, but that's the compromise you make. Really good off-road tires will be buzzy and slow on pavement, so you make the compromises. But like some others, my ETs didn't last as long as I'd like.

ETs come in a 700 x 40-something, I think. Don't have any experience with those, but they might be worth a look if that's your size. I put some Nano's on my wife's 700c bike before we rode the GAP from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. She thought I was ruining her relatively fast bike by chunking up the tires, but after the trip was done, she would not take them off. Says she's done with the "skinny" 30-something tires they replaced.

I think the idea that wider = slower has been disproven, but wider does equal heavier in most cases, and that can slow you down a bit, but on a loaded touring bike, the weight difference might be negligible. If you have the bike, I'd look at the max width you can fit, and then start looking for an evenly compromised tread pattern in that general area. If you're looking for a bike, I'd start looking at some "plus" style bikepacking or gravel bikes that can comfortably fit the ETs, or can go a little wider or narrower without a problem.
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