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Washboarded road makes climbing a lot harder

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Washboarded road makes climbing a lot harder

Old 05-23-22, 08:27 PM
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koala logs
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Washboarded road makes climbing a lot harder

On a freshly repaired rolled gravel, I climb up to 5 mph faster than exactly the same section that has become washboarded after many weeks. If I try to maintain the same speed on the washboarded surface, I feel my legs get sore badly.

5 mph is a huge difference in speed. Does anyone feel the same way about climbing washboarded sections? Is this something that can be solved, making me less slower on washboarded climbs by either using wider tires or full suspension?
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Old 05-24-22, 06:33 AM
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sure, lower pressure (with wider tires), and even suspension can help.

Are you in the saddle our out?

Personally, I'm usually happy with a good suspension seat post, as it allows the bike to absorb the bumps while keeping my torso on an even keel. but of course, it depends how bad things are. that up/down motion of the wheel, bike, rider takes a lot of energy, and anything you can do to isolate the frame/rider from that can be huge.

What tires and PSI are you using?
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Old 05-24-22, 09:29 AM
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An actual hill climb gets washboarded? If that is what you are describing, I will need to go think about this on my next rides to see if its a thing that I just havent noticed before. I dont think many gravel road inclines around me get washboarded.
I thought washboarding in part forms due to tire speed, so going up a hill wont be as likely to form washboard ripples as the flat area after a descent, for example. I know how the road is graded and moisture play a part too, but that is science beyond what I have learned.

I would for sure get tired climbing washboarded roads at the same speed and power effort as smooth roads. And the jiggling from the road ripples would be uncomfortable.
Maybe come off the saddle and use your arms and legs as suspension? That improves comfort for me when I hit washboard sections.
How is your tire pressure? Something that is low but still at a safe and effective level will help reduce the jiggle a bit.
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Old 05-24-22, 10:35 AM
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Yeah, I associate washboarding with acceleration, vehicle wheel hop while slightly losing traction (and to a lesser degree braking). Around here, I usually see it in transitions between asphalt and pavement, or around stop signs.

koala logs - my best bet is to use 50+mm tires at ~25psi (700c), and those are going to roll over stuff well. alternatively a redshift stem and/or thudbuster seat post (or similar) can keep your body stable while your bike jumps around beneath you. Either that, or get out of the saddle, and let your knees and arms isolate your torso from the up and down motion. The hard core solution is to get a full sus bike. ;-)
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Old 05-24-22, 05:20 PM
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If you start to spin out on the washboard sections, then oval chainrings smooth out torque somewhat. I ride the extreme shoulder sometimes, and even in the edge of the grass to avoid the washboard.
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Old 05-24-22, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
sure, lower pressure (with wider tires), and even suspension can help.

Are you in the saddle our out?

Personally, I'm usually happy with a good suspension seat post, as it allows the bike to absorb the bumps while keeping my torso on an even keel. but of course, it depends how bad things are. that up/down motion of the wheel, bike, rider takes a lot of energy, and anything you can do to isolate the frame/rider from that can be huge.

What tires and PSI are you using?
In the saddle, the vast majority of the time but even out of the saddle makes no difference. I also have seat post suspension, the Suntour one with damper and travel limiter. The seat post suspension does its job perfectly in comfort and keeps me from bouncing around. My main issue is feeling the bumps on my feet. Makes it feel harder to pedal.

I have 35mm tires inflated to 35 front / 45 back psi. No issues whatsoever on the front end. Arms totally fine, it's my feet and pedaling that suffers on washboard sections.
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Old 05-24-22, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Yeah, I associate washboarding with acceleration, vehicle wheel hop while slightly losing traction (and to a lesser degree braking). Around here, I usually see it in transitions between asphalt and pavement, or around stop signs.

koala logs - my best bet is to use 50+mm tires at ~25psi (700c), and those are going to roll over stuff well. alternatively a redshift stem and/or thudbuster seat post (or similar) can keep your body stable while your bike jumps around beneath you. Either that, or get out of the saddle, and let your knees and arms isolate your torso from the up and down motion. The hard core solution is to get a full sus bike. ;-)
My bike currently doesn't fit 50mm tires it can only fit up to 38mm x 700c with full fenders. I'd probably be getting a new bike eventually. Perhaps push it all the way to 2.4" x 29er tire clearance?? I seem to spend more time riding on bumpy gravel and when it's freshly repaired, the gravel rocks used tend to be large pieces until it's broken up by cars and trucks. It's a rough ride with the large pieces of gravel but not as bumpy after a few weeks and rain.
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Old 05-24-22, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
An actual hill climb gets washboarded? If that is what you are describing, I will need to go think about this on my next rides to see if its a thing that I just havent noticed before. I dont think many gravel road inclines around me get washboarded.
I thought washboarding in part forms due to tire speed, so going up a hill wont be as likely to form washboard ripples as the flat area after a descent, for example. I know how the road is graded and moisture play a part too, but that is science beyond what I have learned.

I would for sure get tired climbing washboarded roads at the same speed and power effort as smooth roads. And the jiggling from the road ripples would be uncomfortable.
Maybe come off the saddle and use your arms and legs as suspension? That improves comfort for me when I hit washboard sections.
How is your tire pressure? Something that is low but still at a safe and effective level will help reduce the jiggle a bit.
Yes, we would expect only the downhill side should be washboarded. It's braking that causes washboard. But the gravel roads I ride on are fairly narrow, barely wide enough for two vehicles so cars and trucks tend to ride on the middle of the road and makes both downhill and uphill sides washboarded after few weeks, even sooner during the long rainy season.

I actually don't mind keeping pedaling those bumps sat down. I have seat suspension, and the bumps on my arms don't really bother me. It's the shock on my feet that bothers me when pushing hard on climbs. Even if I stand, it feels the same. I have no issues losing traction. It's the bumps under my feet makes it feel much harder and I lose rhythm.
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Old 05-25-22, 05:54 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
In the saddle, the vast majority of the time but even out of the saddle makes no difference. I also have seat post suspension, the Suntour one with damper and travel limiter. The seat post suspension does its job perfectly in comfort and keeps me from bouncing around. My main issue is feeling the bumps on my feet. Makes it feel harder to pedal.

I have 35mm tires inflated to 35 front / 45 back psi. No issues whatsoever on the front end. Arms totally fine, it's my feet and pedaling that suffers on washboard sections.
If you are not bottoming out, you could go lower in PSI, but that is a good spot for a 35mm tire (lower gets squishy and vague).


A mountain bike would be a good bet. 50mm tires at 25-30psi would work well. No real downside to mega tire clearance, but if I'm going bigger than 50mm I'm on a mountain bike (- although who needs to bikes? ;-)
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Old 05-25-22, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
A mountain bike would be a good bet. 50mm tires at 25-30psi would work well. No real downside to mega tire clearance, but if I'm going bigger than 50mm I'm on a mountain bike (- although who needs to bikes? ;-)
You're right! Might go with 650b or 27.5" wheel with >2" tires. I'm medium size and 29'er gravel bike with 2.4" wheel would look ridiculously big for me unless it's a MTB.
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Old 05-25-22, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
You're right! Might go with 650b or 27.5" wheel with >2" tires. I'm medium size and 29'er gravel bike with 2.4" wheel would look ridiculously big for me unless it's a MTB.
Keep in mind, that for this type of riding, the roll over and approach angle (based on tire diameter) are going to be better with a 700c vs a 650b.
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Old 05-25-22, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Keep in mind, that for this type of riding, the roll over and approach angle (based on tire diameter) are going to be better with a 700c vs a 650b.
Looks wise, it's just too big! But I'll make an exception if such wide tire clearance bike exist with low BB frame so I can still ride low even with those huge wheels. I don't do any technical riding and washboards are about the worst things I deal with.
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Old 05-25-22, 08:18 PM
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Most badly washboard roads have a strip at the very edge that is cleaner. Best way to ride washboards is the avoid them if at all possible.
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Old 05-26-22, 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Keep in mind, that for this type of riding, the roll over and approach angle (based on tire diameter) are going to be better with a 700c vs a 650b.
If the 650B wheel has a fatter tire and is then approximately the same diameter as the 700c with a skinnier tire, wouldn't the angle you're talking about be the same? But the cushioning of the fat 650B tire would be better? The fatter tire is the point of going 650B.
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Old 05-26-22, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
If the 650B wheel has a fatter tire and is then approximately the same diameter as the 700c with a skinnier tire, wouldn't the angle you're talking about be the same? But the cushioning of the fat 650B tire would be better? The fatter tire is the point of going 650B.
Correct, given your assumptions.

but if OP is considering buying a new bike that can take 700x60mm tires (as stated above), 650b isn't gonna be needed. If you already have a bike that maxes out at 700x40, and can fit 650x50, your assumptions work fine. FYI, There are a lot of bikes that can't go fatter with 650b tires (i.e. ones with parallel chainstays behind the BB).

I kinda like that monster cross look. I saw a steel framed gravel bike with that size tires on it for sale, and it looked amazing. But that is just me.
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Old 05-26-22, 04:26 PM
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I would just ride the route in reverse.
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Old 05-26-22, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
I kinda like that monster cross look. I saw a steel framed gravel bike with that size tires on it for sale, and it looked amazing. But that is just me.
And I'm the opposite! I think I'm going to look for gravel models with 650b wheels already on them. I was thinking the same as Camilo wide tires on 650b is going to be as wide as skinner tires on 700c.

I plan on 2.4" tires (would definitely look too big on 700c, for me anyway). I can only have one bike due to tight space and budget constraints. I plan on using the bike to ride over loose gravel as well so a little more float with fat tires would be nice. At present, I avoid those routes because I'd be struggling with my bike on those loose surfaces on 35mm tires.
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Old 05-26-22, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by franswa View Post
I would just ride the route in reverse.
That would work if it's one-way gravel but my route is two way gravel and narrow. Vehicles tend to occupy both the left and right lane (in the middle or whichever side they want) if they see no one else on the road so they washboard both the uphill and downhill side.
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Old 05-27-22, 06:41 AM
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I've found this to be true also. I've got a ~30 minute climb near my house on gravel, and I've compared my power output vs similar paved climbs and its always ~20-30 watts lower, I'm thinking its due to being bumped around a bit.

I've found that the best way to climb on gravel is to use a bit of a lower cadence and bit higher gear than I would normally use. For some reason it seems to make the bumps feel less bumpy.
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Old 05-28-22, 07:00 AM
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Nothing at all wrong with 650b, they are just going to have a little smaller rolling diameter than the same width in 700c.

I find some 650b tires to be surprisingly slower than their 700c counterparts for some reason. Well, I can hear it if its slow (I'm thinking of you GK SK 650b).

I have tons of clearance on my front fork, so for those conditions I use a 700x50mm (or larger) at 25psi, and its like having a front suspension on the bike. Works great when racing when I can't pick my line or speed like I can solo.
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Old 06-02-22, 10:03 PM
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I live on a gravel road and 90% of my riding is on gravel. Climbing on washboards is indeed a lot harder.
I have to disagree with some of the replies. The road I live on is part of the Great Divide Mountain bike route and is on the section south of Helena immediately prior to the infamous Lava Mountain portion and a part of the route regarded as one of the tougher sections of the 2700 mile ride. The washboarding gets pretty bad, especially late in the summer, due to the vehicle traffic going up to an alpine lake campground. The worst washboarding is on the steeper inclines, worst on the right side of the road, where the trucks climb and less so on the left side where vehicles descend. The washboarding gets bad enough that on my pickup truck the rear window shook loose from the camper top last year - and I was crawling along. The flat sections are not as washboarded on this road. Whoever stated that washboards do not occur on inclines is just wrong. . I have also ridden on washboarded flat sections on some other gravel roads, however.

I just try to find the best line, get in a low gear and gut it out, but riding washboards is definitely not the best biking experience.
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Old 06-05-22, 02:13 PM
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I'm pretty sure that braking is the primary reason why washboarding develops. There is a corner on one gravel hill near here that is badly washboarded. It's more of a problem descending. I have never even noticed it going uphill There is another road that is washboarded for quite a ways. Again, it's more of a problem downhill. Maybe I'm going slow enough on the uphill that it doesn't/can't slow me down
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