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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.

TBI from washboard roads?

Old 07-11-21, 10:48 AM
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TBI from washboard roads?

I just got back from my inaugural ride on my new gravel bike. 20 mile total, with about 4 miles of gravel road. (to be fair, the last 5 miles of "paved" road was probably worse than the gravel as far as surface bumpiness etc. Just got back and I need some extra strength Tylenol, because I swear I could feel my brain bouncing back and forth inside my thick skull! Any one else have this problem?
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Old 07-11-21, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by mgopack42 View Post
..."paved" road was probably worse than the gravel as far as surface bumpiness...
So True!!! I think that's how over the years my 83 ChroMo UNIVEGA has transitioned into what some would call a Gravel Bike... Ha

Ya gotta be selective and, sometimes ya gotta slow down. It helps to set your trail to find the easiest pathway. Often I have seen guys tear off down the torn up paved roads I ride on Mountain Bikes. It would seem a little over kill to use a mountain bike on paved roads but then again allot of people don't know what a back roads pot hole is, paved or not. There have been a few times I am moving along a trail and then, "Oh ****! ...I better walk from here!"

Now days gravel bikes are made to go. Man they are NICE!

Not long ago gravel bikes were built up from retired bicycles and the spare parts ben.
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Old 07-11-21, 11:22 AM
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There are a lot of things you can do to mitigate that, but before everyone chimes in. can you answer a few questions:
- What was your riding background before this?
- What bike are you riding?
- What tire type, width and pressure are you riding?
- Was the road something you could drive a family sedan on or was it more of a MTB trail?
- How fast were your riding on the gravel portion?

There are al lot of things you can do with equipment and riding technique than make all-day rides on gravel quite pleasant but it helps us zero in if we have a bit more background on your starting point.
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Old 07-11-21, 12:03 PM
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Deep washboards are tough to keep any real speed through. I definitely have run into washboards that have forced me to reduce my speed more than rocks and ruts.

If feasible, loosen the heck out of your grip in the bars, so the front end can bounce in control. Think of yourself as suspension.

Other times, you just have to grab two fistfuls of brakes and scrub as much speed as you can to get away from the jackhammer.

Try to find a line that reduces quantity you hit. Usually on the edges but the dirt is softer there, so be ready for that.

Zig zag can help you hit them less square. Guarantee that in the middle of nowhere, as soon as you start zigging, a big white truck will be right behind you.

Practice. I think your brain will be fine.
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Old 07-11-21, 02:01 PM
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The two gravel roads closest to home that I use to get to many more gravel roads each have steep roads with washboard. Climbing and descending on them has become so unpleasant that I now ride longer on paved roads before I get to gravel. I guess it depends where you live and your road conditions, your own bike set up, and Ďyouí. Iíve gotten over the hump of thinking that a gravel bike means I need to ride gnarly gravel just because the bike Ďcaní. I now ride this bike where it makes the most sense for me, even if that means just paved roads on my 42mm tires.

Enjoy your ride!
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Old 07-11-21, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by mgopack42 View Post
Any one else have this problem?
No. Never.

A few tips, some of which have already been mentioned. And apologies, in advance, if you are already doing these things:

--Use the widest tires you can fit in the bike, at the lowest psi that works for you. (i.e., no rim strikes, no burping if you are running tubeless and no snakebites if you are using tubes.)
--Use a light grip on the handlebar, and keep your elbows bent so that they absorb some of the shock before it gets to your upper body.
--In the bumpiest stuff, get your butt slightly off the saddle - it helps to just unweight your saddle just slightly, so that the bike can move up and down under you.

If the above doesn't help, try a shock-absorbing seatpost and stem. There are various options on the market.

Really, though, I suspect you just happened to have a headache today.
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Old 07-11-21, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
There are a lot of things you can do to mitigate that, but before everyone chimes in. can you answer a few questions:
- What was your riding background before this?
- What bike are you riding?
- What tire type, width and pressure are you riding?
- Was the road something you could drive a family sedan on or was it more of a MTB trail?
- How fast were your riding on the gravel portion?

There are al lot of things you can do with equipment and riding technique than make all-day rides on gravel quite pleasant but it helps us zero in if we have a bit more background on your starting point.
OK, I knew more details were needed, I just wanted to get this out there. thanks dwmckee for asking.
1) I am a roadie. been riding on various road bikes for over 45 years. I have done Eroica CA 2 years ago, and planning on another go at it this year, so I haven't been shying away from poorly paved or unpaved roads lately.
2) New, literally first ride, Ridley Kanzo A.


3) Tires: WTB Riddler comp...700C X 45 mm. I put them at 35 PSI before the ride, but they seemed like maybe lower would have been better? I cannot explain it, but they seemed bouncy, kind of like a department store vinyl ball (road to the gravel). I kind of expected more plush. Since no one asked, I am over 200 lbs currently, so not a lightweight by any stretch!
4) Road was a 2 lane wide gravel road. You could drive a sedan on it, but slow would be the operating word. dead level along a irrigation canal here in central CA. you can see it after the bridge in the above photo.
5) Speed: I am never FAST, but I slowed down a lot for the worst wash boards. if i hit them at 10 or 11, I would just slow down... it got so that i was feeling like a turtle!

Last edited by mgopack42; 07-11-21 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 07-11-21, 05:04 PM
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Iím also a roadie. Lately Iíve put a lot more miles on my gravel and mountain bikes but that could change with my moods.

Your bike seems very capable off pavement. The big thing is adventure. Flat and likely super hot farm roads at a low speed sounds terrible. Find some mountains, or something scenic. Ride an organized event. Make plans with friends. I think youíll see appeal.

FWIW, I did a century a couple years back. 40 miles paved and 60 of the tallest most jarring washboards mixed with sand Iíve ever been on. If that was what gravel meant, nobody would do it. Find the fun spots, ride them.
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Old 07-11-21, 05:54 PM
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Looks like you already have big tires aired down. That's the #1 thing that will affect comfort over any kind of chatter, although I don't know if the WTB Riddler is a particularly plush tire.

The other things to consider here are a carbon seatpost (guessing that bike has an an alloy one stock), which will dramatically reduce the buzz going into the saddle, and thus, your body. You also need to make sure the bike fit is good with your saddle positioned / tilted correctly so you don't lean additional weight onto the handlebars that will cause discomfort / fatigue in your hands. Someone already mentioned the "loose" grip as well. One of my favorite positions over really buzzy terrain like washboards, or tractor tracks on dirt roads is a loose(ish) grip around the drop hook that allows the front to bounce some in your hands, but still have total control. That, combined with standing slightly on the pedals (in straight lines) can give you a lot of suspension, without suspension.
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Old 07-11-21, 06:09 PM
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I've stopped riding gravel because I have what I call "loose brain syndrome" (any NFL lineman would know instantly what I am talking about) from a massive TBI 40 years ago and a number of concussions since. (Doesn't take much for the next concussion.) It is very obvious that riding even mild washboard is not good for my brain and here in western Oregon, we have plenty of roads steep enough that hitting the washboard at the bottom slowly is not easy.
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Old 07-11-21, 08:05 PM
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Man!!! That's a NICE BIKE!!!
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Old 07-11-21, 09:05 PM
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I think if it is that bad just go ahead and step up to a suspension stem like the redshift
It isn't a big outlay of money and should make a big difference. A flexy or squishy seatpost will help too but mostly your butt, most of the stuff bouncing your head around is coming from the frontend.
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Old 07-12-21, 06:52 AM
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Ride all over the road. Dont just ride on where the right tire would be on the right side of the road like you would on pavement. Ride the shoulder, ride the center, ride the left side for a short bit if needed. Pick your line and constantly evaluate if you should find a better line.
Gravel roads that arent heavily travelled are perfect for being able to pick your line wherever it may be on the road. Washboard doesnt extend to the shoulder of gravel roads near me- so hit the shoulder during severe washboard sections. Its not like washboard goes on for any long period of time.

Look back with regularity to see if any vehicles are approaching, adjust to let them pass, then again find the best line.
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Old 07-12-21, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
I think if it is that bad just go ahead and step up to a suspension stem like the redshift
....
I have one.

Its great for exactly this kind of problem. If fact it takes the unpleasant edge off all my gravel riding. No I am not sponsored.
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Old 07-12-21, 01:41 PM
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Interesting. Reminds me of when I did gravel riding before there were gravel bikes.



I’ve found myself quite comfortable going down harshly washboarded roads on 32mm tires (GP5000). Strange, huh? I was trying to figure out the difference.

Fit is big. If you are standing, squat so your knees form 90 degree angles and put your hands out front of you. Comfortable? This is the position I’m in on my bike. Notice – there is no weight on my hands. I have a bike where my reach is too long, forcing me to put weight on my hands, and that bike beats me up on gravel. With a shorter reach, there is little to no weight on my hands. I have a very stiff fork, but I don’t get much vibration because there is little weight on my arms (and my grip is loose).

Certainly a redshift stem is great, but if I am not overloading your arms I don’t really need one.

For the rear, I got lucky and my bike came with the worlds best carbon seat post (much to my surprise and delight). Its just magical soaking up washboard and stuff. Alternatively a small thud buster works great, and is adjustable for weight – that might be a good call for you.

It looks like you got the tire pressure right for the tire size and your weight.
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Old 07-12-21, 01:45 PM
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Usually it's the fillings that rattle loose before the brain
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Old 07-12-21, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Ride all over the road. Dont just ride on where the right tire would be on the right side of the road like you would on pavement. Ride the shoulder, ride the center, ride the left side for a short bit if needed. Pick your line and constantly evaluate if you should find a better line.
Gravel roads that arent heavily travelled are perfect for being able to pick your line wherever it may be on the road. Washboard doesnt extend to the shoulder of gravel roads near me- so hit the shoulder during severe washboard sections. Its not like washboard goes on for any long period of time.

Look back with regularity to see if any vehicles are approaching, adjust to let them pass, then again find the best line.
This. I am always weaving around riding on both sides of the road looking for the smoothest sections. The gravel roads I ride typically have very little vehicle traffic and you can see/hear them coming from a long ways off, so that isn't much of a factor for me.

Also, an alternate solution: don't ride on washboard roads or trails that are too rough to be fun. I like a challenge as much as the next guy, but I have little interest in rattling my fillings out on washboard roads. If something sucks to ride on and I don't have good confidence that it will be for just a very short stretch, I'm just going to turn around and/or find an alternate route. This is recreational gravel biking, not Paris Roubaix or Dirty Kanza, I don't really need to be torturing myself or trying to prove anything to anyone.
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Old 07-12-21, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
This. I am always weaving around riding on both sides of the road looking for the smoothest sections. The gravel roads I ride typically have very little vehicle traffic and you can see/hear them coming from a long ways off, so that isn't much of a factor for me.

Also, an alternate solution: don't ride on washboard roads or trails that are too rough to be fun. I like a challenge as much as the next guy, but I have little interest in rattling my fillings out on washboard roads. If something sucks to ride on and I don't have good confidence that it will be for just a very short stretch, I'm just going to turn around and/or find an alternate route. This is recreational gravel biking, not Paris Roubaix or Dirty Kanza, I don't really need to be torturing myself or trying to prove anything to anyone.
Hi, my name is mstateglfr and I wear earbuds when riding.

You mentioned being able to hear cars approaching, so I figured I would add to that part of the discussion since I also mentioned the obvious downside to picking your line- you potentially block traffic.
I can hear vehicles on pavement, even with ear buds in, so I dont think twice about it. I ride consistent and they pass- easy and solved. WIth the sound of rocks/dirt under the tires, I cant hear vehicles as well on gravel roads. I think it has to do with wind direction too.
Anyways, last week I splurged and bought a Garmin Varia. Its a super cool bit of tech that is well worked thru at this point so my late adopter mindset was at ease. It picks up on vehicles that are 150 yards away and gives both a visual and audio cue which allows me plenty of time to move out of the center of the road. Really neat tech. And the rear light reacts to vehicles by flashing a different pattern when it detects a car, in an effort to help make the cyclist noticed.
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Old 07-13-21, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
...last week I splurged and bought a Garmin Varia. Its a super cool bit of tech that is well worked thru at this point so my late adopter mindset was at ease. It picks up on vehicles that are 150 yards away and gives both a visual and audio cue which allows me plenty of time to move out of the center of the road. Really neat tech. And the rear light reacts to vehicles by flashing a different pattern when it detects a car, in an effort to help make the cyclist noticed.
Totally agree, I love having the visual and audio cue to approaching vehicles. It never fails to pick up an approaching vehicle. Has completely changed my comfort level on the road.

Also, I was going to reply earlier, not sure why I didn't. Anyhow, the rattling from the washboards, or root, or rocks, or cobblestones is never comfortable, and as you've alluded and many others have offered, finding the smoothest line is always most desirable. For a variety of reasons, first being reduced fatigue, and second being its easier to control the bike and ride faster when it is not being violently bounced and hit by the surface it is being ridden over. A piece of good news, I also doubt you suffered a TBI, I don't doubt you had a headache, but if it had been a TBI, there'd have been a bit more going on than just a headache.
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Old 07-13-21, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
...Reminds me of when I did gravel riding before there were gravel bikes...
Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
...find the best line.

And No Whining...
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Old 07-13-21, 11:55 AM
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To the extent the OP was a serious medical question; I know a couple people who have had to stop riding gravel because of other various health/physical complications and the vibration is just not a good idea for them, so ask your doctor about it--especially if you've had a TBI or some other serious malady in the past.

Beyond that, all the other stuff has been covered -- lower pressure, wider tires, suspension gizmos, relaxing your grip. Washboards suck no matter what so that's part of it.

Also, this is just personal observations but I've known more than a few long-time roadies who seem to have a more difficult time than most in adjusting to gravel. I'm talking people with 20-30 years of riding purely road. Some of them eventually adjust and some don't. I love it but it's not for everyone. Old dogs and all that.
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Old 07-13-21, 04:51 PM
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I have been riding with a Lauf suspension fork and a Redshift seatpost for about two years now and find the combination handles just about everything I come across. The Lauf suspension fork provides the suspension between the wheel and frame instead of between the frame and the handlebars so it is far more effective at dampening front-end hits..
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Old 07-13-21, 10:38 PM
  #23  
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I came to gravel bikes from riding rigid MTBs, so for me it wasn't much of an adjustment, especially with tubeless and some beefy rubber. Arms and legs are the suspension. I just hover over the bike, loose grip, slow down on the washboards and whatnot, and really focus on picking my line.
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Old 07-15-21, 06:06 AM
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Thanks for all of the feedback! you guys always rock the web!

Update to OP. I was being a little facetious with the TBI part of the comment. I just wanted to get a discussion rolling. Of course I rode the whole road ( am I the only one that gets annoyed with misuse of road/rode and breaks /brakes?)...I guess it was frustrating to have to slow so much since I was out trying to beat the heat. Also it turns out I was not feeling good, but I didn't know it yet. I spent the next 2-3 days feeling horrible, I couldn't eat anything with out feeling, well not nauseous, but not good, and my head was so congested. I arrived at the theory that my ears were involved, causing a bit of vertigo. now that this issue is better, and the weather is not so extreme, I can't wait to give it another try. I do need a better seat, but I have a nice black Selle Anatomica in a drawer some where. I will report back after.
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Old 07-16-21, 09:12 AM
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This year, I have felt like I beat up my brain at the end of a long difficult gravel descent. I think it's because I'm not quite used to gravel again yet and was holding on too tight.
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