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Road Bikes & Dirt Roads(6 posts)

Road Bikes & Dirt RoadsFrint
Feb 24, 2003 9:01 AM
I'm new to road biking & have a question. I plan on bringing my bike up to VT this summer quite a bit. To get to my house there you have to travel about 1 mile on a dirt road. It would be much easier to just take off & ride from the house, 1 mile going out & 1 mile coming back on the dirt road (otherwise I have to leave my wife & son without a car). What is the general consensus on riding a road bike on a dirt road? How would this affect my bike, wear chains & sprockets quicker?

just do itgtx
Feb 24, 2003 9:19 AM
I doubt you'll get your chain very dirty in a mile. Mtb components are no more durable than road components. I'd just use 700x25 tires. I used to ride my road bike in the dirt all the time.
Just ride it...retro
Feb 24, 2003 9:23 AM
I've lived on a dirt road (just recently paved) for more than 20 years, and I'm only about a mile from national forest land, so I've ridden a lot on dirt. There really aren't any serious issues--I've also ridden mountain bikes thousands of miles in the same conditions, and there's no reason most road components should be more susceptible to dust or grime damage than mountain parts are.
Certainly dust isn't GOOD for the bike, but you're going to have to buy a chain every year or so anyway. The hubs etc. will still be serviced when you get around to it; most stuff is pretty well sealed these days...just follow normal maintenance schedules and you'll be fine.
One thing that will make a big difference, assuming the dirt is a little loose or gravely and not hard-packed, is to use slightly bigger tires at a little lower pressure. I use 700x32s or 35s for nearly all my riding these days (I weigh 225, so you might be able to get away with 28s, which might be all that will fit in your frame and fork anyway). But I don't think component life is an issue if you're only riding a couple of miles a day on dirt.
In CO, dirt road riding is a way of lifelonefrontranger
Feb 24, 2003 9:27 AM
There are even several road races on the Front Range that use dirt road sections, some for over half the course. Most of the really scenic and quiet secondaries, particularly the lightly trafficked mountain roads out here are dirt, although it's well-maintained dirt. Though there are some notorious exceptions (Saturn Classic - Guanella Pass anyone?).

Even before I moved to Colorado, I'd done a fair amount of dirt road riding on my road bikes. Some of the best Southeastern Ohio scenic routes incorporate dirt stretches, and there are some road races there that use them, too.

Riding your skinnies on gravel will make you a better bike handler, though you will have to be a bit more conservative in cornering and stopping. Don't do anything fancy moto like letting air out of your tires, because road tires and rims don't have enough material / surface area to handle it; you will merely be annoyed by far more frequent pinch flats. My 'just plain' Axial Pros have survived quite a bit of gravel riding with no tire liners or other mods.

I'd also recommend cleaning your bike more often to avoid grit-sanding the components, and re-lube carefully afterwards. I posted extensive tips for how to professionally wash / lube a road bike in a thread on this board about a week ago, which prompted a flurry of responses about how evil water washing is, even though professional bike mechanics have done it for years, including the former Motorola pro wrench who taught me this. Now I won't cast aspersion onto anyone's results, but I've been water washing bikes for over a decade now with no rust issues, even on my '82 Trek steel fixed-gear. If you are the type of rider who only takes your bikes out on clean pavement on sunny days, then the Pledge-and-damp-rag method works fine, but I'd challenge anyone to get a dirt and grime-encrusted road bike truly clean after a 3-hour rain ride or long dirt road ramble by doing that.
re: Road Bikes & Dirt RoadsFrint
Feb 24, 2003 10:27 AM
I'll do it, thanks for the advice everybody, I just wanted bounce the idea off of somebody to make sure that I wasn't committing a cardinal sin.
Dirt Roads...Brooks
Feb 24, 2003 1:32 PM
No big deal for a mile. I was on my road bike early in the season last year and there's a great dirt road along a stream between where I was and where I wanted to be. I friend had said that it was recently graded and smooth (I have driven on it many times and it can get really rough). So let's see: stay on pavement with two big climbs and 30 more miles after already done 50 or go dirt for 7 miles and get home without killing myself. Go dirt! Okay, it wasn't all that great, lots of washboards and stretches of sand. Stayed in low gears and spun. And I believe I was on 700x20 tires. No flats and my teeth didn't fall out. The last time I trust that friend for road conditions! I washed the bike really well afterwards.