How to prepare your bike for dirt or unpaved roads
How to prepare your bike for dirt or unpaved roads? What are the arrangements to be made?
Obviously, these tips are useful for any other competition of this type, but also for a simple trip between friends, where there are unpaved sections to be faced. For convenience, let’s use the the Granfondo Strade Bianche, the first real race of the year, as an example. In part, it allows you to see the situation of the professionals and, in addition, confronts them with more than 30 km of land, although very well maintained.
1. With or without an inner tube?
One of the biggest problems in these circumstances is punctures. Therefore, it is clear that the choice of tubeless will reduce this risk by a great deal.
But be careful: even if it’s minor, there’s always a risk of a puncture. And in this case, it will be necessary to stop and put in the inner tube. The rim/tyre combination can make it difficult to engage, so practise at home in the days leading up to it.
Opting for road tyres is always a valid option, but you’ll have to bring at least 2/3 spare inner tubes. If you don’t have space, you can also tape them to the frame.
We also recommend that you take a piece of an old tyre to patch the hole in case the cut in the tyre is too large.
The use of tubular tyres is completely discouraged.
2. Tyres: pressure and cross-section
Regardless of the choice, the word will always be hard tires.
It’s not the weight that matters, but the substance: a perfect, puncture-proof tyre.
The Granfondo Strade Bianche has very well-kept grounds, a bit like all of Tuscany. So, a section between 25 and 28 mm for this case is perfect. If, on the other hand, the off-road sections you’ll have to deal with are worse, then it’s okay to opt for larger sections.
We tend to recommend inflating at least 1 bar less than usual. If you use an inner tube and a tyre, be careful not to go too low because the risk of punctures would be higher.
3. Frame protection
Many people rent bikes for competitions like the Strade Bianche, so they are more relieved in case of scratches on the frame. If you like your bike, take some precautions.
Like in this post where we explain how to convert a road bike into a gravel one, similar precautions should be taken.
Apply sufficiently thick adhesive protections in the most exposed areas. Where? Under the lower tube, behind the steering bar, on the inside of the fork and the rear carriage.
4. The wheels
- High profile wheels are for experts only.
- With traditional brakes: leave the carbon rims at home if you don’t want them to get damaged because mud and dust damage the braking area
- With disc brakes: leave the carbon rims at home if you don’t want them to be damaged, in the same way, by stones and sand.
5. Chainrings and sprockets
The Strade Bianche’s altitude is not impossible, but the ramps are really hard. Depending on your training and fitness level, you can choose what you prefer for the chainrings.
For the sprockets, however, in our opinion the minimum use of 28 is essential.
6. Handlebar tape
If it hasn’t rained for a long time the ground can be hard, so a double coating of tape may be a good idea.
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