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  1. #1
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    Best bike for coarse gravel roads?

    Hey thanks for reading. I want to try commuting to work by biking for 6 miles along some train tracks, but the tracks are covered with very thick gravel, I'm talking rocks a few inches in diameter. I've tried my 26er, my 29er, neither can hold a descent speed in this coarse gravel. One thing I need to try is a lower pressure though, I had my pressure on the high end and hopefully that will give me a wider contact patch.

    Would a fatbike allow me to ride along these train tracks without going to walking speeds like what happens when I use my 26er or 29er? Can you give me any recommendation on what kind of bike that would suit my needs? Would that new Mongoose Beast suit my needs or should I save up for a Pugsley or Moonlander? Thank you!

  2. #2
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    I ride a short stretch of train track gravel once in a while, so I know exactly what you are talking about. I can never make it on my 29er, but with a fat bike, it is no problem. Keep in mind that riding along the tracks is often illegal, so check your local laws and ordinances. Any fat bike will do- I've used both a Surly and a Salsa, and maybe a WalGoose would work, but remember they are single speed, so you might have to change gearing.

  3. #3
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    I have ridden through some gravel that is a little less course than that with a regular MTB and a fat bike, and although the fat bike aired down is a good bit better at it, it still didn't go very fast. I wouldn't want to go 6 miles like that. It takes a lot of energy to displace the gravel even the slight amount that a fat tire will cause.


    You could probably get there faster going another route that took you twice as far over smoother surfaces, even on the fat bike

  4. #4
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    Agree with autodoc ^^^

    Though if you are hell bent.... go with a bike that can take a big tyre, ive ridden the rail line up into the hills where I live (no trains as out 3 months for maintenance), its a gradual uphill from approx 100m to 650m and you will really benefit from big tyres at a low pressure with the rough stones and uneven sleeper fill in. Its bloody slow going though and even if there were roads that were 3-4 times the distance they would be quicker.... but not as much fun.
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  5. #5
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    Yup. The only bike that has a chance is a fatty with 4.8" tires aired down.

  6. #6
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    Re: Best bike for coarse gravel roads?

    I've also found the fattie to be stable, but definitely not riding road speeds on RR gravel. Depending on the width and looseness of the shoulder, I've found it sometimes easier to ride between the tracks. It's abusive though, and depends on how much fill is between the ties.

    I don't ride them terribly often, and might be concerned about nosy citizens with nothing better to do blowing the whistle, were I to ride it 6 miles daily.

    If you ride the same path every day, the gravel may bed in over time and become more stable. This is just conjecture.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllMountin' View Post
    It's abusive though, and depends on how much fill is between the ties.
    We call them sleepers

    This is the biggest issue, if it was all level it would be sweet.

    The sides are usually bedded in but slope away, unless there's decent side clearance here we have to ride between the tracks the whole way.

    Got a few 100m to 500m tunnels too.... they need lights.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ozzybmx View Post
    We call them sleepers
    ...Got a few 100m to 500m tunnels too.... they need lights.
    Sometimes the light is coming the other way.

    And that's when you really see the light about why you shouldn't go on the rails...

    (I had a memorable few moments once when halfway across a trestle bridge over a flooded creek in the wet season. I was pushing my motorbike when I saw the train coming.)
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  9. #9
    Fat & Single
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    Quote Originally Posted by ozzybmx View Post
    (no trains as out 3 months for maintenance)
    The choo choo's have stopped for 3 months.... actually still going, more like 6 months now.
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  10. #10
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    Thank you everyone for the replies! So you think that even with a fat-tire bike, I would be better off going twice the distance on road, than take a short cut through coarse gravel? The issue isn't so much the time it takes, it's more the safety of riding on the road.

    I don't get off work till 3 in the morning, and I live in a small town in the foot hills of California that has no bike shoulder, I pretty much have to ride on the shoulder of a 55 mph highway in order to get home. So I would rather ride on some gravel than have to ride on the shoulder of a highway at 3 in the morning.

  11. #11
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    I just got back from a ride where 300km of it was on old railbed. I was riding a fatbike with Rolling Darryl's and Endo/Larry tires; my friend was riding a 29-er with 2.4 inch tires. Both of us commented on how much better my bike handled the railbed. I could ride with ease while my friend always had to watch his line.

    Get yourself a fatbike and enjoy the ride on the railbed.

  12. #12
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    The ballast they use around here tears the heck out of tires. I would be replacing a set of tires every couple of days at 12 miles per day.
    And I love beer!!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by grossen View Post
    Thank you everyone for the replies! So you think that even with a fat-tire bike, I would be better off going twice the distance on road, than take a short cut through coarse gravel? The issue isn't so much the time it takes, it's more the safety of riding on the road.

    I don't get off work till 3 in the morning, and I live in a small town in the foot hills of California that has no bike shoulder, I pretty much have to ride on the shoulder of a 55 mph highway in order to get home. So I would rather ride on some gravel than have to ride on the shoulder of a highway at 3 in the morning.
    I'd take the short cut for sure. I work right next to railroad along a river. Has amazing views so I run along it several times a week. Super loose coarse gravel...perfect for fatbike riding.

    I'd watch ebay and pick up a used Pugs or something over the Walgoose. I think you'll find fatbiking taking you beyond your California rail trail commute and into the desert.
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  14. #14
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    Eastman, thanks for the answer thats just what I was looking for. What kind of fatbike did you have? Do you think I can do it with that single speed mongoose with 4.0" tires that walmart is coming out with, or should I save up for something better like a pugsley?

    Also I keep mentioning pugsley because it is so popular, but would there be a better choice like the Krampus or Moonlander? What's the big difference?

  15. #15
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    OP- I have a Krampus plus a Mukluk with BFL's (same tires that come on Moonlander) plus a set of Krampus wheels and tires for the Mukluk, and from experience can tell you that the Krampus, while a spectacular bike, really is a 29er+, not "a little less than a fat bike". Stick with a true fat bike (Moonlander, Pugsley, Mukluk or 907) and you will be much happier riding the conditions you speak of.

    Big difference between Pugs/Moonie/Muk is hub width and offset. There are geometry differences as well, but all bikes have those. If you pick parts carefully (classifieds), you could build a geared Pugsley for less than $1K.

  16. #16
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    In case you haven't already tried this, it is typically easiest to ride along an active rail bed right where the stone meets the native soil. It is smoother than the stone alone and stronger than the native soil alone. Most around here also have at least some sort of a service road that parallels them that is easier yet.

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    Whatever floats your bike, dude

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by deuxdiesel View Post
    OP- I have a Krampus plus a Mukluk with BFL's (same tires that came on Moonlander)
    Fixed it for you, Bud n Lou now come on the full Moonlander.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  18. #18
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    So no Krampus then? So what exactly is the difference between Pugsley and Moonlander?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by grossen View Post
    So no Krampus then? So what exactly is the difference between Pugsley and Moonlander?
    The most note-able difference is that the Moonlander comes with 4.8" wide tires, the Pugs, 3.8".
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  20. #20
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    Only issue you will have is speed so take that into consideration. Pugs rides more like a mountain bike where my Muk rides like a fully loaded Cadillac. If you have a chance to check them out do so.

  21. #21
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    Salsa Mukluk, Surly Pugsley and 9Zero7 are all 3.8" fat bikes, Moonlander is a 4.8" for maximum flotation. All have differences in frame material, rear hub spacing and geometry. Look for used bikes on ebay or MTB forums.
    On One Fatty is probably the cheapest decent fatbike and is another option for you.
    The Mongoose Beast besides being a cheap heavy cruiser is single speed. This will limit you when riding between loose gravel and fast pavement. You will probably end up slogging too high of gear in the loose gravel and spinning too low of gear on the pavement. I dont think it is a good option.

    Craig

  22. #22
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    I loved my Pugsley, but the Mukluk took it's place. It's a more versatile bike, and can take 29er wheels/tires, 29+ wheels and tires, 3.8-4.0 regular fat tires, plus 4.8 BFL's front and rear or Bud/Lou up front- it just won't work with a Bud or Lou tire out back. The symmetrical wheel build you get from the 170/135 hubs is very strong. The only downside is those hubs are pricey, whereas the Moonlander and Pugsley use standard 135 hubs front and rear, so cheaper hubs can be had.

  23. #23
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    I thought Pugsley could use 29er wheels as well? Hell, I have even seen blogs of people using 26" standard mountain bike wheels on a pugsley!

    Also, if a deraileur breaks, can you swap the front and back wheel of a mukluk to get a single speed or fixed speed, like I've heard you can do with a pug?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by grossen View Post
    I thought Pugsley could use 29er wheels as well?
    correct

    I would say if you have ridden those tracks several times on the 26er you could be fine with a fat bike.

    I've ridden tracks for that distance just because I can but riding it daily is NOT something I would look forward too. A lot depends on the conditions of your 6 mile stretch
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    i have a 907 that i put alot of gravel miles on you cant go wrong

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