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I ride a Trek FX 7.2, with 35mm Bontrager hard-case lite hybrid tires. I'm still fairly new and inexperienced with cycling, and I've driven exclusively on roads so far. I'm looking to start increasing my distance and speed, with the goal being to be able to perform a 50K ride by the end of summer (my longest ride so far was 25k).

To this end, I've started looking for new routes to go cycling on. One route I've found that seems like a great choice is the Rum Runners Trail, which is part of a much larger trail system going across the entire province. Most of the trail is made up of hard-packed crusher dust, which I believe looks like this:

enter image description here

The website above says it's a great surface for hybrid bicycles like mine, but the product page for my tires makes me concerned this isn't the case. Specifically, there's this answer from a Trek employee at the bottom of the page:

The H2 tires are going to be designed for pavement riding and not really for gravel riding

So essentially right now, I'm not really sure if I should be riding on this trail with my hybrid. I've considered just going on the trail and finding out first hand, but I'm still fairly new to cycling, so I'm worried about damaging the bike (or myself!) due to driving on terrain the bike isn't made for.

Is my bicycle a good choice for this hard-packed crusher dust trail?


The H2 aren't what the bike shipped with. I bought the H2 late last year, after the original tires got a flat.

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    Personally, I would be happy to ride the H2 tyres on that surface. As a rule of thumb new bikes don't always ship with appropriate/good tyres, and experienced riders will often change tyres to something more suitable for their intended use before the bicycle is ever ridden. – Andy P Jun 4 at 13:40
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    That is an awesome looking track - I'd ride that on any bike. Just be aware and take corners a little slower till you get used to it. And mind out for walkers/children/animals/runners. – Criggie Jun 5 at 1:23
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    I suspect they meant gravel roads, such as cars might use in rural areas, which are crushed stone around 10-20mm. Your bike won't like those at all. But paths like this are made of much more finely crushed stone dust typically less than 2mm (though some trails will have slightly larger crushed stone). – Michael Hampton Jun 5 at 6:34
  • @MichaelHampton 2mm is coarse sand; the particles on that trail lok much larger than that. – David Richerby Jun 5 at 13:07
  • @DavidRicherby Yeah, you're right. It's a bit late to edit the comment though. – Michael Hampton Jun 5 at 17:04
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You are absolutely fine riding the Trek FX 7.2 with the Bontrager tires on that trail. That gravel surface is not any worse than rough, worn tarmac so go ahead and enjoy those trails.

You don't really need much tire tread (or any) on flat crushed gravel trails, 35mm wide tires have plenty of volume.

Be aware that you will have less grip, both in cornering and braking. Try running slightly lower pressure than you would on the road. Avoid big bumps and potholes. Carry a spare tube, tire levers and CO2 inflator or mini pump in case you get a flat.

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    Agreed. Groomed, crushed gravel like in the picture is smoother than a lot of 2+ year old pavement/tarmac in my experience. I think the manufacturer's recommendation against gravel was probably talking about bigger/chunkier gravel like you'd have on an farm road or industrial access road. – SSilk Jun 4 at 20:04
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    For a new rider, I'd recommend a pump instead of (or in addition to) CO2 inflators - If your repair doesn't work the first time, or the tire's not fully seated, you may run out of inflators. Plus with the wide 35mm tires, he doesn't have to inflate to a high pressure, so pumping with a handheld pump isn't too hard (it'll take a lot of pumping, but they'll be relatively easy pump strokes) – Johnny Jun 5 at 7:51
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For that trail you've got a very suitable combination of bike and tyres.

I'd happily ride all day that on my 32mm marathon supremes, which are more of a road tyre than you've got. We have a similar surface on parts of a local trail; some riders will happily ride 25mm slicks on that but others are less happy on 28mm or smaller. Looser gravel is OK for shorter distances on 32-35mm so don't worry unduly if you encounter a bad patch. If any has degraded to the point of being muddy take it gently and avoid sharp steering; the same applies if the surface has been recently repaired and there's some loose mnaterial on the surface.

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There are three factors to consider with gravel roads:

  • Smoothness of surface

    A gravel road that's been abused by cars for a while develops first small, regular ripples. These are a PITA to ride on without suspension, as the ripples tend to be hard to avoid, and hard to see in the first place.

    After those ripples form, some of them develop into veritable potholes. A single, shallow pothole can generally be ridden through if you flex your muscles in time, but deep ones need to be avoided as they can be quite hard on the material. Especially without suspension.

    A newly built or refurbished gravel road does not have either problem, and may be significantly smoother than a shoddy, old, little-used pavement road.

  • Softness of surface

    Pavement does not give in a bit when a bike's tire rolls over it. Gravel does. A tiny bit. Some of the grains of dirt get dislodged, and the energy for that movement comes from you.

    Many gravel roads are quite good at this point, even though you may find that your speed does drop a bit on the gravel road due to this effect. However, some gravel roads lack the components that lock the grains of dirt in place, so your tires dig deep, visible trail, which drains a lot of energy.

  • Punctures

    Gravel roads consist of many, many little stones. Some of them round and smooth, some of them rather pointy. You don't want to be riding gravel roads without puncture proof tires. (I don't want to ride any road without puncture proof tires, as a matter of fact.)

From my experience with puncture proof 32mm tires: I can ride on pretty much any gravel road. But I do avoid bad ones. Both the ones that are too soft, and the ones that are too rough. It only becomes impossible to ride a road when the road becomes so soft that it's basically deep, unbound sand. Such surfaces can drain more power than I'm able to put out. Roughness, on the other hand, is never a factor that forces me to dismount. It forces me to slow down, to navigate the potholes one by one, but it's still "ridable".

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Just posting an answer to confirm that I've now gone on this trail multiple times, and my bike has handled it perfectly fine. It's not quite as good as pavement, but the difference is small.

I also took a picture of the trail itself to help other others wondering about similiar trails (the one from question is from the trail website):

enter image description here

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