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road cycling beginner here.

I have recently bought an old road bike for commuting and some training. It has 32 spoke wheels on Shimano Sora hubs, 15mm internal diameter rims (Slovak manufacturer, V brakes compatible, the quality seems to be good) and is currently on 25mm Continentals Ultra Sport. It feels surprisingly solid, however it is my first road bike and I have no idea, how much abuse it can take. My daily commute has some average quality roads, cycling paths and some curbs - low without sharp edge. My weight is around 80 kg +- 5 kg. When riding I am always trying to get off the saddle when the road has some bumps/large cracks etc. and would basically do the same with the curbs.

Do you think the wheels (especially the rims) can withstand riding over small curbs (up to 5 cm, no sharp edge) without any damage (bending, etc)? Do I need to be extremely cautious while riding (avoiding roads in slightly worse conditions, not riding even through small curbs or railroad crossings, etc)?

Will be thankful for your answers guys!

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  • Does your bike have a rack, and if so, will you be carrying anything on it when commuting?
    – DavidW
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:13
  • No, it doesn't have any rack or mount and I will be carrying just my bag during the commuting or a water bottle during training.
    – Sherwood
    Aug 25, 2021 at 19:09

1 Answer 1

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As a category, many people use such bikes to commute. It was somewhat more common in the decades where relatively fewer more utilitarian-leaning road bikes existed to buy for those who wanted to commute on a road bike. It's now much easier to buy something with more tire/fender clearance and less racey geometry than when almost all road bikes were made in the mold of road racing bikes, and the only exceptions were cyclocross and loaded touring models.

Generally speaking, yes, going over bumps and obstacles like you describe is fine on road bikes but requires handling skills and paying attention to how you shift your weight and pull the wheels around. If you act as though you were on a fat tire bike, you will dent your rims and/or get pinch flats.

The basic technique is that as the front wheel goes over a bump or up a ledge, shift your weight all the way back and pull up on the bars. You want to take your weight off it. You have to get the timing right so start small and slow as you learn. Once the front wheel has landed, shift your weight forward and pull the back wheel up either through the pedals if clipped in or with a bunny hop type motion from the bars if not. Again you are taking the weight off it. You need to be running a tire pressure where you can do all this without bottoming out the rim.

The quality of the wheels and how appropriate they are for you is always a big piece of durability, and there are many questions here about that. If you are somewhat rougher on wheels you will go through them faster all else equal. Even as a reasonable bike handler, you will occasionally ding a rim if you push road wheels in the above manner, and you should only do it if that's a cost and risk you can accept.

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  • When I was asking earlier, the answer was that road rims will take a 2 cm bump with no issues, but that the rider should not have any weight on the saddle. This worked just fine. When does the bunny hop become necessary—starting from a 3 cm bump perhaps?
    – Sam
    Aug 25, 2021 at 1:58
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    @Sam Not to be vague, but I think there's no numerical answer because it all depends on how fast you're going, what tires and pressure you run, your weight, your position on the bike, etc. Tbh my answer in practice is more about uncertainty than certainty of what I can smash into without pinch flatting. Aug 25, 2021 at 2:21
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    Now in all honesty, if I am moderately careful with the bike (and some unexpected hits probably happen), can I expect the wheels to be reasonably straight for a couple of years (couple of thousands of kilometers) without the need of centering?
    – Sherwood
    Aug 25, 2021 at 19:20
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    @Sherwood That is a function of the build quality of the wheels and how appropriate the components (rim model/type, spoke count, etc) are for you. Good wheels, such as quality handbuilt or named prefab sets, need truing seldom or never, but basic wheels that come with bikes are usually not up to that level. In other words, unless you're really heavy, there is nothing categorically wrong with commuting on road wheels like you describe, yes it can work and does for many people. But basic machine-built wheels usually need truing throughout their life. Aug 25, 2021 at 19:59
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    The main point is mostly made by the tyre pressure: Too soft may result in snake-bite puncture and high rolling resistance, too hard will cause discomfort and stress the rims and spokes. Experiment with pressure!
    – Carel
    Aug 27, 2021 at 14:32

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