I like dirt trails. I don’t often have an opportunity to ride on them, but when I do, I always enjoy the experience. There are a couple of dirt detours on my commute that I take during the dry season when I’m in the mood to mix things up and get away from cars, dog walkers, and roller bladers (no offense). Most any commuter bike can be ridden on dirt paths, though if the terrain gets steep or rooted and potholed, fat tires with a good amount of flotation make the experience more enjoyable. Following are a few of the things I like to see on a bike that will be ridden off road:
- Relatively large cross-section tires that can be ridden at reduced pressures. My favorite cross-over tire for commuting mostly on pavement with a little bit of gravel and dirt thrown in is the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme in 37-622 and 42-622. I run these at around 60psi on my everyday commuter.
- Stiff racks. Stiff racks are absolutely essential for carrying loads on bumpy terrain. I use a Tubus Cargo in back, and a Pass & Stow porteur up front. Both are made from tubular steel.
- Well-designed bags. There’s nothing worse than bags that swing and sway when riding on rough terrain. Well-designed bags that securely attach to racks are essential for off road riding.
- Fenders. Because my trail rides are almost always incorporated into a commute, and I usually ride in my work clothes, full coverage fenders are a must.
- Durable lights with strong mounts. I’ve had more than one light fall off of the bike when riding on dirt. Lights that are designed for riding in rough terrain are best if you plan to ride off road on a regular basis.
Taking a dirt trail now and again is a nice way to add some spice to a daily commute. Often times I’m on a schedule and mostly concerned about getting to where I need to go, but when I have some extra time to kill, I always enjoy the peace and solitude that comes with going off road.