Increasing the comfort to ride over those features will increase your smiles and fun factor. Again, you don’t need to upgrade your bike when you’re just getting started, but here are a few items you might consider to help you ride more comfortably in the future!
On road rides you might run 90 PSI or higher. On urban dirt, you’ll probably want around 50 PSI on 35 mm wide tires. With narrower tires, you’ll want higher pressures to decrease your chance of a flat. So if you have 32 mm tires, you’ll want a higher tire pressure of about 55 PSI.
Tubeless tires are directly mounted to the wheel and will enable you to run pressures well below 50 PSI without risking pinch flats. Running tire pressures as low as 20 PSI is common with larger tubeless tires. Lower pressure increases traction and is softer on the tush. Some tires are tubeless ready and can be converted by a local bike shop inexpensively ($). Check on the side of the tire to see if your tires are tubeless ready. Or google it.
Tubeless tires can still sustain punctures, especially in very rough terrain featuring sharp rocks. If you decide to ride tubeless, you might also consider getting a tire plug tool to fix punctures when they do occur.
Wider tires will comprehensively increase your comfort and traction on urban dirt rides. The limiting factor to increase tire size is your frame and fork, so consult your local bike mechanic to understand your bike’s tire size limits. You will need a healthy buffer between the tire and the frame for when the tire deflects during cornering.
A second set of wheels for your bike is practically like having another bike. One set could be tailored towards road riding while the other is setup to ride urban dirt! Perfect.
A 650b wheelset, which is slightly smaller in diameter from the standard 700c road size, can typically accommodate wider tires. Sometimes, you might be able to find a good deal on a used wheelset. However, an extra wheelset may not fit depending on your bike’s features, so consult a trusty local bike mechanic.
For more detailed reading, check out bikepacking.com’s extensive document about wheels.
You might ask - what the hell is a dropper post? One might answer with nonsense such as “It’ll change your life,” or “it’s like skydiving, but better.” Well…
A dropper post will vastly increase your comfort for descending steep and challenging terrain. Period. With a push of the button, you’ll be able to lower the saddle to lower your body position, which will improve weight balance and comfort. The dropper post greatly helps mitigate the possibility of going over the bars (OTB).
Will a dropper change your life? Most definitely. Should it be way higher up on this list? Probably. But, consider consulting your mechanic before investing because a dropper post must be compatible with the frame, must be fitted to the rider, and requires other new gizmos like a remote control in addition to the post itself.
In the urban dirt environment, climbing gears are prioritized over high-speed gears, and so you’ll most likely only need the smaller front chainring. Many road/touring bikes have a front derailleur, which accommodates multiple front chainrings. While a front derailleur increases gearing versatility, the extra chainring will strike obstacles you’ll likely find on urban dirt, such as logs and rocks.
1X setups are growing in popularity because they remove the underutilized components for off-road riding. Leaving the chainring(s) and derailleur at home reduces the weight of the bike, eliminates components that can break, and becomes one less component to adjust. The 1X also offers a cleaner aesthetic, if that’s important to you. So, embrace the simplicity and harmony of a “one by” drive-train!
A 1X setup will result in a narrower selection of gears available to you. You’ll need to make mental notes on what terrain you like riding on and the gears you use the most. A friend or mechanic may be able to help you go 1X!
Suspension is the last stop for increasing comfort while riding. There’s a lot to consider when thinking about suspension, and often it’s not possible to upgrade your current bike with suspension parts due to frame limitations. Also, adding larger suspension parts might add weight, which will be more to lug around on rides. That being said, a more cushioned ride is nice and can give you more traction as well. So, suspension is worth considering if you’ve tried other things to improve your bike.
In general, there are three main categories of suspension, which are:
Contact point suspension is the easiest and cheapest suspension upgrade you can add to your current bike. The main bicycle components involved with this type of suspension are stems and seatposts. Contact point suspension adds “cushion” to these parts to keep your butt, hands, and wrists more comfortable. Popular brands of contact point suspension components are Redshift, Crane Creek, and Canyon.
Front suspension is the most common type of suspension and is easily recognizable to anyone familiar with mountain biking. Front suspension typically relies on compressed air to absorb impacts to the front wheel. Most suspension forks require a specific frame geometry so if your current rigid fork is ‘suspension corrected’ - you’re good to go. If not, you’ll have to look for niche road suspension forks or consider getting a different bike. The two most prolific suspension fork brands are Fox and Rockshox.
Still feeling stiff, sore, and jittery out on your rides? Full suspension is the ultimate option for bum cushion. Since full suspension requires specialized frame geometry for the rear shock, you pretty much need to buy a new bike to utilize it. Be mindful when looking at full suspension bikes to ensure they have name brand shocks and disc brakes. And do look into what popular components are for full suspension bikes too! Popular full suspension bike brands include Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Niner, Santa Cruz, and Yeti.
*Note: we at UrbanDirt aim to create routes that should not require a full suspension bike. That said, we understand everyone has different comfort needs.