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Nowadays the winters have been crazy. Some years no snow, others with mild temps. So, the counties have spread the love with massive truckloads of fresh chunky gravel. I guess if there is no snow, then there is no plowing.
I assume counties lose budget money and that is why they decide to "fill in" certain roads. I believe the days of skinny tires for gravel are gone. Cookie and I sported 29ers in our last trips to Iowa last year. They came in handy and we still got pretty rattled up on some roads. Heck, on some roads I could not keep a straight line.
I am just guessing that cross bikes that will have a double purpose as gravel bikes will have to think about clearances. The Surly Crosscheck comes to mind. Also the Black Moutain Cycles Cross bike. My new Gunnar Prototype also clears huge tires.
These tires will help keep the rider in control. It will also give comfort in the long rides and prevent fatigue.
Some people are also taking their 29ers and equipping them with narrower tires. This offers tons of clearance for mud and keeps the rolling resistance down. I think that manufacturers will continue to see the need for widers cross tires. The size I am looking for is 700x40, 700x42, 700x44.
In the picture above I was riding a narrow WTB tire on that chunky gravel around Gumby's house and it was nearly impossible to ride a mile.
This is a situation that we encountered last year in Trans Iowa. It had nearly not snowed a lot so the crews spread chunky gravel to stay employed. Eventually the cars, trucks, and farming equipment presses this gravel down and it smooths out . While it is still fresh in the spring it will rattle your fake molars out.