With the bad weather and a lack of road funding, the roads I ride are in bad repair. Actually depending on where I ride I will roll over county and even privately maintained roads which means gravel, pot holes, cracked pavement and cold patch. For new riders and those that have been blessed with smooth roads this sounds like a nightmare I am sure. I like to get adventurous from time to time and ride these roads to see some new sites. The first few times I did this I thought my teeth would rattle out of my head or that my front wheel was going to disappear out from under me.
I learned in another sport, rock climbing, that you must trust your gear and be confident in how you use it. So riding over rough roads for me became a new learning experience and once I learned few tricks I was having much more fun riding through the rough.
Looking everywhere and nowhere describes a way of viewing your surroundings that is very ADHD, but allows you to make split second decisions about where you and your bike are heading. Do not fixate on obstacles just realize that you need to get past them. If you fixate on an obstacle you are more than likely going to roll right into it. When cornering on smooth or rough roads, look through the corner instead of the 12″ of pavement in front of your wheel.
This was the hardest lesson of all to learn because it was so counter intuitive to me as someone who is a pretty fast spinner. When riding over gravel, cobbles, Rail Road Crossings or just busted up pavement gear up to a harder gear or two and lower your cadence. The extra force required to pedal at a harder gear and lower RPM will add stabilization to your efforts.
I learned in a Time Trial once what it meant to have too much tire pressure. Rolling over a pretty smooth course with 20 lbs. of tire pressure over the manufacturers recommended tire pressure I found that I was having a hard time keeping my bike on the ground. The bike was literally jumping over every road imperfection, skittery. For quite some time there has been the concept that the more tire pressure the less rolling resistance a tire would produce. While this is true for things like Velodromes it doesn’t work so well on normal roads. If you want to get a nice ride in over regular roads you are better off lowering the recommended tire pressure 15lbs on the front and 20lbs on the back as rule. If you are a heavier cyclist you may need to experiment with the recommended tire pressures to ensure you don’t get that skittery feeling or a pinch flat from not having enough pressure.
If you have been reading my articles for a while now you know I have a few adages I like to use. “A relaxed cyclist is a fast cyclist” and “a flexible cyclist is a safe cyclist”. So when riding over rough roads the one thing you do not want to do is be tense! For one you are using your energy counter productively, doing this means you are likely to take a spill or wear your self out physically and mentally. Start by relaxing the muscles in your face and shoulders and you will be surprised how fast your body will relax. Also keep your elbows slightly bent. Locking your elbows is a recipe for disaster. Having your elbows bent allows for quicker and more fluid steering of your bike over rough terrain. When descending or cornering over rough roads try floating on the saddle. After you have mastered relaxation and keeping you elbows bent try descending with you bottom just slightly raised, floating, over the saddle. You don’t need to loose complete contact of the saddle. Just enough that you are weighting the pedals and using your legs and hips almost like shock absorbers.
I have lots of tips on flexibility, bike handling and descending. Check them out here!
Until next time have a great ride,