When the Pavement Ends, Keep on Riding
There is a common misconception – particularly among those who are new to cycling – that road bikes are only supposed to be ridden on pavement. In reality, road bikes are supposed to be ridden on all kinds of road surfaces, including cobblestone, dirt and gravel.
Riding on gravel roads is easy, and developing the skill and confidence to do so is worthwhile. Below are a few helpful tips:
- Relax – The most important technique is the most simple. When you are riding on gravel, you may experience a little bit of lateral movement and your front wheel may want to wander slightly from side to side. This is normal. Just relax, let it happen and go with the flow. Keep your shoulders, arms and hands loose and maintain a normal grip on your bars.
- Maintain momentum – Keep pedaling and maintain enough speed and forward momentum to allow your front wheel to glide over the gravel and bumps in the road. A little speed makes it much easier to keep a two-wheeled vehicle upright, because the wheels act as gyroscopes. Use physics to your advantage.
- Moderate speed – Avoid excessive speed, particularly when descending. Gravel roads offer less traction than pavement. Brake early and often enough to maintain control.
- Brake carefully – Brake gently and try to prevent your wheels from skidding. Be particularly delicate with your front brake. If your front wheel starts to skid, release your front brake immediately.
- Choose your line – Look for the spots where cars have packed the gravel more tightly. It is often easier to ride in these areas. However, if other riders or oncoming traffic make this impractical, don’t hesitate to head for the loose stuff.
- Be considerate of fellow riders – Even if you are totally comfortable riding on gravel, be aware that other riders might not be. When passing, give others plenty of room (even if it means you have to slow down).
Before long, all this will become second nature. Give it a try.