Ever heard of the saying that goes “When the pavement ends, that’s when the fun begins!”? Indeed, cycling on rough roads is a thrilling experience. If you’re planning to try biking on uneven roads, what are safety precautions to keep in mind?
According to the National Safety Council, there were 299,944 individuals involved in bicycle-related injuries in 2021. When riding on uneven terrain, bikers may encounter obstacles like debris or potholes that may cause an accident.
While uneven terrain can pose a fun challenge for cyclists of all experiences, there are various factors to consider to stay safe. We’ll list 8 useful tips for cycling safely on rough roads to help bikers maximize the exhilarating experience!
Best Ways to Navigate Rough Roads on a Bicycle
After the COVID-19 pandemic, people started to invest in their health and well-being more. Many tried to include healthy habits and activities in their routine, and cycling is one of them. In fact, there were 54.7 million Americans who participated in cycling in 2021 alone.
But it’s no surprise – cycling offers plenty of health benefits and it’s an efficient way to keep fit, travel to new places, and have thrilling nature adventures. While many bikers enjoy riding on city roads, biking on well-paved asphalt is easy. Biking on rough roads is a different story.
It takes careful planning and practice to be able to tackle uneven terrain, which may include gravel, dirt, cobblestones, potholes, hilly terrain, and more. These conditions can affect your pace and speed, so they must be tackled with care.
If you plan to tackle a rough road on your next biking adventure, these 8 tips will help you ride safely and effectively.
Tip # 1 – Choose the Right Bike
The type of bike you use can make all the difference. There are bikes specifically designed for off-road adventures like a mountain bike or a gravel bike. These all-terrain bicycles are usually characterized by a durable frame, wide tires, and a strong suspension system.
A robust frame can resist the elements of the outdoors and resist the strain of rough roads. Compared to narrow tires, fat tires have more traction and offer more stability on uneven ground. Lastly, a good suspension system helps lessen the impact of bumps, shocks, and vibrations which makes the ride more comfortable.
When choosing the right bike, take into consideration the specific conditions of the road you’ll be tackling. Opt for a bicycle that offers the features you’ll need to have a safe, comfortable, and controlled riding experience.
Tip # 2 – Adjust Your Cycling Technique
Riding on a challenging landscape is very different from cruising on city roads. You may want to shift your cycling techniques a little to reduce physical strain and maintain control of the ride.
When riding over rough roads, it’s important to remain calm and focused, allowing your arms and legs to become natural shock absorbers to lessen the strain on your body. To do this, slightly shift your weight back and keep it centered on your bike, maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars, and bend your knees and elbows slightly.
It’s also important to pedal smoothly, maintain a steady, regulated speed, and avoid unexpected movements that may cause you to lose control of your bike. This way, you’ll be able to navigate bumps and obstacles with ease and safety.
Tip # 3 – Look Ahead
Cycling on rough roads requires a great deal of focus. If you get distracted, it may cause you to lose your balance and control.
With that being said, always keep your eyes and attention on the road ahead so you can anticipate obstacles, changes in terrain, and other potential hazards and adjust your technique accordingly.
Looking ahead allows you to see rocks, bumps, potholes, or other things that might be in your way so you can make timely adjustments. This safe and proactive approach helps you stay alert and be more cautious, which are important when navigating over uneven terrain.
Tip # 4 – Lower Your Tire Pressure
Whatever type of tires you’re using, one tried and tested trick when riding over challenging terrains is lowering the pressure of your tires. Doing so will increase the surface area of your tires that is in contact with the ground which helps improve their grip and traction. Lower-pressure tires also absorb more shocks and vibrations, resulting in smoother rides.
It’s essential to experiment with different tire pressures to find which is best for the terrain you’ll be riding over, as too much tire pressure leads to an overly bumpy ride, and too little can result in flat tires.
Tip # 5 – Stay Away From Gutters
When cycling on rough roads, keep in mind to avoid road gutters and roadside edges because there is usually plenty of debris, potholes, uneven terrain, and other obstacles in that area that may not only cause accidents but also inflict damage on your bike.
Instead, choose to ride in the middle of the road or on designated cycling lanes where the path is usually smoother and easier to ride over. This way, you’ll have a safer and more comfortable ride while lowering the chance of your tires getting punctured by debris on rough terrain.
Tip # 6 – Utilize Your Brakes Properly
Sudden braking while biking is dangerous, more so when you’re riding over challenging terrains. Abrupt braking usually results in loss of control, skids, and accidents, so it’s essential to use your brakes carefully and gradually to give yourself sufficient time to decrease your speed.
It’s best to utilize both your front and rear brakes simultaneously with a slow and steady force so that you are able to retain control over your bike, maintain good traction, and avoid skidding. Apart from braking lightly and smoothly, also be mindful of your weight distribution – it’s best to shift your weight back every time you brake so that you’ll be in more control.
Tip # 7 – Stay Alert
Focusing and staying alert while riding, especially on rough roads, is crucial to your safety. Maintaining vigilance will help you immediately see obstacles up ahead, changes in terrain, and oncoming traffic which are plentiful outdoors.
Be sure to pay attention to the road surface, listen to unusual sounds from your bike and from the surroundings, and be aware of what’s happening around you – this will help your ride stay safe, comfortable, and more controlled.
Tip # 8 – Keep Yourself Hydrated
If there’s something you shouldn’t forget on every cycling adventure, it’s water.
Hydration is of most importance to bikers, especially when they’re cycling off-road, as physical exertion on rough road cycling is much more intense than biking around the city. Expect to sweat a lot which means you’ll be losing plenty of fluids.
Replenishing these lost fluids is essential to ensure that your body is operating at its best while you’re outdoors. When you’re properly hydrated, your endurance will increase, your stamina will be enhanced, and your performance will improve. Not to mention that cramps and fatigue are also lessened after your ride.
So don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your cycling adventure!
Bonus: Here’s How to Navigate Common Rough Roads Using Your Bike
- Gravel: If you’re using a mountain, adventure, or gravel bike, you shouldn’t have a problem. But if your bike has narrow tires, the best thing to do is go slow and stay relaxed. “Look for the smoothest line to navigate the difficult terrain,” says Alison Tetrick, a professional cyclist and gravel racer.
- Potholes: There are holes even on the nicest roads, so it’s best to stay alert. However, if you can’t avoid it, experts advise you to just bunny-hop the hole. If this isn’t possible, the best thing to do is to hit it and do your best to remain upright.
- Cobbles: Cobblestones are difficult to navigate especially when the road is wet. Professionals advise you to increase your speed and maintain your momentum as you make your way through cobbles to reduce their impact.
- Slick Roads: Slick roads are dangerous because it’s like you’re riding on ice. If you see a dark spot ahead, stay vigilant as it might be slippery. Just look ahead, drive relaxed, and avoid making any sudden movements.
Cycling on rough roads is both difficult and tricky – even experienced bikers have a difficult time riding through challenging terrains. From choosing the right bike to staying hydrated, follow the abovementioned tips to keep you safe on your next off-road cycling adventure!