Learn how to ride the cobbles

Cobbles

With the Tour of Flanders now past and Paris-Roubaix coming up, it’s worth knowing how to ride the cobbles. British Cycling’s guide gives you tips on speed, gears, positioning and more:

Speed is your friend

Don’t be tentative but try to increase your speed and attack the cobbles as the extra momentum will carry you over the lumps and bumps more smoothly. Try to add some sustained hard 3-5 minute efforts into your long rides or include regular Ramped VO2 intervals into your training.

Gear up

Try to ride flat, downhill or gently climbing cobbled sectors using your big chain-ring. This will maintain chain tension, reduce chain slap and prevent your chain jumping off. A compact chainset and a wide ranging cassette will help you to manage this even when you are tiring.

Look ahead

Pick your line, anticipate the actions of riders ahead and look where you want to go. If there is a big gap in the cobbles or an uneven edge you want to avoid, don’t look at it but where you want to go to avoid it.

Be first

When you hit the cobbles, the best place to be is on the front as you will get a clear ride and won’t have to contend with riders falling in front of you. Do some route research, check where the cobbled sectors are and tape this information to your stem. You will then know when to try and move up through the field.

Be last

Unfortunately, with big sportive fields and everyone else wanting the front spot, being on the front can be hard. Another option is to slow up, let the group you’re with go ahead and give yourself a bit of space. Also, if you watch the pros, you will notice that they leave larger than normal gaps on cobbles and you should adopt this tactic too. Assume that the rider in front of you is going to crash and give yourself enough space so that you have at least a chance of avoiding them.

Keep relaxed

Don’t tense up and don’t try to fight the bike. Grip the bars firmly but also keep your arms and upper body as relaxed and loose as possible. Let the bike flow underneath you, correct itself and don’t over react to small slips.

Tops or drops

Your hands are more secure either on the bar tops or down on the drops. It is recommended that you do not ride on the hoods as it is very easy for your hands to bounce off.

Stay on the crown

Although often the bumpiest, on cobbled roads, the crown is usually the best place to ride. The cobbles will be less broken up, will tend to have less mud on and there will be fewer gaps as fewer vehicles will have passed over them. Avoid the cambered lines on either side of the crown, especially if the cobbles are wet or muddy.

Avoid the verges

The verges may look smoother and tempting but there are often deep wheel swallowing holes hidden by puddles and puncture causing flints and debris that has washed off the cobbles.

Steer with your hips

If you need to alter your line to pass a rider, keep your speed up and initiate the change in direction positively with your hips. Don’t try to turn by using your handlebars as you are far more likely to experience a front wheel slide or catch it in a gap.

Recover in the wheels

Between the cobbled sectors, try to regroup and sit in the wheels to recover. It can be tempting to try and push on when you hit the smooth tarmac but you are better saving your energy for the next sector of pavé.

Practice

If you know that your event has rough sections or cobbles, practice riding them in training. Canal towpaths, converted railway line bike paths and forest fire roads can all be suitable for honing your “off-road” road bike skills. Also consider including some mountain biking and/or cyclo-cross in your training to develop your bike handling skills.

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Get on your bike

Where to cycle_1

Some people cycle to get fit, some to commute and some just for fun. The My Journey Southampton website has a host of information about getting out and about in the city on your bike, improve your cycling skills and bike maintenance if yours needs some TLC. Go check it out for more info.

Don’t own a bike? The YoBike is now in Southampton. A large-scale dockless bike-sharing system offering riders a seamless, hassle-free experience. By using a mobile app, riders can find and unlock YoBikes at parking spots around the city and ride them from just £1 per hour. Find out more here.

The British Cycling website Letsride lists HSBC UK Breeze Rides for women and HSBC UK Social Rides, plus lots more information on cycling. Find out more here.

Turning the corner

British Cycling has joined forces with The AA and pedestrian groups in calling for a ‘universal’ rule to give way when turning in order create simpler, safer junctions for all road users #TurningTheCorner.

The organisations propose consolidating and strengthening existing rules in the Highway Code so that, whether you are driving or cycling, you would be clearly obliged to give way when turning to people who are going straight ahead.

The new proposal follows research conducted on behalf of British Cycling in a bid to make junctions safer, simpler and more efficient for all road users, based on successful existing models in place in countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. In practice, the changes would see:

  • Drivers turning at a junction giving way to people cycling and walking who may be on your nearside, or crossing the road you wish to turn into.
  • Cyclists turning at a junction giving way to people walking who are crossing the road you wish to turn into.
  • Pedestrians getting increased protection when crossing a side road or other junction.

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British Cycling has today launched a petition to allow members of the public to add their support to the new proposal. Among those to have already signed the petition are Chris Boardman, Olympic champions Joanna Rowsell Shand, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Steven Burke and Paralympic legend Dame Sarah Storey.