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Beginners guide to riding cobbles

12 March, 2015 0 comments

Cycling on Cobbles

Beginners guide to riding cobbles

Some of the greatest professional cycling races in the world take place on cobbles, for instance Paris-Roubaix which has the most cobble sections along its route. They are also some of the most fun and gripping races to watch, as the sections of cobblestones (known as pave in Europe) throw up some huge challenges for even the most experienced cyclists. Of course, just like everything in cycling, you don’t have to be a professional to experience the excitement of cycling on cobbles, and you don’t have to be riding in the Spring Classics to have a go.

Cycling on cobbles does, however, need a little more consideration than perhaps your typical road cycling ride. One of the first things to think of when riding cobbles is your bike and how it can be made more comfortable for the stress you are about to put it and yourself through.  For example, try putting a few layers of tape on the handlebars for your hands. Another way to achieve this comfort could be special gel pads that you can buy in most bike shops. Trying to keep a comfortable hold on your handlebars is one of the biggest challenges of this road surface. Remain relaxed and don’t try to fight the bike into submission: you won’t win. It’s the nature of cobblestones to be rebellious and the best thing to do is to be firm on the handlebars but loose elsewhere. 

There are other important parts of your bike to consider: think about the tyres you are using and see whether higher volume 25-28mm tyres will work for your frame. As well as gel pads or extra tape on the handlebars, look at how you keep your water bottles attached. Once your bike starts bouncing on the cobblestones things like water bottles can start flying. 

Many people ride on cobblestones for the first time in a sportive, and if this is you then there are some great tips out there that you can learn from pros and amateurs alike as to how to make it a fun experience. If you have ever watched Paris-Roubaix you will have noticed teams fighting for a position at the front of the group before they go into the pave sections. It might seem like a scary place to be, but you’ll be able to see the road ahead of you and be able to read the cobblestones better. There’s also a smaller chance of riders falling ahead of you and being caught up in their crash. Cobblestones are not a time to be hesitant and so being up front can be really useful.

Whether you are riding in a sportive or not, make sure you stay on the crown of the cobble. It is usually the best place to ride and it will be less broken up by vehicles and easier to manage in wet weather (another common feature of cycling on cobbles). The verges may look smoother but could also be hiding big dips, puddles and other issues. And no matter whether you are cycling on cobbles in a race or just on a regular ride: practice makes perfect. The first time you go on cobbles will always be a very new and strange experience, but once you have done it a few times you will learn how to adapt your body, bike and cycling style to make sure that you make it across safely.

Cycling on cobbles is a great way to inject a new challenge into your cycling routine. Signing up for a sportive on cobbles is a good way to force yourself onto those cobblestones, but if you are already interested in having a go at this type of cycling then head to your nearest cobblestoned area where you can ride and try it out. It’s a good idea to have a cycling buddy with you, especially if they are experienced in this surface. They can be a great source of tips, information and experience, and if you suffer a mechanical or an injury then it is good to have somewhere there to help you. Cycling on cobblestones is always a challenge but it is a fun, thrilling challenge that can help you to become a better cyclist. 


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