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When taking your bike for a spin, different surfaces come with their own set of challenges. From smooth roads to bumpy trails, it’s important to know what it takes to ride each type. Having know-how when it comes to cycling on different types of terrain can make your ride much safer and enjoyable. Here are some different types of terrain you can encounter while cycling and how to ride them!

Paved Roads

When riding on paved roads on your bike, you should expect to have an easier ride. The smooth surface allows you to slow down and pick up speed easily and quicker than other surfaces. Some of the main risks with road riding comes in the form of pedestrians and cars. When riding on the road, try to be aware of what is around you: are there cars or trucks approaching from behind, is there a side street with a car about to come out that doesn’t appear to have sighted you, look in the side mirrors of parked cars for people in the car who may open the door right in front of you, does it look like there is a pedestrian who may walk onto the road right in front of you etc… It actually takes a number of years for both kids and adults to grow in their safety skills on the road. If riding with kids, constantly point out things for them. The safest paved roads to cycle on are ones with wide shoulders and low traffic, but always be on the lookout for cars, trucks, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Paved cycleways, that are separate from cars are even safer, and generally more enjoyable for the newer cyclist. 

Mountain Biking / Off Road / Single Track / Nature Trails

Riding in Nature can be an exhilarating experience, but quite dangerous as well. When it comes to dirt trails, bikes can slide-out suddenly due to the terrain. It’s best to stay relaxed when on a dirt trail so you are able to react properly and keep your balance more easily. Also, be sure to slow down before corners, loosen your grip on the handlebars when the trail gets bumpy and uneven, and always support your body weight with your legs moreso than your bottom.

Riding on wet and muddy tracks could damage the trail and it’s much easier for the bike to slip out from under you, not only in corners, but also when braking and even sometimes when going straight. Sometimes, with a bit of vision, it’s possible to ride (or walk the bike) around the muddy track. For those that cannot avoid the mud, or simply want to get really dirty, you can avoid spinning out and hurting yourself by using consistent pedal strokes and keeping a steady cadence. If the terrain is too dangerous and you’re unable to gain traction, stay safe by getting off your bike and walking to a dryer part of the trail. 

Loose Gravel

If a cyclist does not know how to properly ride through loose gravel, they’ll more than likely skid especially if they’re going at high speeds. To ride on loose gravel safely, it’s essential to have caution and brake early and softly. Rocky areas present a risk of puncturing your tires which is why you should approach these sections slowly but always keep your momentum going. Pay attention to the road ahead and always choose the smoothest line. This will help you keep your balance and avoid any accidents along the way. 

With all surface types the best way to be both safe and enjoy them is to try them out cautiously bit by bit, grow your skillset and ideally ride with friends who are experienced and good teachers.

And if still stuck… watch Wout Van Aert and Mattieu Van der Poel go at it head to head on cyclocross.