We presented you earlier the top reasons to ride on cobbles. But how should you do it? Watching tons of videos and reading similar articles, most of the tips appears to depend from rider to rider.
Beyond individual preferences, we would like to present you some essentials that almost everybody should benefit from. And some typical tips you don’t have to follow and are therefore put in the form of a question.
Tip 1 – be open-minded!
Do certainly not think it’s gonna be horrible, it’s gonna hurt when approaching a cobbled section. You should see it more as a point from where your riding sensations and style will be different for some time. It’s a place to challenge yourself, a place to develop your technique. And no, your bike won’t get damaged!
Tip 2 – find your own style
Indeed, the style appears to depend strongly on the rider. If you would be able to have some climbing lessons by Marco Pantani, he would certainly teach you always grab the bar deep below, ride only out of the saddle and with a big gear. I heard about what the cobble-legend Peter Van Petegem told Nibali and Contador in their respective preparations for the fearsome stage of the Tour de France 2014. Apparantly Nibali took the most out of his lessons. But watching Tom Boonen winning Paris-Roubaix, his style differs strongly from what Van Petegem teaches. So the very most important tip is: do not listen too much to what you are hearing from other riders, it’s always worth to try something different.
Tip 3 – Down with tyre pressure, up with size
25mm tyres are very common today and 25mm should be the absolute minimum width you take on a cobbled journey. You should always decrease the pressure by 1 to 3 bar. A 25mm with more than 6 bar is simply not a good idea.
Tip 4 – always ride in the middle
A typical Belgian pavé sector (like the ones in northern France) is high in the middle and low at the side. Make sure to always ride exactly in the middle, where the pavé is more fresh and the stones therefore more even. Resist under all circumstances to ride beside the cobbles in the berm. The side of the road is often full with sharp objects like glass or metal scraps.
Tip 5 – keep the tension high
Never let the bike just roll – keep the chain tension always high. It’s not just the fact that your chain will not fall off, but the dynamics of your ride will change under load. This will decrease the load of the front wheel and the momentum of your turning legs will stabilize you as moving system. And lastly, you will not just sit like a potato bag on the saddle, what your back is going to thank you.
Tip 6 – faster is smoother
The faster you go, the less cobbles you will hit. Instead of rolling over every stone, your bike will bounce from the tops of a stone to some stones further. The ride is considerably smoother the faster you go. A good reason to go as fast as you can!
Question 1 – hold the bar firmly or loose?
Often mentioned as the right way to do grab your handlebars is to not to grab them too tight; let the bike dance a little bit. For me personally, this doesn’t work out, and seeing the footage of Tom Boonen on the cobbles, he seems to have a tight grip too. In this case, you certainly have to grip the bars very tightly but to let elbow flex easily to provide suspension.
Question 2 – high or low body tension?
Museeuw found Wiggins sitting to tight on his bike when riding cobbles. But here again, one has to find his own style in my believe. Adding more core strength will stabilize your bike and protect your spine and hips. But maybe you will find yourself blocked to steer and react.