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How To Ride Your Bike On Cobbles Like A Pro

How To Ride Your Bike On Cobbles Like A Pro


– Every March and April we watch in awe as the classics hard men and women sail over these brutal bone
rattling cobblestones. The TV doesn’t do it justice and they make it look easy. But in fact, it’s far from it. – Yeah, and what can make
it even more difficult is the wrong equipment
and the wrong technique. So, comin’ up is GCN’s guide
to conquering the cobbles. (upbeat music) – Let’s start with the most simple aspect, which is a straight, flat
cobbled sector of road. We have chosen to come to the Paddestraat in the Flanders region of Belgium because it’s perfect to
get yourself acquainted with this type of riding. – Yeah, now you might not
actually think there’s much to it apart from riding your bike as normal and pretty much accepting that
it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. But it’s a little bit
more complex than that. Yeah, the first thing is line choice. I know I’m talking like
a mountain biker here but you have three options. You can ride in the centre, on the crown where the road is slightly raised, or you can ride to the the side where the cart horse would go, or you can ride in the gutter. – [Dan] Now you might be thinking that riding over on the dirt or in the gutter is kind
of evading the point of riding on the cobbles. And to a degree you are right, but if your aim is to make
your ride as fast and efficient as possible then it’s
a valid option for you just as it is for the pro’s. – [Matt] Just be careful though, there can often be a lip
between the dirt and the road and you can get into all sorts of trouble if you can’t jump back onto the cobbles. The safer option, even
if it’s far bumpier, is to stick to the part of the road where the cart horse would normally be. – Oh, you all right? – Yeah, I’d definitely
stick to the cobbles then. Oh, God. – There’s not that much of a crown here in the centre of the Paddestraat. But particularly over in the
cold stretches of Paris-Roubaix it really can be quite pronounced. And it means there’s quite
a camber on either side and that can be particularly slippery, especially when it’s wet, like today. What you should always do
though at cobbled sectors is really scan what’s coming up ahead. So look out for things
like big holes in the road, or missing cobbles, and try
to avoid them well in advance. – Okay, let’s have a look at technique. Now the first thing you wanna do is try and relax your upper body. Which is easier said than done. Especially when you’re
rattling over the cobblestones. Now the tendency is to
tense your upper body, your hands, and your arms. And you definitely wanna avoid doing that. – Yeah, you rest on your elbows it’ll provide an enormous
amount of suspension over the cobblestones
but only if you let them. And that means not tensing them up. And also you’d be very surprised at just how good your
bike is at guiding itself over the cobblestones without
really any input from you. – [Dan] Keeping a little
further back in the saddle is also going to take a bit of
pressure off your front end. Now onto a biggie, hand position. If we take a look at two of the best cobble classics riders
of the last generation, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, they both tended to ride on the tops. And if it’s good enough for them. – [Matt] Yeah, it’s probably
good enough for us as well, isn’t it. It’s a position that
gives you a lot of control and you can also keep your
wrists a little bit relaxed to give more in the way of cushioning. That said, there are also
plenty of very successful pro’s who prefer to ride on the drops, and a few who stay on the hoods. Although that’s probably the least stable. It’s one of those things you’ll simply have to choose for yourself, there’s no real wrong or
right from that point of view. Although I would recommend
not riding on the hoods ’cause it’s quite a strong
likelihood you might slip off. So use the drops or the tops. – Whilst we’re on the subject
of where to sit on the saddle we should also probably mention
that sitting in the saddle is a pretty good idea on cobbles. Although something that I
particularly struggle with ’cause my natural tendency
whenever things get short and steep like this is
to get out of the saddle if I want a bit more power. – Yeah, which is particularly
important when it’s wet like today, you need to
keep your weight as far back as possible over the back
wheel to avoid wheel spin. ‘Cause if you get it wrong you might end up grinding to a
halt, putting your foot down. Or, worse still, falling off. – Yeah, it is possible
to get out of the saddle even on wet cobble climbs
but you just have to be a bit more careful with
your weight distribution. And also a fairly even power distribution. You don’t wanna be to choppy, otherwise your back
wheel will skip around. Which brings us nicely
onto our next point, which is grip. Cobbled roads don’t offer as much grip as normal tarmac or concrete. And when they’re wet they
are particularly treacherous. So you need to allow
greater breaking distances and approach corners with
caution, even if it’s dry. Look for any adverse
canvers and avoid them. Although there are some canvers
that’ll fall in your favour, a bit like a berm, like this really. – You’re loving your mountain bike terms. – I am, yeah. – I know what you mean though, this could be also compared
to the banking on a track though ’cause it can help you. If you get it right coming
around a corner like this and your wheel is planted here, you’ll have a bit more grip and therefore you’ll be a bit safer. You might be able to go a bit quicker if that’s of concern, too. One thing you should never do though when you’re going around a
corner on cobbles is break. That is a recipe for one of
your wheels slipping out. Another consideration when
you’re riding on cobbles is your speed because the
faster you go the easier it is. Ride along at 15 k’s now
and you’re going to feel every single lump and bump. However, if you start getting up to 45 k’s now like the pro’s, you’re
gonna glide over them. – Now you’re probably not
going to be able to ride as fast as the pro’s, admittedly. But if you can press on as hard as you can it’s actually gonna
make it easier for you. Plus, it’s fun riding fast on cobbles. – It is. – Come on, let’s give it a nudge. – [Dan] And yet another
consideration is your cadence. Now a recommendation is to
keep it on the high side if you can because if for whatever reason you have to slow down it’s
really hard to get going again if you’re in a really big gear. Now personally, I’m probably
not the best example of this but if you are able to
keep a higher cadence it will allow you to
keep on top of things. And also to react to any
changes of gradients or pace. Aside from the technique that
you employ when you’re riding over cobbles, the equipment that you use can also have a massive
bearing on how it feels when you’re riding over them. And luckily, it’s not
particularly complicated. The easiest thing to do is just to get a bigger set of tyres and
run them at lower pressure. Now the pro riders will tend
to stick to a face down to 25 or 26 mil. tyre for
the Tour of Flanders here. However they will go
bigger, up to 30c or above, for Paris-Roubaix. – Yeah, but we’re not
pro’s so we’d recommend trying to run 30 mil. tyres if your frame will accept them, or 28. And the benefits are manifold. Firstly, a bit of punch protection. Secondly, a bit of grip. And thirdly, and arguably
most importantly, better comfort. – Yes, and that better comfort
comes from the fact that you run larger tyres at a lower pressure without any increased risk of puncture. And that extra suspension
that they provide will take out a lot of the vibration normally associated with
riding over cobbles. We can’t even begin to tell
you how much nicer it feels to run a 30c tyre at 40 psi versus a 23c tyre at just 80. – Hm, now you will go a
little bit slower, of course, on the tarmac but it’ll be
worth it on the cobbles. It’ll feel like you’re flying over it. – On top of the tyres you could also try to double wrap your bar tape, or maybe get some mitts or
gloves with extra padding. But to be perfectly honest,
the differences they make are pretty insignificant when compared to the rubber on your hoops. – Rubber on your hoops. So, as you can see there’s a fair bit more to riding the cobbles than
initially meets the eye. – I still can’t believe you came off. – I was conquered by the cobbles. A bit sore actually, mate. – Anyway, they are
thoroughly enjoyable to ride if you do get them right. – Yeah, they are. – Right, if you’ve enjoyed this video please click on the
thumbs up sign down below. And if you’d like to see the Koppenberg pretty much the most fearsome climbs in the Flanders region in closer detail, just click down here. – Should we ride the
Molenberg one more time? – No, I’m done. I’m gonna go on the
smooth tarmac again now. – Alright then. I’ll do it on me own then. – [Dan] Look at the state of that ass. – [Matt] He’s in (laughing).

16 comments on “How To Ride Your Bike On Cobbles Like A Pro

  1. SUBCRIBED TO GnC club now I received a notice to saying i need to register but I cant i just get an error mesg.

  2. I have felt moved to share a post from my FB Feed. Truly sad.
    A NEWMAN look on life…those who normally look at my observations please read on…

    I have been riding seriously for 6 years although I have followed all the major races since the 80s, Tour de France, the spring classics and others…

    Yesterday was nothing new, a good ride in the morning to clear the head and prepare to watch Warriors go full gas on the Paris Roubaix on the telly. Those who are unaware, it is known as “hell of the north” . It is approx 280k of pain and suffering with over 50k of cobble stones to negotiate ending with a finish in a stadium.

    It has been going since 1920 and is known as a monument and is the jewel in the crown for many pro cyclists…it is the highest and most prestigious of the one day events…

    It is a day of attrition and tend only to watch the last 120k as the first part is a wearing down of less strong riders. Yesterday whilst sitting comfortably in my arm chair i saw a crash and it didn’t look good. The cameras panned away from the Warriors very still and lifeless body.

    We were later to learn that Micheal goolaerts, a Belgium cyclist and only 23 years old had crashed heavily and suffered a heart attack. Airlifted to hospital in the afternoon and kept alive until family could be with him. He passed away at 2140 hrs after the sad farewells.

    We enjoy sport and it gives us great entertainment. Just spare a thought for the family and friends of young Micheal who died pursuing his dream and riding in a cycle race. I won’t draw comparisons with other sports whose athletes feign injury when cyclists simply jump back on with broken collar bones, shoulders or even backs get on with it.

    I tonight have toasted the life of young Micheal who I have never met or even heard of him until his passing yesterday. RIP WARRIOR. The cycling community mourns your lost. 7 blessings…

  3. Pro cyclist has support car with so many wheels he wants so hopeless comparision. Title should be how to ride to your bike to do not end your "pro" amateur ride with flat tyre 😀

  4. gcn getting gmbns dh bikes out for this one bloodyhell i thought this video was a joke i ride a road bike to school on these on a fairly steep hill

  5. Thanks GCN for helping me conquer the cobbles at Paris Roubaix last week. Just started riding a year ago and you guys really improve the experience with your videos. Many thanks.

  6. I'm a mountain bike guy…but after watching your videos I'm really like thinking of getting a road bike. you guys are awesome. love the videos

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