Road Bike Rider: Returning to the Pavement

Returning to the Pavement

What’s the matter? You’re riding a road that has an abrupt drop-off between the pavement’s edge and an unpaved shoulder. The lip is 3 or 4 inches high. In a moment of inattention, you drift off the pavement and now you’re bucking along in the gravel. Your first instinct is to steer back onto the road surface, but you realize the lip is likely to catch your front wheel and take you down. What can you do except stop?

Here’s Help

Coach Fred Matheny remembers seeing a Colorado racer named Bob Ware get elbowed off the road. Bob was suddenly riding in the gravel and losing ground fast. If he stopped to set his bike back on the pavement, he’d be dropped with little chance of catching up. Turning back on was iffy due to the pronounced lip. If he tried, he might crash and take down others as the pack streamed past.

Here’s the technique Ware displayed that day.

—Ride parallel to the road’s edge. You need to be within 6 inches for this maneuver to work.

—Coast with crankarms horizontal and your butt slightly off the saddle. Balance your weight between your hands and feet. Feel like a cat ready to spring.

—Relax! Rigid arms and shoulders make this maneuver much more difficult. If you’re loose when the front wheel gets knocked slightly off-line, you’re much more likely to save it.

—Crouch slightly.

—Spring upward and toward the road, pulling up with hands and feet. The idea is to hop the bike not just up but over, avoiding the pavement’s dangerous lip.

—Land with relaxed knees and elbows for a smooth touchdown. As soon as you do, continue pedaling normally — and start breathing again!

Don’t wait to try this technique the first time in emergency conditions. Go to a grassy field to work on the sideways aspect. Once you have it down, practice on pavement by going to a parking lot and hopping across painted lines like they are the road edge.

Get comfortable going right to left and left to right. Hey, you never know!

(Adapted from Coach Fred’s Solutions to 150 Road Cycling Challenges, a helpful eBook especially for cycling newcomers.)

Republished with the permission of Road Bike Rider.

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