Are you mental? Riding off-road on a road bike

Rocks ahead. Behind the ignominy of retreat, of surrender.

You pause and stop as if your eyes deceive you and the road will be resurfaced if you just stare at it long enough. The road pitted with holes, with sharp rocks and more grit than a Ken Loach film. Punctures and snapped derailleurs hide in plain sight.

You look at your bike. The once sturdy and comfy 25mm tyres now look razor thin and as soft as jelly. The track ahead will surely splice them to bits.

Off road riding
There may be trouble ahead

The clue is in the name. Road bike. What fool would ride on anything but smooth asphalt? Yet road bikes are not as precious as we might think. They’ll survive all sorts.

Road bike used as a BMX? Tick. Road bike used as a mountain bike? Tick. So what’s the secret? Tyres. Decent rubber is the difference between bumpy fun and puncture pain. Other than that all that’s stopping you is your own preciousness not the bike.

I remember cringing when I first rode the Belgian cobbles, my bike clattering over the jagged stones like a speedboat on choppy water. Yet it survived (a lot better than my soft parts and wrists).

Riding off road is a lot fun, challenging too. Picking your line, risking your speed, in and out of the saddle, eyes peeled, constantly on the lookout for your next puncture, your next fall.

There. That’s sold it to you. Right?

The smooth road is just around the corner, right?

Sure, riding off road will slow you down but it will quicken the pulse and heighten the senses. Add a little interest to your ride with a few lumps and bumps.

Learn some new bike handling skills, build your core strength a little. Change down the gears to avoid wheel spin on loose gravel, fly over mini-jumps and hold a straight line when the ground gets soggy.

Farrapona climb cycling
Who stole the road?

Riding off-road instantly sends me back to my childhood. It’s a joy to recapture such youthful abandonment. Carefree, neverending days of sunshine and random rides throughs woods and forests, always on the lookout for the next big jump or super steep decline, the more dangerous the better.

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