Question: I ride on bad pavement — old, bumpy and cracked. It’s not the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, but I do get bounced off the saddle. It’s a struggle to keep a steady cadence. How in the hell (of the North) do the pros manage to ride so fast on cobbles? — Craig P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The answer is a combination of strength, gear selection, experience and bike-handling skills.
Good rough-road riders use a higher than normal gear so they can sit back on the saddle and pedal with a slightly lower cadence. This puts more weight on their feet and less on their seat so they don’t bounce as much.
They use a light-but-secure grip on the handlebar so the front end can “float” over the stones and find its own line. Tense arms mean the front wheel will be held rigidly in place. When it hits an edge, the bike will be more likely to veer. But with a relatively relaxed grip and loose elbows, the front wheel can absorb the hits.
Finally, pros have the confidence that comes from years of banging elbows in packs of 150 riders. Being jostled by cobbles isn’t something that scares them.
But it’s funny — some great road riders never learn the tricks for riding cobbles and they hate Paris-Roubaix.
Others seem to have a natural knack. They’re the ones who possess the special skills — including an almost blind trust in their bikes to stay upright.