bad pavement that is hard for bikes to ride

While mountain bikers face the obvious obstacles (rocks, logs, mud pits, etc.) out on the trail, there are plenty of dangers out there on the pavement, too.

Here’s how to stay upright no matter what the road throws at you:


In most cases, you will spot the roadkill while it’s still far up the road, giving you time to change your line and safely ride around it. (You are always alert for potential road hazards, right??)

All you have to do is pick a line to the left or right of the roadkill and glide by without trouble. Just don’t look at the roadkill. Remember, always look where you want to go – don’t look at the obstacle you’re trying to avoid! (You might want to plug your nose, too.)

Can’t change lines? If you didn’t spot the roadkill in time, or you’re surrounded by traffic, you will have to hop over the roadkill!

To do this, stand up and crouch down like a spring. When you get to the roadkill, spring your body upwards and slightly pull the bike up into the air if you can. It is best to get both wheels over, but at least get your front wheel over. (If your back wheel hits, it may get some blood and guts on it, but if your front wheel hits, you could lose control and be roadkill yourself!)

Pot hole

Again, this is something you want to spot well in advance and ride around it (follow the same guidelines as avoiding roadkill.)

But if you can’t get around the pot hole, there are two ways to hit it…

The fast way:

Unweight your wheels, stand up, glide over it. Use legs and arms as shock absorbers when you land.

One, keep your speed high, and unweight your wheels, which allows you to stay above the pothole and land safely on the other side. Unweight and go straight up and speed carries you forward to the other side. Could do this in the drops or on bar tops.

The slow way:

Two, slow down quite a bit, but maintain enough speed to safely roll through. Lean back, unweighting front wheel, it will glide over. Then lean forward to take weight off the rear wheel. Use legs and arms as shock absorbers. Best done with hands on bar tops.

Either way, you’ll be standing up in the attack position.

Railroad Tracks

Railroad tracks pose a slightly different threat than typical obstacles since you can’t ride around them. You either ride over them or jump over them! (Both options can be dangerous, but very doable if you know how.)

Glide over:

Stay loose and glide over. Hit perpendicular. If the tracks are angled, then you need to angle yourself to hit them at 90 degrees. Watch for traffic, because this requires you to use the whole lane.

If they’re wet, be extra careful.

Hop over:

At high speeds, you can unweight over these just like you’d unweight over a huge pothole. For experienced riders only, because it’s a long ways. Otherwise roll over them lightly like you would roll over a pot hole.

Broken Glass

Rarely do I go for a ride and not encounter glass of some sort. Whether there is window glass scattered everywhere from a car crash or broken beer bottles lining the shoulder, glass is a common sight on the road.

As with roadkill, try your best to pick a line that takes you past the glass, rather than through it.

But if you have to ride through the glass, you can decrease your risk of a puncture. First off, try to ride through as little glass as possible. Second, glide through lightly with your pedals level, weight evenly distributed.

Once you’re through, (with gloves on) run your palm along the tire to dislodge any glass shards before they burrow their way down to the tube. It’s easier to do this if you are stopped, but experienced riders can do this while still riding. Just don’t let the tire pull your hand in between it and the frame or fork!

Metal Drainage Grates

When crossing a metal drainage grate, there are two problems you’ll encounter.

First, metal is slippery. If it’s wet, it’s extra slippery!

If possible (traffic permitting,) simply ride around the grate. If you have to ride over the grate, cross it in a straight line. If you turn your wheels at all, you could lose traction and go down.

The second problem is the size and orientation of the openings. Some grates have openings that run parallel with the road, meaning that your narrow tires could actually slip down into the grate, sending you over the handlebars!

So you either ride around the grate or cross it by riding perpendicular to the openings. (Or, if you’re highly skilled, you could ride across the narrow metal part like it’s a balance beam.)

Wet Leaves

Much like metal and painted surfaces, wet leaves are extremely slippery!

To ride over them safely, ride in a straight line in the attack position. Stay loose and alert, because wet leaves could also be hiding pot holes or rocks that you won’t see till it’s too late (like, after they knocked you down.)

Don’t try to turn, and don’t accelerate a lot. If you turn you might slide, and if you accelerate, your back wheel will probably spin and you could lose control.

Final Tips

Want to be ready for anything the road throws at you? Try riding MTB and BMX in your spare time. Then you’ll have such good bike control that nothing can stop you!

And of course, practice crashing with proper technique! (Eventually, the practice will pay off!)

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  1. Great post Levi, not sure about riding along the metal part of a grate, although i think i might have tried it sometime ago during my careless days..out on the MTB in a couple of days though so thanks for the advice…i might need it haha

  2. I guess the attack position is not just for mountain bikers anymore!

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