Wet roads


How to ride on a wet road?
Keep your brakes dry by regularly braking a little bit. Wet rim brakes need some time to get grip. With disc brakes, that’s hardly any problem.
The difference between straight riding and cornering is much bigger than when the road is dry. On straight pieces you can ride as fast as when it is dry. That is scary to some, but it is possible. You need to calculate a much longer brake path for a corner. In a descent this is even more the case.
The bends are a bit slower than in dry weather. You keep your outer leg longer low and start paddling again later and you go out of the saddle later.
Sometimes you don’t ride a corner in one pretty round line, but divide the corner in pieces that go more or less straight (where wet) and rounder (where it is drier).
Take note of the white paint stripes, including the slightly increased stuff, pit covers, train rails and the like. Go over there with a 90 degree angle as far as possible and do not brake there especially.
In general
: Take a greater safety margin than you take under dry conditions.

Wetness is in gradations, whether or not combined with dirt and oil and the like. In addition, it may be different every few meters. As a result, you learn much less what is possible and is not. So on a wet road, you can tune yourself less than on a dry road. In dry conditions, one asphalt is more or less the same as the other. With many hours of riding and slowly increasing the limit, you can learn to get close to the maximum possible speed (in the corners). Under wet conditions, sliding risk may vary considerably. Certainly if it’s a little bit wet there, and somewhere else dry again.
If you drive the same route more often like in a criterion, you can better adjust to the corners. If you get a corner only once, that is not possible.
n wet conditions, therefore, you must ride further under the maximum possible in such conditions than in dry conditions.

Bumps and pot holes, jumping and dampening

When you’re cycling on the open road you occasionally come across a pot hole. If you’re riding in a group and cannot look ahead, you might not see them or see them too late. Therefore, we signal each other.
Sometimes you can ride around it, sometimes not. You don’t ride around a hole because you don’t want to endanger the folks behind you, so you ride through the pot hole.
If you ride through a pot hole, you may get a hit. If things go wrong, you get a ‘snake bite, or worse.

If you do ride through a pot hole, you shouldn’t stiffen up, but you should use your arms and legs to absorb the shock. There are two ways to do that: you jump, or you dampen.

To jump
If you see a pot hole if front of you that is not too big or too long, you can jump over it. You tuck in, and release just before you would hit the pot hole. In skiing, the German term ‘Hochentlastung’ is sometimes used. You would also use this technique to jump on a sidewalk. With a bit of training you can even pull up your rear wheel. But be careful! If you don’t make it across the pot hole, you’ll hit the hole, or worse, the (sharp) edge of that hole, twice as hard!

To dampen
The other way to make it across a pot hole is to lower your arms when you ride through it. You dampen the brunt of the blow. In skiing, the German term ‘Tiefentlastung’ is coined to this technique.

Sometimes you cannot see the pot hole. It is to your advantage if you can use the dampening technique as a reflex. By practicing the dampening reflex, it will become an automatic response. You can be amazed by the ways your body resolves issues in a smart way, and well before you can even think about solving them. But practice and exercise gave you that upper hand. Those who engage in mountain biking or cyclo crossing learn this technique almost automatically. If you only ride on tarmac, you need to consciously practice this technique.



Keeping distance

When cycling in a group, you would like to be as close as possible at the wheel in front of you to have as much wind advantage as possible. That’s logical. But with enough distance that you do not accidentally hit one another. So, what is the proper distance? That depends on your own steering art, but also from that of the others. When riding with strangers in a group, you should always take a little extra space to avoid surprises. The larger the group, the greater the ‘accordion’-effect. Because of reaction times, the further down in a group, the later people will brake, and consequently the harder they will brake. It’s the same as with cars on the highway. To accommodate for that ‘accordion’-effect, you better keep some distance. At higher speed should you take more distance, because you in the same time you cover more distance. That’s why you see in mountain stages that the distance between riders can become quite large in the descents.


afstand houden
Rolling courses are quite sneaky. If you ride there close to each other’s wheel and the road goes down a little, you sometimes don’t notice that the speed goes up properly. You tend to keep the same distance whereas you rather be a bit further apart. If you hit each other’s wheel while riding, the one in the rear will get screwed. His or her front wheel is forced to go the other way, and he or she flies over the handle bars. The front rider has very few problems because the rear end of a bicycle is quite stiff. In fact, he or she may hardly notice.

tap against rear wheel

When in a group ride, you not only need to take care of the safety of yourself but also of those who ride behind you. That’s why you never make brisk moves, or speed changes. And you give each other a lot of signals if you would like to change direction or speed.

See also: commit changes slowly
See also: Signals

In doing so it helps if you look far ahead and anticipates.
See also: looking forward, room to move



Keeping your line

If you ride in a group, you cannot weave, but “you keep your line”. You make as little lateral movements as possible. That does not come easy for everyone. This sometimes has to do with pedaling technique, sometimes with keeping your concentration.

You can practice cycling in a straight line when there is a white line on the road. You should try to stay on the line. You do not look down at the line directly under your front wheel. You look further down in front of you. And yet, you ride on the white line. Notice how you do that? An interrupted white line, which is sometimes sprayed on the asphalt, is perfect for this. Then you can hear and feel whether you still ride on the line. It  rumbles very nicely then.

Sometimes you want to look backwards. For example, to see if anyone has rejoined after a corner. To still keep your line is difficult. In a group, you can do that safely by putting your hand on the shoulder of your neighbor. This prevents you from deviating from your line. You also know for certain that your neighbor will be looking forward, and warns you in time if you need to brake.

Do practice on your own to look backwards without deviating from your line. You don’t have mirrors on your bicycle, and you don’t want to need them. But then you have to learn to look back, over your shoulder, or under your arm. That is not always easy. But with a little practice it gets better soon.
If you close your eye with which you do not look behind you, you get a better view. Try it. It is rather difficult to quickly close the right eye :). But that’s easy to get used to.

What can happen if you look back and do not keep your line, we see dramatically in the Classica San Sebastian 2018. With a bit of bad luck that the other also deviates from his line and then: boom.


Sometimes you take one hand off of your handle bars. For instance, to grab your water bottle, or give a gesture or signal, for example, if there should be weaved. Some make a small lateral deviation in their riding. That’s because the pressure on the bars has become uneven. To fix that, first transfer the pressure to the hand that remains on the bars. Then you can lift your other hand without disturbing your balance. Some do it unconsciously correct, others need to learn it first before it becomes automatic.

Ride next to the side of the road

Sometimes, the road is just too narrow for your group. Those who can ride right next to the side of the road have an advantage. If you happen to ride at the rear end of an echelon, you have an advantage if you’re right on the edge of the road, as you can still draft a bit. If you were to ride straight behind the rider in front of you, you’d be riding fully exposed to the wind.

stukje berm

Sometimes you’re forced to ride into the shoulder, for instance due to a sudden gust of wind. It is helpful if you are able to remain calm and steer out of the shoulder.

What you don’t practice you will not learn. Learn to ride close to or even in the shoulder. Especially if you’re alone you can practice riding on the shoulder without endangering anyone. If you practice it a couple of times, it wouldn’t scare you anymore if you were forced off the road accidentally.

When you do practice, do make sure that the shoulder is solid. Loose soil kills your speed in an instance, and chances are you’d be sent flying over the handle bars. Do consider the shoulder’s condition when you decide to ride on the edge of the road.

Look in front of you

In a group, you sometimes do things better when you are not too social :-).
Most people look at each other as they talk. In our culture, we are accustomed to that and for many that is the proper way. However, in some situations it is not practical or sensible. For example, in the car. There, the driver should keep his eyes on the road, and not to look at his passenger. In a group ride, cyclists tend to talk a lot, and many look at each other.

Zelfs de profs kijken netjes voor zich wanneer ze 2 aan 2 rijden

Even the pro’s look in front of them when talking to one another

When riding in a group, it is safer to look in front of you,  and not to the one you’re talking to. Talking is done from mouth to ear. The eyes remain focused on the road in front.

Just like when you do not have your hands at the brakes, looking at your neighbor, i.e. not looking at the road, adds a delay to your responses. It may not necessarily lead to an accident, but the behavior of the group as a whole will be much more erratic and your group will ride in a less compact formation.

Talking to your neighbor and still looking at the road is easier said than done. You will have to practice. And coach each other. Especially those who ride behind a pair that look at each other constantly: you kindly interfere. Tell them they need to look forward.

Rubbing shoulders

Shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow

If you ride in a compact group, then you will often touch each other. If you are smart you will lean with your shoulder or elbow against one another. That way the two of you are more stable and your handle bars will not interlock.


Not shy away
For some of us, body contact on the bicycle feels awkward, often unconsciously. It feels scary or inappropriate to touch one another. If they ride side by side and come too close to one other, they lean away. Leaning away, however, is dangerous! You may become unbalanced and your handle bars may interlock.

If you touch each other, you can avoid interlocking your handle bars by pushing yourself with elbow and shoulder away from the other, and lean against each other. Try leaning against each other deliberately. And then steer away. Staying close together will help.

Exercise prolonged leaning. Try to relax, you’ll notice that it’s getting easier and your corrections will become smaller and smaller. On a stretch of road, for instance with the straight headwind, you can reduce the combined frontal surface by leaning, and, in one way or another, you’ve become a ‘lateral tandem’. Quite a nice feeling when the two of you become one.

Professional races may be filmed from a helicopter. Especially in the final kilometers on the way to a final sprint you may very well see how much leaning and touching there is, using shoulders, elbows, or with a hand on the back. The term ‘butting’ is coined to this. That word is far too negative for what happens, making sure no accidents happen at a raging pace while fighting for your position. It’s nice to see how this ‘blind rage’ in the legs can go together with a cool head to prevent accidents from happening. Keeping a clear head in all this mayhem is the sign of a true professional.

In the video below you see Matthieu van de Poel putting a hand on Sinkeldam’s back to signal him that he was coming. In full final sprint! Beautiful and competent solved by both riders. There was also no (request for) disqualification or discussion afterwards.


Quite often it is convenient to push. If someone is suffering, you not only offer moral support, but also helps him directly.

In a double echelon, sometimes someone struggles through the wind to take the lead. The next man or woman pushes him quietly to the lead and then immediately takes the lead himself. Pushing also needs to be learned. When pushing, you should not push to the side. Not only will you push the other away from you, but you yourself will deviate the other way. So, you push him or her as much as possible in the middle of the lower back. That way, you form a so-called Russian echelon.

See also: Echelons

Keep your hands at the brakes


handen bij de remmen

If you are in a group ride you often need to brake a bit. Whenever possible, do not brake too hard, because  braking hard will get those riding behind you into trouble very soon because of the ‘accordion’ effect.  If you brake a fraction too late, you are usually able to brake in time, but your brake action will be sharper. As a result, the people behind you will have less time to react. They must in turn then brake even sharper. And so on. Until someone hits the rear wheel of the rider in front of him/her….

handen niet bij de remmen
If everyone keeps his hands on the handle bars, then the corrections needed will be less and the movements of the group as a whole becomes much quieter. That is why you always have to have your hands at the brakes. That saves response time if you need to brake. Useful for yourself and especially to those who ride behind you.

Your reaction time in meters

Suppose you ride with your hands on the bars and something happens in the group. Suppose that it takes you a second to hit your brakes in that position. If you ride at 30 km/h, it means that you only start to brake after 8.33 meter. Pretty late if you riding close behind one another in a group. The difference with a normal response time is soon a few meters.


Technique of breaking

The largest braking force comes from the front brake. If you brake there is much more pressure on the front wheel than on the rear wheel. The front wheel therefore has more friction with the road. So more braking power. The rear wheel has a lot less pressure on the road and slips earlier. By the way, you’d rather have your rear wheel slip than your front wheel. You can do something about a rear wheel slip. Namely: release the brake. Then the bike straightens itself again. A front wheel slip can hardly be repaired. You have to prevent that.
See also Specials: Crashes, the near fall of Fuglsang Crashes

So: You brake when you (still) drive in a straight line, for example before a turn, a lot and hard with the front brake and less with the rear brake. If you need to brake in the corner, do so carefully with the rear brake. Make sure you have the correct brake pads and that the brakes are properly adjusted. In particular, you want to prevent ‘biting’ and getting into the slip.
See also Specials / cycling in mountains: Equipment

Another thing is of course looking and anticipating and therefore having more time to respond.
See also Riding in groups, looking ahead: Anticipating and making changes slowly.