• Country

Mastering the Cobbles – Tips and Techniques

By Jiri Kaloc

Cobblestones can be a brutal experience when you’re not ready. The constant impact of the stone on your wheels as well as the unpredictability of the surface can be overwhelming. But with several adjustments in your body position, riding style, and focus, you will have a lot better chance of succeeding. Let’s take a close look.

Body position

The ideal position for riding on cobblestones is slightly different than on smooth tarmac. The main thing is to slide your pelvis back a bit. This will make you stay more upright, which helps you see further. This is important on pavé, but more on that later. It will also make it easier to lower your heel to push a bit more horizontally when in harder gear.

Shifting into a slightly harder gear is also something you should do as soon as you enter cobblestones. It will give you something more substantial to push against and allow you to put more weight on your legs as opposed to your backside. Giving your butt as much relief as possible on the cobbles is the goal.

Cycling on Cobbles
If you have rim brakes on your road bike, it’s a good idea to move the quick-release lever a bit closer to the horizontal. This will give your rims a little more space to jump around over the cobblestones without touching the rubber surface of your brakes. © Profimedia

Bike handling

As soon as you hit the first cobblestone, your immediate instinct will be to tense up your muscles, tighten the grip on your handlebars, and fight. Unfortunately, you have to go completely against your instincts here. The more relaxed you manage to stay, the higher the chance of avoiding a fall and going fast. Try to keep your elbows bent and your neck loose to start. Then focus on your hands as those are the hardest to get right. You need to hold the bars securely enough to keep your front wheel going straight but loose enough to let the bars dance a little to accommodate the irregular surface.


When it comes to speed, it’s simple: the faster you go, the smoother the cobbles feel. It’s important to maintain your speed rather than trying to gain it during a cobblestone section. So, enter the cobbles as fast as you safely can, stay off the brakes, and take the corners as quickly as you dare.

Having said that, don’t underestimate any pavé section. You want to do a hard consistent push but not blow out your legs in the middle of the section. You will pay for a forced slowdown much more on cobblestones than you would on asphalt.

Look further ahead

Another instinct you will have to fight against is looking down at the cobblestones right in front of you. If you want to ride fast, you can’t perfectly navigate every single stone, no matter how much you focus. What you should actually do is to look further ahead than you’re used to. This is something that will allow you to keep a good line and find some resemblance of consistency.

Keep extra room between yourself and the rider in front of you so you can safely look far ahead. This will help you avoid extremely bad spots without losing speed and while staying safe. Talking of lines, if you can see a clear hump on the road, that is most often where the best line is. But you will need experience on cobblestones to judge where to go, there’s no amount of reading you can do to make up for that.

Next up in Mastering the Cobbles series