On being Underbiked


In cycling, there’s nothing like being on a trail on a bike that you’ve got no right to be riding there. Riding off road on skinny tyres and no suspension is a rite that’s probably lost many riders. ‘Cross riders know what I’m talking about. So too do those who grew up in the pre MTB era, when you rode one bike everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed being underbiked all my life. At age 9 I rode my 5 speed Falcon Eddy Merckx over ramps and did cycle speedway before I knew it existed.

When I was fully grown, I rode the Delyn Challenge, on the bridleways of the Clwyds, on lowly Trek hybrid amid hardtails and full bounce bikes. 

One of my favourite road rides on a 23mm tyred road bike took in a rocky unmade road in the Pennines. Another, a rooty singletrack shortcut.

Someone said that the thrill of riding off road was all about finding the edge. It’s a fact that you find the edge faster when you’re underbiked.

So get out there, find a trail and get sketchy.

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8 thoughts on “On being Underbiked

  1. I don’t have those boingy suspension thingies on any of my bikes, but always leave footprints that are at least 38mm wide. Even on the roots and rocky singletrack, I just slow down, pick those lines, and remain pretty comfortable. Good stuff. Thanks for the reminder to get back out there.

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      I was referring to a full on road bike that I used to own. You’re right, they’re 35mm tyres on Resurrectio, still a skinny tyre in the grand scheme of things.

  2. Bob

    This reminded me of the time almost twenty years ago when some co-workers and I did some cross-country cycling after work. I was the only one with a road bike, while the other two had mountain bikes. The plan involved riding through an active railway tunnel! (Writing this now, I’m suddenly struck by the sheer stupidity of it all!) The tunnel was so long — over a mile — that we needed to lash flashlights to our handlebars to see in front of us. Thankfully, one track was being maintained and was out-of-service, while the other track was clear, but I still remember the jarring I got rolling over the rocky ballast on 27 x 1-1/4 tires!

  3. I’m afraid I cant share your sentiments. Off road or on stretches that used to be a road, my old road bike slides and slips and gives my butt a beating. By comparison, my all-suspension mtb is sheer riding bliss. If I had a choice, rough terrain? – my heavy trusty mtb. Comfort = Fun.

  4. dilys

    I did the Wayfarer path over the Berwyns with a mate and two 13 year olds in the late ’70’s. I was on a five speed Viking Hosteller, my mate on a track bike where his feet overlapped the front the front wheel, and the kids on 5 speeders cobbled together from second hand bits.
    We continued on a five day tour of N. Wales and had a great holiday.
    I take my Brompton down tracks and bridleways and never found a need for front suspension :0)

  5. Stephen

    I don’t know about under-biked, but I have been under-tyred a few times. Most recently off-road on a triplet, trying to climb a hill with a loose surface — full mountain bike tyres might have got me (us) slightly further up the hill.

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