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If you live near the ocean you’ve probably tried to ride your bike on the beach.
I bet you didn’t have much success riding a bike in the sand. Beach bike riding isn’t easy and your success will depend on the style of bike you’re using. It could be fun or downright impossible.
In recent years, there are bicycles that have been made for the beach. They feature wide tires and they perform quite well!
There are a number of things you should know before attempting to ride your bike on the beach and/or sand and in this article, I’ll share a few tips to make your attempt successful.
Riding A Bike On The Beach
Beware of Sand
Many people have crashed and burned when they hit a patch of sand. It usually occurs on the beach, but can happen in other places too.
I spent a few years riding in Africa and occasionally hit patches of sand on remote bush paths. Of course, I tried to navigate through the sand but it was tricky. There were several crashes and plenty of fishtailing.
Balance, gear, speed, and sand depth are all important criteria to consider. Riding a bike on the beach requires an ability to read the depth of sand, moisture content, and firmness.
Sand can cause more serious problems too. You might be worried about falling or moving slow, however, sand can get into bike gears and ball bearings.
Once sand finds its way into your bike, it can stay there for years if not properly cleaned.
Check Your Tires
The size of your tires is extremely important when riding on the beach. Thin tires have less surface area and will easily slice through sand (whether it’s deep or not).
Once your tires are “in” the sand it’s difficult to maintain velocity and difficult to turn.
Wide tires tend to do well on sand. With wide tires, the weight of you and your bike is dispersed over a large area and does a better job of staying above the sand where you have better control of the bike.
Tire pressure is also extremely important yet often overlooked. Tire pressure allows the tire to widen and gives an additional surface area to the bike.
How much benefit you gain from reducing tire pressure depends on the type of bike and tire you’re using.
It’s important to note that reducing tire pressure on a road or city bike will have a minimal effect because the tires will remain thin, however, reducing tire pressure on a mountain bike can be of big benefit because the tires are wider to begin with.
Analyze the depth of sand on the beach.
- Is the sand thick?
- Are the granules fine like a powder or large?
Also, look at the slope of the beach.
- Does sand density change on the beach when you’re closer or farther from the water?
In most cases, sand will be more compacted closer to the water. This is why you’ll see people running and walking near the shore.
If you plan a trip to the beach at low tide, there will be more damp sand that is relatively dense.
Sand near the water is your best bet for riding a bike on the sand.
A lack of speed is your enemy when riding on the beach. This concept applies whether you’re on pavement or on sand.
If you’re not moving at a significant speed it’s hard to keep your balance. You’ll find that balance is even more difficult on sand.
If you see a patch of deep sand ahead, increase your speed. It sounds counter-intuitive but your speed will give you more control over the bike and you’ll get through the sandy area quickly.
Once you enter sand, your speed will decrease quickly – you might even come to a full stop if it’s deep.
Change To A Low Gear
Another tip I used when entering sand is to move to lower gears (easier to peddle) and peddle hard. High gears to not mix with sand. You might experience your tires spinning without grips and it will take a lot of effort to make progress.
A lower gear allows you to keep the bike moving with minimal force.
Fat Tire Bikes Are Best For Beach Sand
If you live near the beach you’ve probably seen a few fat-tire bikes. They look funny because the tires are oversized. Way oversized!
Remember when I mentioned how tire size helps increase surface area? Well, this bike uses wide tires to increase its surface area with the sand.
Although the bike looks bulky, the only difference between it and a regular bike is big tires. The frame is very similar to standard mountain bikes.
The fat tires do well on pavement, however, fat tire bikes excel on sand, rocks, and other soft surfaces (if it only rode on water…haha).
I like the Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike available on Amazon (shown in photo). Mongoose is a reliable and mid-range priced bike that can cruise beaches and boardwalks, as well as National Parks.
If you already have a mountain bike and want to purchase fat tires for it, check out the section below.
Do Mountain Bikes Work On The Beach
Let’s start by saying this, mountain bikes may not do well on the beach, but they will do much better than road bikes or BMX bikes.
Mountain bike tires provide decent surface area but in most cases, it won’t be enough to navigate over beach sand. If you’re content on trying, you should reduce the tire pressure (not hard, but not flat) and use a low gear on the sand.
This is what I did when I rode on the sand, but I only rode on brief patches of sand, never the beach.
If you’re trying to adapt your bicycle into a fat tire bike, here are the fat tires listed on Amazon, but remember you’ll also need fat tire rims (they won’t work on standard rims).
You might also need a larger fork. In most cases, it will be easier to buy a fat tire bike than to build one.
Can I Ride A BMX or Road Bike On The Beach
Bad news alert: Riding a BMX bike or road bike is going to be rough. Both bikes have more narrow tires than a mountain bike.
The biggest problem is the lack of gears for the BMX bike and the ultra-thin tires on the road/city bike.
If you use these bicycles for daily use, it’s not worth risking them in the sand (sand can damage gears and ball bearing). Take my word for it and rent a bike at the beach or ride with the beach cruisers on the boardwalk.
The boardwalk may not be “on” the beach but it’s still at the beach.
What About A Quad Or A Dirt Bike At The Beach
In the United States, there are a few beaches you can ride a quad or dirt bike. One such beach is in Oceano and Grover Beach in California.
Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve offers dirt bikes and Quads the opportunity to ride dunes on the beach. You can even drive your truck and trailer on the beach.
Can you ride a bike on the beach? Sure, but it might not be enjoyable if you’re using a single-speed or road/city bike.
Before you decide to ride your bike at the beach, consider the sand and tide.
- Does the beach have fluffy sand that is deep?
- Is the sand near the water firm and compact?
- Are other people riding bikes on the beach?
Your best bet is to ride near the water at low tide. This is the same area people walk and run, and the moist sand makes it firm.
Most bikes won’t work well on the beach, but fat tire bikes are gaining popularity for their ability to ride over a variety of surfaces.
Fat tires have more surface area with the sand and allow it to remain on top of the sand, rather than sink into it.
Road bikes and BMX bikes won’t work well, plus you risk damaging the bike if it gets stuck in the sand. There are a few beaches that allow quads and dirt bikes but those are few and far between.
Thanks for reading another Beach Life blog post. Let us know if you know a beach that’s good for bike riding!