Aaron Schooler, expert cyclocrosser and manager of Focus CX Team Canada, has eight great tips for riding through sand when you come to the loose stuff on a cyclocross course. Schooler has a lot of experience with sand, including the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium.
As you approach a sand pit, the presence of ruts will tell you that it’s rideable. Footprints indicate that you, too, should probably hop of the bike and run. Schooler advises to hit the pit with as much speed as possible; the momentum will help you get through. Keep your weight back over the rear wheel. Also, don’t sit too heavily on the saddle. You want to float above it. This body position will help you keep the front end light. You’ll be able to hop the front wheel from rut to rut if you start to drift.
You have to do some quick calculations in the sand. If you are pedalling through the pit and your speed goes below your minimum speed—that is, your running speed—you should probably get off the bike. It’s best to start running before you come to a stop or, worse, topple over.
As always with ‘cross, you want to run low pressures in your tires for traction. Schooler has gone as low as 18 to 20 p.s.i. for the course at Koksijde. However, such low pressures may not work on other courses that have variable surfaces. When you dial in tire pressure, you also have to consider the other things the rubber will come in contact with.
For your chain, use a wax-based lubricant. It’s the best lube for making sure the grains of sand fall off of your chain soon after you’ve ridden out of the pit.