10 Top Tips for Biking On The Beach

Endurance cycling pro Robbie Ferri provides the lowdown on beach biking essentials

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reviewed by Rory McAllister

Only very few cyclists get to try biking on the beach.

It’s a huge amount of fun and has some amazing benefits, such as being away from the traffic, incredible views, and the great feeling of beach biking. It’s a great way for cyclists to elevate a beach vacation.

You can make riding on the beach really easy or very challenging. As someone who often rides on beach bike paths and on beaches themselves, I had to learn the hard way.

In this article, I will give you everything you need to know based on the tips I’ve learned the hard way for epic beach adventures!

A cyclist riding on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#1. The Right Bike

When it comes to riding on the beach, it’s so important that you use the right bike.

I find the two best bikes that work for me are either a fat bike, which is a mountain bike with oversized off-road tires, or a mountain bike with large tires, such as a boost mountain bike.

You can always look at rentals if you don’t cycle on the beach regularly enough to justify buying a specialist fat bike for yourself.

These are the only bikes that handle sand well, and it comes down to the large volume in each tire, making it work. Trying to ride a road bike or commuting bike on sand will be nearly impossible.

Bikes with very low gearing will also help you get much more traction. Mountain and fat bikes are the best way to go, and you will often find yourself right at the bottom of your range of gearing.

A hardtail mountain bike on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#2. Pick The Right Line

The beach is a tough place to ride, but just like bike trails, picking the correct line can make it much easier. Heavy, dry, lumpy sand and very wet, sloppy sand should be avoided.

In between those, you will find a place where the sand feels great to ride on. It will feel flat and solid where only a slight amount of water is in the sand, making it sturdy but not slippy. 

A close up on a bike tire on a beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#3. Rinse Your Bike After

If you plan to ride on the beach, rinse your bike down with water after you have finished and got home. This washes all the salt water off, and it’s vital to do this to prevent rust.

One of the toughest places for a bike is on the beach. The grains of sand, the salt, and all the water are just not great for components and can wear them down very quickly.

I recommend keeping on top of washing as much as possible after beach rides, even more than when riding on regular bike paths. 

A bike laying down on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#4. Sun Protection

Unlike riding in a forest, when biking on a beach, bikers have to be really careful when it comes to protecting themselves from the sun.

Not only are you in completely open terrain, but many other factors such as reflection from the water and wind can play a role in increasing sunburn.

It’s so important that you use sun cream. Not only will the sea breeze make it feel like you are not getting burnt, but you have no protection from any shade. I will always ride with a minimum of SPF 30 in summer and top up if I sweat too much.

A close up of a mountain bike tire on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#5. Low Tire Pressures

Riding on a beach can be challenging because there’s very little grip, and the ground under you moves so much.

The key to getting the best grip is to run very low tire pressure. This means more of the tire is in contact with the ground, and you get much more traction.

When I ride my mountain bike on the beach, I often use pressures as low as 15 to 20 psi. This would make it really challenging on the road or even a trail, but on the beach, it works well. As long as you’re not bottoming out on the rim, then it will be fine. 

A cyclist riding on a beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#6. Extra Wind Speeds

If you love tailwinds, then the beach is one of the best places to get them. The area is so open, and generally, on the coast, you get high wind speeds anyway, so it’s a huge amount of fun. You can see your speed shoot up, and the work gets much easier. 

Unfortunately, you can’t always have tailwinds. Sometimes they are headwinds. I recommend if you are riding on a beach, if possible, you are going to want to go into the headwind first while you have the energy, then enjoy the tailwind on the way home. 

A mountain bike against a log on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#7. Wear Sunglasses

Getting sand in your eyes isn’t fun while bike riding on a beach. The more you ride on the beach, the more you will notice how much sand can blow around in the wind or up from your bike.

When biking on the beach, I recommend decent sunglasses to stop sand from getting into your eyes. 

It’s also good for avoiding sand and for eye health, as there’s a strong possibility there’s going to be a lot of sun shining into your eyes. Try and get sunglasses with strong sun protection, and although some people find them annoying, they are important.

A hardtail mountain bike on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#8. The Right Lube

If you’re biking on the beach, having the correct chain lube is very important. Wet lube will take all that sand and make it stick to the bike chain, which will then get clogged and very quickly wear down. You can use wet lube, but you need very minimal amounts. 

The best lube for beach riding is either dry lube or wax. Dry lube and wax have a much better ability to let the sand fall off the chain while still giving it the freedom to move easily. I personally like dry lube, as waxing can be difficult to apply.

A Garmin on a mountain bike on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#9. Check The Tide

You must check the tide when beach riding. I have heard stories of many excellent riders not doing this and ending up not being able to return on the same route they came because the sea has blocked them off.

Worst case scenario, it could even become dangerous as you become isolated on a stretch of coastline with no easy routes inland.

Although it might not be the first thing you think of, it’s important to always check the tide and to know how to do it properly. Later in this article, I will explain how I tell the tide and the precautions I take to avoid getting stuck in a messy situation. 

A mountain bike against a log on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

#10. Stay Loose, Not Tense

When riding on the beach, there’s a strong possibility that you will fall off at some point. You shouldn’t worry about this too much as compared to falling off on the road or the trail, it’s a lot more comfortable, and there’s a lot less risk of getting injured. 

When it comes to falling, I have always found the best way to avoid injuries is to stay loose when you know you are going over. The minute you tense, a lot more pressure goes through the body, and there’s more chance of breaking bones. 

You will also find that riding is much simpler when you stay loose, and you can react to the bike slipping around much easier than if you were tense. This does take some confidence, but it will come in time after beach biking for a while.

A cyclist riding away on the beach.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Understanding Tides And How To Check Them

The most important factor when riding on a beach is understanding the tide. If you are on a beach that can close off due to the movement of the water, then it’s vital that you know when it will happen.

I highly recommend using an application where you can check the tides when beach biking. I do this before I go to ride my bike route. I feel it is worth checking and allowing time for me to complete the route.

I also plan some points where I can escape to the road or trails if required.

The low tide is when the water is at its lowest point, and the high tide is when it is at its highest point. Thin sections of beach will be very affected by the high tide, and the difference between the two can be huge. 

The Best Bike For Beach Riding

Another question we often get asked at BikeTips is what the best bike for riding on the beach is.

I personally have found the best bike for riding on the beach is a fat bike. With huge 3” to 4” tires, these bikes can grip and float on the sand instead of getting stuck in a rut. 

Second to a fat tire bike, I would recommend a hardtail mountain bike with the largest tires you can safely fit on. Compared to a fat bike, it will feel more agile but won’t have as much grip without the super wide tires. 

A common misconception is that a beach cruiser is good at riding on the beach.

Beach cruisers may be well at home weaving between the boardwalks and skate parks of Los Angeles next to the beach, but on sandy beaches themselves they’re far from ideal. Essentially, they haven’t got the wide tires for soft sand, and the gearing generally isn’t low enough.

Riding on a beach is a lot of fun, but there’s much more to consider compared to riding on a trail or the road. It’s important to consider tides and ensure that you are on the right bike to have a good oceanfront experience. Thanks for taking the time to read our article!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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