Cattle Guards

Though not as treacherous as water crossings, cattle guards can pose a threat to the uninitiated, so take some time here to familiarize yourself with cattle guards.

One-two punch: Cattle guard (foreground) and water crossing (beyond)

Most cattle guards consist of rows of large pipes or rails laid perpendicular to the roadway with big gaps between them. The gaps would trap the legs of cows trying to traverse them, somehow the cows know this, so the cows do not cross them. Although cyclists might find cattle guards challenging, there is no need turn back; greener pastures await the wily rider who abides the following:

Do ride over cattle guards perpendicularly.

Anything other than a right angle is a wrong angle!. Snag a wheel in the gap between rails and the horrendous force of impact will ruin one or both wheels and quite possibly the rider too.

Do not ride over cattle guards slowly.

Maintain a critical rate of speed to scoot over them, unscientifically established at a minimum of 5 mph. Going slowly won't hurt you, but it will rattle you and if you lose your balance and attempt to dismount mid-guard, well good luck to you: cycling shoes and cattle guards do not mix.

Do inflate your tires adequately.

A 180 pound person should find a tire pressure of about 115psi will work fine to protect rims over most guards.

Do not over-inflate your tires.

Confirmed occurrences of sew-ups inflated to 150psi yielding dented rims exist: the tire wasn't taking up the blow, it was transferring it to the rim!

Do consider bunny-hopping cattle guards.

But, exercise discretion because they can be difficult to gauge. Frequently some rails will stand proud of others, and if you misjudge things you might come down right in the wrong spot, denting a rim at the least.

Finally, do un-weight your bike as you ride over cattle guards.

You don't have to lift the tires off the ground, just try to lighten the load on the tires. We believe this is the best strategy. (We recommend practicing this technique before executing it over an actual guard.)

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