On my cycle to work this morning I noticed my back wheel was skidding out as I was going up a fairly steep hill. It did it enough that I thought I'd probably gotten a flat, however upon inspection it seemed fine.

I'm a bit of newbie (perhaps done 25 rides on my new-ish road bike) - am I right in thinking my back tire maybe just needs a bit more air in it? It seemed pretty pressurised although some of the bumps I went over today seemed a bit more more shocking than normal.

Are there some other things I should look for? I wasn't turning very hard at all when it lost traction.

Cheers, John.

Update - details here: http://www.sportstracklive.com/track/detail/johnhunt/Cycling/159913

Update2: Yes, I do wear cycling shoes that clip into the pedals, and it did happen at a particularly steep point on the hill. I guess I ought to try and stay seated a bit more - just after the previous two hills it's a lot easier to attack up the last one.

  • How fast were you going? Were you in the saddle or standing up? How hard and fast were you pedalling? What sort of road surface? Was it wet?
    – Мסž
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 23:49
  • Totally dry, probably about 10mph.. there was a bit of gravel I guess.. maybe I'm just being paranoid? Yes, I was out of the seat but just above it (to provide more downforce on the back wheel.) I just added a link to the ride stats that might shed some light..
    – John Hunt
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 23:52
  • How fat are your tires? I like to ride the biggest tires I can (but not knobbies!)
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 6:11

3 Answers 3


Check the tyre pressure anyway. You should be within the limits printed on the tyre. I would be a little surprised if low pressure caused sliding, normally it's high pressure on a rough surface that causes your wheel to skip across the top of the bumps and move sideways when it's airbourne between bumps. In that case lifting your bodyweight slightly with your legs can help soak up the bumps and increase traction.

But if you were unweighting the rear wheel by standing and pedalling hard that's not too unusual. Try to avoid it by pedalling more smoothly, ideally from the saddle.

edit: at that speed I think it's just basic bike handling skills. As you ride more that will be both less likely to happen and bother you less when it does. It might help to play on gravel a bit (possibly on a MTB or old bike). If you really want to push that along either mountain biking or bike polo are good ways to improve your bike handling.


It's unusual to break your tires loose on pavement, but it happens all the time on mountain bikes. Much of the hill-climbing technique off-road is keeping enough weight over the rear wheel to prevent spinning, and enough over the front wheel to prevent wheelies and lack of steering. If this is happening on pavement, I suspect you're standing and perhaps leaning pretty far forward?
This, coupled with insufficient tire pressure (and low gears) might cause a lack of traction. Normally, when climbing steep hills in the standing position, you'd want to shift "up" a couple of gears.


This little article on skid stops implies you're strong enough to skid your rear wheel: especially if you're bouncing; and perhaps even more so if your bike has gears.

Are you wearing shoes which clip to pedals? Perhaps (I don't know) you should concentrate on 'spinning' in a circular way (pushing forward and down, pulling back and up), instead of just thumping in one direction on the down-stroke.

  • I do try and focus on spinning rather than 'smashing', but at this point it was pretty steep so I didn't really have enough strength for the upstroke. Having said that, this does sound like quite a likely cause. Thinking about it, it's probably the result of all the things mentioned here together.
    – John Hunt
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 2:45
  • @John Hunt - People overtake me sometimes so my advice may not be applicable if you're in a hurry: I'm riding as a commuter. But anyway, when I complained of knee pain here, earlier, someone advised me to shift gears instead of pushing [too] hard, and that's what I do: on my steepest hill I'm on my third-lowest gear (of 21 gears), sitting, gripping (almost pulling on) the handle bars, spinning at over 90 RPM, and travelling at only a little over walking speed. I'm breathing more by the time I reach the top, but my legs aren't exhausted at all.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 16, 2011 at 13:20

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