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My new bicycle is a new regular road bicycle (not specialist) with puncture tough tyres. The bicycle is fine otherwise but a bit rough on all the crappy pedestrian path elements in Japan like kerbs. The pedestrian path is all bitumen with various levels of embedded gravel.

It is not a braking problem- it doesn't skid forward. Turning at speed and manoeuvring (probably on a metal culvert) makes it skid sideways when wet and much less often in dry conditions. It is just a scary problem but seemingly not dangerous.

I have bad joints and back. When I put the old bicycle to the right height for effective riding, it hurts my lower back so I don't think changing my form is sensible.

Can I modify the bike to reduce or eliminate this problem?

Rear Wheel

Front Wheel

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    Sounds like some different tires could provide more traction while wet. – Nate W May 29 at 22:28
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    Also what tyre width and pressure? A narrow hard tyre, especially if the rider is light, will have a very small contact patch and if that happens to hit a bad bit of surface you'll feel it. A too-soft tyre, especially if wide, will squirm but not easily skid. – Chris H May 30 at 5:46
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    I'm not sure it'll make much difference but what actual kind of bike are you talking about, here? A "road bike" is what many people would call a "racing bike" (drop handlebars, etc.). Do you mean a hybrid (similar to a hardtail mountain bike but typically with narrower, smoother tyres), or maybe a city bike (similar to a hybrid but typically with a very upright seating position)? – David Richerby May 30 at 8:56
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    A further thought: some hard-wearing tyres seem a bit less grippy. Every time I've slid out unexpectedly on a damp road has been on marathon plus despite having them on my slower bike that does less distance. They feel like they make the maximum speed for the conditions a tiny bit lower than some of my other tyres. – Chris H May 30 at 9:47
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    You mention skidding on a 'metal culvert'. Cast iron access covers embedded in road surfaces very slippery when wet. Avoid them. – Argenti Apparatus May 30 at 15:26
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After looking at your pictures, reading the description of the roads you ride on and looking at the comments here are my suggestions:

Riding Style
Change your riding style based on the surface you are riding on.

For normal cycling on surfaces with good traction a rider will lean into a turn. When the surface you are riding on is less than optimal you need to adopt riding tactics to prevent falling.

  • Choose your path. Bike tires are skinny, make sure they are on the best and safest part of the path. Notice the road condition in front of you. If you see loose sand/gravel/dirt is in your line of travel seek to safely avoid it. Pay particular attention to the condition of the road when making turns. If possible make turns on the dry gravel/sand/dirt free part of the path.
  • On gravel / sand / lose dirt change your riding style so that you don't lean into turns. Reduce your speed and rely on turning the handlebars to make the turn.
  • If there is wet metal in your path seek a safe way around it. Wet metal is very slick. If you have to ride on wet metal reduce your speed and avoid leaning.
  • If you are on dry, dirt/sand free pavement ride normally.

The key is to be aware of your riding conditions and adjust your riding style to stay safe.

Tires
It might be possible to find a tire that will improve your traction on gravel or adjust the air pressure in your current tires. There are three tire characteristics that improve traction on gravel:

  1. Tire width - Off road bikes have very wide tires to help with challenging traction issues. You won't get much - if any - wider tires on your bike so this won't help much. The good news is that your tires are not super skinny now.
  2. More aggressive tread. You might be able to find a tire that fits your bike designed to get more traction on gravel/sand/dirt. It would be good to have a conversation with someone at your local bike shop on what is available.
  3. Tire pressure. Every tire has a maximum rating that works well for good traction situations. You can experiment with different tire pressures and see if a lower than maximum rating pressure helps. Try running the tires 3 PSI lower than max and see if that helps. Don't get carried away with reducing tire pressure. If the pressure is too low the tires can slip and tear valve stems.

Summary
I think your best solution is to adopt riding tactics that fit the road surface you are riding on. Avoid poor traction situations. When you can't avoid a poor traction situation slow down and don't lean.

If you don't have one already make sure you ride with a helmet.

  • I would probably add that some road markings may also be slippery when wet. And it may be an option for the OP to try and reproduce the skids under safe/controlled conditions to explore how the skids are initiated and how to control them (but I do note the back/joints concern). Neither of my suggestions actually answer the original question but are hopefully ok to include in a comment. – pateksan May 31 at 6:18
  • Having made no changes, I rode the bicycle again in the drenching rain and almost no problems except for plastic lines on the sidewalk for guiding blind people- slipped sideways on that. Maybe it was because it was new. – user2617804 Jun 13 at 6:48
  • @user2617804 wet plastic / paint on the path is super slippery, even for shoes. – David D Jun 13 at 13:25

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