Underbiking: What’s the Point?

So, what is ‘underbiking’, and how can it revitalise your bike riding? Read on…

While it might seem like a new-fangled marketing thing with a daft name, underbiking is real. If you are feeling a little stale doing your usual ride routes, this could be just the thing to spice things up. And no, it’s not riding your bike in your underwear.

What is it?

In a nutshell, underbiking is riding trickier terrain than what your bike is designed to tackle; riding relatively smooth gravel on a road bike, riding your gravel or cyclocross bike on cross country MTB trails or pump track, riding more extreme MTB trails on a cross country bike. Imagine riding a smooth flat road on a full suspension mountain bike – that would be ‘overbiking’ – it would be pretty dull, boring and require minimal skills. Underbiking is the direct opposite of that.

You get the idea, so what’s the point of doing that then?

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Ragged Edge

As you get towards the limits of you and your bike’s capabilities, things get more interesting; you can lose traction, struggle for balance, maybe even get airborne and really test your bike handling skills. The feeling of being on, or near the ragged edge can be pretty exhilarating. However it can also serve a purpose, improving bike handling skills and confidence.

Fun & Smiles

Underbiking can definitely put a smile on your face and stimulate your senses as you teeter on the brink of being out of control. It’s a bit like losing traction almost and staying upright, it is a massive buzz.

As a youngster in the late 80’s, my winter road bike got some fairly serious off road action on green lanes and rough farm tracks. ‘Rough stuff’, as it was known, enhanced my bike handling and skills fixing broken bikes in the wind and rain, a long way from home. However, my mates and I loved it. There was a definite feeling of euphoria getting home after battling the elements. Riding pretty horrific terrain on steel frame bikes and 23mm tyres – these rides are etched into my memories.


This is the tricky bit about underbiking. Riding your bike where it shouldn’t really go does have an element of danger, not to mention potentially pushing the limits of manufacturer’s warranties. If you can avoid physical injuries you might not escape slightly un-true wheels. Possibly much worse if you attempt to ride your carbon road bike on the local MTB Trail Centre black run. So, use common sense. Riding a gravel or cyclocross bike on local MTB cross-country trails is a pretty safe option and possibly the most fun. Remember, just like humans, bikes have limits of what they can cope with.

Dip Toes

If you are contemplating underbiking, start small. Dip your toe in the water; maybe drop tyre pressures a little on your road bike tyres – head onto relatively smooth gravel. Get used to how it feels and take it from there. You will get more of a feel of what you and your bike can do, while checking out some new routes.

If underbiking leaves you wanting more, check out our Malt aluminium gravel bikes. Malts were designed to offer a great mix of comfort, ride speed and are as tough as old boots when the terrain gets more challenging.