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What’s the best way to cross rail tracks on your bike?

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Riding across rail tracks can feel like no big deal—until the day your rear wheel starts to fishtail on a leaf-covered grate and you lose all faith in your bike-handling skills. 

Railroad tracks are dangerous to cross on a bike for a few reasons. The largest one is that when they are wet, they are as slick as ice. If they’re even at a slight angle, your bike is not straight up and down while crossing, or you try to accelerate or brake, you are very likely to have your wheels slide out from under you.

The thing with all of these scenarios as well is that it happens very fast and the next thing you know you’re sitting on the ground. Another danger is getting your tires sucked into the crack which can cause a nasty fall. This occurs more often when the tracks are running with you such as with a trolley line.

The best way of crossing railroad tracks successfully is to approach and cross them at an increased angle, thus minimising the contact between rubber and steel.

Cross the tracks at as close to a 90-degree angle as you can and ride straight across without turning. Sometimes this requires a swerving or repositioning action. If so, be sure to scan and only do so when traffic is clear.

If you are a much more experienced bike rider and you can’t ride wide to cross the tracks at a 90 degree angle and don’t want to slow down, you can employ the double hop.

You need to slow down a little bit to give enough time in-between the tracks. What you do is as your front wheel approaches the first track, lift it off the ground slightly so it doesn’t touch the track. As it’s coming back down, lift your rear wheel over the first track but while doing so you will have to lift your front wheel over the second track. And then again, as your front wheel is coming down, lift your back wheel over the second track.

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