Holiday Mountain Biking: Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach?


It’s summer time, the beautiful sunny weather has arrived, so it’s time to get down to the local beach and soak up the sunshine and start cycling. However, many cyclists are unsure if they can use their mountain bike on the beach? In this article I am going to answer that question an all other related questions so you are in the know how when it comes to cycling your mountain bike on your local beach

In short a mountain bike is not ideally suited to cycle on a sandy beach, the soft and impermanent shape shifting nature of the sand (changes as weight is shifted over it) means that there is very little tyre traction to be had for your bicycle tyres as you cycle over it which makes it far more difficult than cycling on a road surface, however continue to read on for greater detail and explanation…

Table Of Contents

  • Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • How Do I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • Are Mountain Bikes Suitable For Cycling On The Beach?
  • Is Cycling A Mountain Bike On The Beach Difficult?
  • Do I Need To Change My Tyre Pressure & Size When Cycling My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • Do I Need To Cycle In A Higher Gear When Cycling My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • What Is The Top Speed I Can Cycle My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • At What Times Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • Do I Have To Wear A Safety Helmet When Cycling My Mountain Bike On The Beach?
  • Do I Need To Wear Cycling Sunglasses To Prevent Sand Getting In My Eyes?
  • Do I Need A Bicycle Light & High Visibility Vest When Cycling My Mountain Bike On On The Beach
  • Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Promenade?
  • What Is The Top Speed I Can Cycle My Mountain Bike On The Promenade?
  • Are There Cycling Lanes On The Beach Promenade?

Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach?

Yes absolutely, cycling a mountain bike on most beaches (around the world) is 100% legal, meaning that you can cycle freely as you wish without breaking any local beach laws/rules. Of course public safety is paramount so you as a cyclist have a responsibility to cycle in a way that puts no pedestrians that are using and accessing the beach in any danger. If you were acting irresponsibly then you may be fined and asked or enforced to leave the beach as you are a public hazard     

While cycling a mountain bike on the beach is perfectly legal, it is not actually the best surface to cycle a mountain bike on. The soft and impermanent shape shifting nature of the sand (changes as weight is shifted over it) means that there is very little tyre traction to be had for your bicycle tyres as you cycle over it which makes it far more difficult than cycling over a road surface

How Do I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach? 

The best way to cycle on a beach is to visually plot out the smoothest and safest possible path to take and adjust when needed. You may trail off your intended route which is totally normal due to the drifting you will experience on the sandy surface however as long as you are going in the same direction as your intended route you will be ok

When it comes to steering your mountain bike on the sand, often the best way to steer the bike is not with the handlebars, but by steering/turning the bike with your shoulders and hips. This way you gently and gradually drift the bike in the direction you intend to go. Additionally you are best cycling in a higher gear, cycling in a higher gear will spin the bicycle tyres but keep the bike moving, give you greater control (than cycling in a lower gear) while having less chance of getting stuck

Another tip to use when cycling your bike on a sandy beach is to alter your body’s cycling position to a new centre of gravity on the mountain bike, straighten your arms and move your butt as far back as possible on the seat. You’ll have to experiment to find the sweet spot where the front wheel stays afloat and you are not so far back that you cannot pedal comfortably and with force. You have to think and approach cycling on sand as completely different to cycling on tarmac roads or pavements

Lowering The Tyre Pressure

To make cycling over sand easier you are best lowering your tyre pressure, by lowering your tyre pressure (a little bit) you allow the tyre to cover a greater area (the tyre widens vs a fully pumped up tyre wil narrow) making it easier to cycle and there is less chance of getting stuck and sinking in the sand. Here are some basics to follow to make cycling on the beach less difficult and challenging:

  • Cycle in a higher gear and avoid stopping (loses your momentum), cycling in a higher gear will spin the bicycle tyres but keep the bike moving, giving you greater control while having less chance of getting stuck
  • Lower your tire pressure, this will make cycling over sand easier
  • Steer/Turn the bike with your shoulders and hips, not the handlebars
  • Alter your body’s position and the centre of gravity on the mountain bike, straighten your arms and move your butt as far back as possible on the seat
  • If you want to give the gears, chain and ball bearing some level of protection from the damage that sand granules can do then spraying some bicycle chain lubricant on the gears, chain and ball bearing can help. Use it right before you ride because it will not have enough time to evaporate

Are Mountain Bikes Suitable For Cycling On The Beach?

Unfortunately mountain bikes are not as suitable as you may think for cycling on a beach, the natural structure of sand means that cycling a heavy weight over a soft and impermanent surface of beach sand (changes as weight is shifted over it) means that there is very little tyre traction for your bicycle tyres to be had as you cycle over it

Another factor to this issue of mountain bikes not being as suitable for cycling on a beach is the tyre width, the small width size (or thinness/narrowness) of the tyres on a mountain bike means that there is a greater chance of sinking into the sand as all of your weight and the bicycle frame weight is pivoted on the two tyres (front and back tyres)

All of the bicycle’s weight pivoted on the two tyres (front and back tyres) means that there is a greater chance of sinking into the sand. A wider tyres width is preferably suited to have a wider and more even spread of weight pivoted on the two tyres (front and back tyres) which means there is greater stability when traveling across a sandy beach

I would recommend getting fat bicycle tires that have a wider width that are specifically designed for cycling on surfaces like a sandy beach. Fat bicycle tyres are designed for increased grip which makes for a more comfortable ride for mountain and hybrid bicycles. Fat bicycle tyres give you increased performance grip and a relatively smooth and fast experience when cycling across rough and uneven terrain like that of a sandy beach  

Another issue to be aware of when cycling on the beach is that sand granules can cause damage to your bicycles gears, chain and ball bearing, if you do not want to risk damaging your bike when cycling on the beach then perhaps renting a bicycle is a better option or stick to the beach promenade (we will discuss later) 

If you are using your own mountain bike and want to give the gears, chain and ball bearing some level of protection from the damage that sand granules can do then spraying some bicycle chain lubricant on the gears, chain and ball bearing can help. The bicycle chain lubricant essentially stops the sand granules from sticking to and building up in the gaps/ hole in and between your gears, chain and ball bearing. Apply the chain lubricant right before you ride, otherwise, the lube will evaporate  

Is Cycling A Mountain Bike On The Beach Difficult?

Be Aware that cycling your mountain bike on the beach is very different from cycling on a pavement as you might expect, the soft and impermanent nature of the sand (changes as weight is shifted over it) means that there is very little tyre traction for your bicycle tyres as you cycle over it

Getting stuck and losing your balance is a very common experience and sight to see on the beach if you happen to see a cyclist cycling over the sand. Keeping the momentum going is key to cycling on the beach, you have to keep cycling and keep on moving because when you stop, you lose all of the momentum that you had built up prior and then you get stuck and come to a complete stop 

One thing to mention is to be extra careful when cycling from a road, path or any smooth tarmac like surface straight onto the sand, you will immediately notice a huge difference when you hit the sand. Due to the surface change (tarmac pathway to sand) you will slow down very quickly and risk flying over the hangers, to prevent this from happening you want to slow down and move slightly backwards in your positioning on the bike (positioning yourself slightly behind your bike’s center of gravity) and you should have a smoother transition onto the sand

Do I Need To Change My Tyre Pressure & Size When Cycling My Mountain Bike On The Beach?

Yes…the surface nature of sand (soft and always shifting shape under very little weight) means that changing your tyre pressure is of best interest when cycling across a beach or a sandy surface. You’ll want to adjust your tyre pressure to make the tyre flatter (allowing more air out of the tyre), which means the tyre covers a wider surface area Vs when the tyre is fully pumped up, the tyre is narrower and covers less ground width (I hope that makes sense)

Another consideration is the mountain bike tyre size, the size of your tires is extremely important when riding on the beach. Larger tyres that cover a greater ground width (which is very similar to the tyre pressure issue we mentioned above) also allows the mountain bike weight and your body weight to be better dispersed over a larger area, which means a greater chance of staying above the sand where you have better control of the mountain bike 

I would recommend getting fat bicycle tires that are specifically designed for cycling on surfaces like a sandy beach. Fat bicycle tyres may look silly (in comparison to normal sized tyres) but they are designed for increased grip which makes for a more comfortable ride for mountain and hybrid bicycles. Fat bicycle tyres give you increased performance grip and a relatively smooth and fast experience when cycling across rough and uneven terrain like that of a sandy beach

Do I Need To Cycle In A Higher Gear When Cycling My Mountain Bike On The Beach?

Cycling on any uneven natured surface like sand requires a change in cycling style and technique, when cycling your mountain bike on a sandy beach make sure to cycle in a higher gear. Cycling in a higher gear and pedaling reduces the spinning of the bicycle tyres, this means you are moving with minimal force or friction on sand Vs when cycling in a lower gear there is a greater force or friction being generated

 What Is The Top Speed I Can Cycle My Mountain Bike On The Beach?

While there is no set speed limit to cyclists cycling their mountain bike across the beach, there are a couple of obvious guidelines that will determine the speed at which you cycle at. It comes down to a question of safety, you’ll want to cycle at a speed that allows you to have a greater control over your own and others safety 

Cycling at high speeds gives you less time to react, react to an obstacle on the beach or react to a danger on the beach. Cycling at too high of a speed puts yourself and the other pedestrians using the beach at danger as you have less control over your bicycle

However the reality of reaching high speeds on your mountain bike on the beach is very slim, your more likely to be getting stuck in the sand, stopping/starting and overall cycling at a significantly slower speed than you would when cycling on a road, there is no speed limit for a cyclist on the beach because of this fact

At What Times Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach?

For safety reasons cycling on the beach during the daylight hours is always encouraged, with good visibility from the days sun you can cycle in a safe manner, observing if there are any obstacles on the ground (broken glass, beer bottles, plastic bottles, or any other hazardous objects) or any other beach pedestrians that you want to divert around

Cycling on the beach at night is not encouraged, poor visibility means that safety will be compromised and a greater chance of accidents happening (falling on or cycling over broken glass beer bottles, or any other hazardous objects). Make sure to check your locals beach opening and closing times, if you do want to cycle on the beach in the evening or at night in poor visibility then perhaps consider using a bicycle light to help you stay safer

Do I Have To Wear A Safety Helmet When Cycling My Mountain Bike On The Beach?

You do not have to, but I would suggest to do so…Safety should always be paramount when cycling or when there is any risk of injury to your head. Wearing a safety helmet is always best in the chance that you fall and knock your head on a beach rock that may be submerged under a thin layer of sand. Losing your balance when cycling on the beach is pretty common so a safety helmet should be worn for your own benefit. Additionally consider wearing safety knee and elbow pads to avoid any injuries if you do lose you balance, fall and hit a beach rock

Do I Need To Wear Cycling Sunglasses To Prevent Sand Getting In My Eyes

I would definitely recommend it, absolutely… The chances of a strong burst of wind blowing up sand from the beach means there is a strong chance of getting sand in your eye. Getting sand in your eye could cause you to lose balance or lose track of your cycling direction and result in you getting injured or injuring a pedestrian on the lying on or walking on beach

To prevent this purchase a pair of cycling sunglasses, they are pretty inexpensive and will protect and shield your eyes from any sand or flys (insects) getting into your eyes while you’re cycling. Here is a link to some of the cycling sunglasses that we sell on our website shop

Do I Need A Bicycle Light & High Visibility Vest When Cycling My Mountain Bike On On The Beach

When cycling in such a busy and populated area, in this case on a beach, higher visibility is always recommended to allow other pedestrians using the beach to visually see or hear (bicycle bell) you approaching them, which gives them plenty of time to prepare for your approach (diverting your or their walking path to avoid a collision)

You will not need a light as you are only likely to be cycling on the beach during the daylight hours of the day, so there will be plenty of light visibility from the morning and afternoon sun. However a high visibility vest is recommended for greater visibility

Perhaps a bicycle light may come in to play when cycling in the evening, the sun starts to lose its brightness and maybe in this case a bicycle light will be of benefit to you and the other pedestrians using the beach to visually see or hear (bicycle bell) you approaching them, this is your own judgment call, common sense applies here…  

Beach Promenade Cycling 

Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Promenade?

Pedestrians, walkers (pets included) and cyclist have permission to use the beach promenade as a way to move around the beach, however all users of the beach promenade have to use the beach promenade in a safe and responsible way

As the beach promenade is a very public place, public safety is paramount. So you as a cyclist have a responsibility to cycle in a way that puts no pedestrians that are using and accessing the beach promenade in any danger. If you were acting irresponsibly then you may be fined and asked or enforced to leave the beach as you are a public hazard

What Is The Top Speed I Can Cycle My Mountain Bike On The Promenade?

It is very important that all cyclists cycle on the beach promenade at a safe and slow speed, pedestrians and walkers using the beach promenade can often get very frustrated if a cyclist is cycling at too high of a speed on the beach promenade. Pedestrians and walkers may have young children, OAP’s or pets to look after and the last thing they want is a cyclist startling them by cycling at too great of a speed

Accidents are more likely to happen when cyclists are cycling at too great of a speed, cycling at higher speeds gives you less time to react, react to an obstacle on the beach promenade or react to a danger on the beach promenade. Cycling at too high of a speed puts yourself and the other pedestrians using the beach promenade at danger as you have less control over your bicycle

Aim to cycle at a slow easy leisurely pace, you’ll want to cycle at a speed that allows you to have a greater control over your own and others safety.   

Are There Cycling Lanes On The Beach Promenade?

Most beach promenades have a cycling and walking lane clearly marked on the ground indicating to all promenade walkers and cyclist where to walk or cycle to stay safe and in your lane

I hope you enjoyed this article on “Can I Ride My Mountain Bike On The Beach…? ”, All of the information has been thoroughly researched and I have plenty of real world experience on this issue to add as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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