Here in the United Kingdom, transport comes to a screeching halt as soon as we get a modicum of snow. Sometimes the only way to travel is by bicycle, but that comes with risks. Firstly, we would only advise you cycle in the snow if it is absolutely necessary. But if the circumstances call for it, we have put together some helpful advice for cycling in the snow.
Before leaving the house
Plan your Route
Make sure you know exactly where you are going as things will look different under a layer of snow. It'll be easy to get lost, even in areas you know well so try and stick to treated roads and opt for well lit public roads over back lanes and cycle paths. Although there is no guarantee, the main roads are more likely to be gritted and cleared, making your journey much safer.
Lower your tyre Pressure
Making sure you have the right tyres is essential. Many companies sell fatter winter tyres designed to tackle ice and snow which will obviously be beneficial in these conditions. If you own a pair, then make sure you put them on your bike. However, if you don’t own specific winter tyres, we would recommend lowering the pressure of your tyres. By doing this you are increasing the width of your tyre as it touches the ground and thus increasing the traction.
Wear the right clothes
It goes without saying that if it is snowing outside then it is going to be cold. Make sure you wear multiple layers as well as warm gloves and socks. You’ll also want to make sure your outer layers and feet are waterproof. We have a comprehensive guide to winter clothing that has further detail regarding cycling winter attire which will benefit you further.
When it comes to your head, I would recommend wearing a helmet instead of a hat. It isn’t going to keep you as warm but if you are cycling in the snow then the probability of you taking a tumble is increased, so the protection that a helmet offers is invaluable. However, cycling skull caps and balaclavas are available to wear under your helmet meaning you can be both warm and safe.
On the Road
The thought of cycling on a slippery surface can be anxiety-inducing. It can make you feel nervous, stressed and quite tense. However, it’s these feelings that are more likely going to cause you to crash. When you are tense you tend to ride leaning forward with your hands constantly on the breaks. Try your best to keep your weight back whilst relaxing your hands and arms. We are aware it is easier said than done but it is very important.
Steer with your hips
We are not advocating a new cycling method where you control the handlebars bye shaking your hips. What we mean by this is make slow and thought through turns with the handlebars and avoid quick sharp turns. Move your whole body whilst turning and keep control of your centre of mass (holding your balance over the centre of the bike). If you make a sharp, last-second turn with your handlebars it can cause you to wobble slightly which can shift your centre of mass, forcing you to fall to the ground.
Beware of frozen tracks
As the temperature drops, you may find that the snow will start to freeze. This can cause frozen tracks from where cars or other vehicles have driven. These can cause your tyres to get stuck and make it very difficult to manoeuvre. Don't try to force the bike to go a direction it doesn't want to. If you do get stuck, slowly come to a stop and readjust your bike.
If you live in a city with trams, it will also be worth being aware of the tram tracks as heavy snow may make them difficult to spot.
Careful on the brakes
Braking when the floor is wet and slippery can be very dangerous. Water reduces friction meaning that when you do brake, you might not necessarily stop. This can take a little getting used to so be aware and brake early if you can. Lay off the front brake as much as possible and when it's safe, use the back brake to test the amount of adhesion you have. When you do brake, brake in a straight line. If you try to turn whilst breaking this can cause you to skid and crash.
Lock your bike
Just because it is snowing, it doesn’t mean your bike is safe. Make sure you lock your bike if you are stopping anywhere. Our Liteloks are testing in all weather conditions and hold up pretty well in cold conditions. A Litelok Gold Boa Green will stand out and will hopefully help you if the snow makes it tricky to find your bike.
Do you have any tips that we have missed out? Please leave them in the comments below.