How to Bike in the Winter
When winter comes, cyclists have two new enemies: ice and snow. Some prefer to avoid the risks of snow cycling and postpone it until warmer times, while others continue to ride in winter. Here are some tips on preparing your bike and a few things about a winter bike ride.
Before You Go Cycling in Winter
- Maximum ground contact. Choose the widest rubber you can find that fits your frame. Do not inflate fully, so the tire is in more contact with the road. If you are only going to ride in the snow, then off-road, or even studded mountain bike tires will give you great traction.
- Switch to tubeless tires. The main benefit is that you can use very low pressure for driving on ice, and still not be afraid of a puncture, as happens with a regular underinflated tire.
- In winter, conventional pedals are better than contact pedals. Firstly, it is easier to jump in case of an incident, and secondly, bicycle shoes with spikes are not very warm. But if you can’t live without contacts, adjust them so that they detach with less effort.
- Disc brakes. Disc brakes handle frosting better than rim brakes.
- Lowering the saddle. Some people think that if you lower the saddle a bit, the center of gravity moves down, so the stability increases. Also, it’s easier to put your feet down on the road in case you suddenly need to use it. Moreover, cycling in the snow is more comfortable to start while sitting in the saddle.
- Layered clothing. First, it’s cold outside, and second, you’re riding slower than usual on slippery roads, so less heat is generated, too. You should pay extra attention to your arms and legs. Winter shoe covers, winter cycling boots, and thermal socks keep your feet warm.
- It is just as important to keep your hands warm as your feet. Steering with two pieces of ice is very unpleasant and difficult. You need good gloves that allow you to use the brakes. If you have metal brake grips instead of carbon, you can try to put covers on them, then the metal will be less frosty for your hands.
On the Road
- Choosing a route. During the warm season, you may prefer quiet side streets or country roads where there is less traffic, but riding a bike in winter may be dangerous there. So it’s best to stick to the main roads, even though there are more cars there.
- The farther away from the curb, the better. It limits the space to maneuver, also, the curb is the place where snow and ice accumulate. If you suddenly jumped on the curb, you could puncture the tire or bend the fork. And if you have to fall, at least not where you risk bumping your head on the curb.
- More time to stop. It takes more time to stop safely or just slow down on an icy surface. Consider this when approaching an intersection and any maneuvers where you have to slow down or stop. You have to remember that other people will also need more time to slow down.
- Be careful with the front brake. As a rule, the front brake starts to brake, and the rear brake finishes. But not on ice! Decelerate gently without locking the wheels completely. In a straight line on the snow, braking starts with the rear brake, the front brake is smoothly engaged afterward (the front wheel continues to rotate), and on turns, descents, and the icy road it is better not to use the front brake at all.
- Roll smoothly. Avoid sharp turns, turn with a large radius, without tilting the bike, and pedal smoothly. Many experienced riders say that on an icy road you should not ride in too low a gear, because it will be more difficult to keep pedaling smoothly. It is safest to stay in the saddle by pedaling in exceptional cases when an obstacle is encountered.
- Don’t panic. Relax your upper body: head, shoulders, and neck. If you are properly equipped, then winter bicycling is quite safe. But if the road is not smooth ice, and all ice bumps and potholes – it is better to go by bus.
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