10 ways to stay safe cycling through snow and ice
Here in the UK, we rarely get extreme weather, but when we do, we are often ill-prepared for icy and snowy conditions. Equally, the country doesn’t have the infrastructure to treat all the roads sufficiently like countries that get consistent snow each year.
But if you’re adamant about continuing your cycling regime in snow and ice, you should take extra safety measures and precautions to avoid injury. Read our top 10 ways to stay safe cycling through the snow and ice to stay safe this winter.
Table of contents
- Check the weather forecast
- Winterise your tyres
- Ride in the middle of the lane
- Don’t tense up or break suddenly
- Wear reflective clothing
- Stay warm
- Adapt your routine and route
- Look after or service your bike
- Let someone know where you’re going
- If in doubt, don’t go out
1. Check the weather forecast
The weather might look fine when looking outside your window. However, if you’re even riding a short distance, the temperature could be significantly colder in the countryside than in the city. You will also get colder temperatures at higher altitudes. Colder temperatures mean a higher risk of ice and snow, so check the weather for your route and follow your local weather advice.
Look out for MET office weather warnings indicated by a yellow, orange or red triangle with an exclamation mark. Click on the warning sign to read details, and always heed weather warnings.
2. Winterise your tyres
An easy way to increase the grip of your tyres is to let out a bit of air. Lower pressure will allow the tyre to grip the road better because the tyre will have a larger surface in contact with the road. Or use a tubeless tyre which has the same effect.
If your bike can take wider winter tyres, they’re worth the investment. And look for puncture protection to help prevent needing to change a tyre in the snow.
Alternatively, you can invest in some spiked tyres for extra traction.
3. Ride in the middle of the lane
We recommend riding in the middle of the lane or the ‘primary position‘ in snowy conditions. Cycling away from the kerb gives you a better line of sight, makes you more visible to other road users and keeps you from slipping on ice, snow and other debris that could have frozen over at the side of the road in extreme weather conditions.
4. Don’t tense up or break suddenly
Even if you’re cold, relax your muscles and don’t tense up. Tensing can lead to jerky movements and may cause you to fall off your bike. Make sure you pedal smoothly, use your breaks sparingly and give yourself a longer stopping distance. A sudden pull of the brakes can cause you to skid, especially on bends. If you hit black ice, relax and try to ride it out.
Also, adjusting your saddle height can lower your centre of gravity, helping you balance in icy conditions. You can also get your feet down to the ground earlier in an emergency.
5. Wear reflective clothing
In winter, the sun is lower, resulting in poorer visibility. Make sure you stand out with bright, reflective clothing and flashing bike lights to ensure other road users can see you.
Also, when there is snow on the ground, the brilliant white can be dazzling, and therefore dangerous when cycling. So, we recommend wearing cycling sunglasses to shield your eyes from the bright snow.
6. Stay warm
Cold hands mean it’s harder to operate the breaks and gears, which can be dangerous. Make sure you wear gloves and double up with glove liners. Doubling up traps warm air close to the skin, and if you need to take a layer off to use your hand, you won’t lose all your heat. However, ensure your hands have adequate circulation by up-sizing your outer winter gloves.
Don’t forget your feet. Invest in thermal socks or overshoes when cycling in the snow and ice.
Keep your core warm to ensure your hands and feet stay warm. Your body will automatically draw blood and heat away from your extremities to keep your organs warm. To avoid heat running away from your hands and feet, ensure that you wear warm base layers, leggings and adequate waterproofs if it’s snowing. If you get wet, it will feel even colder.
7. Adapt your routine and route
If conditions are icy, the roads will be worse in the morning and the evening. So if you are an earlier riser or night rider, it might be better to cycle at mid-day, which will also offer better visibility.
If you are a road bike user but also have a mountain or gravel bike, icy and snowy conditions are an excellent opportunity to get these out and hit the off-road trails. The wider, knobblier tyres and lower speeds of these bikes reduce the risk of injury. If you’re off-road and fall, you won’t hit the hard tarmac.
If you only have a road bike, stick to busier roads. The lack of traffic on quieter roads creates a higher risk of ice.
8. Look after or service your bike
We all occasionally skip a bike clean, which usually doesn’t matter much. However, in winter, regularly cleaning your bike is essential. All the extra salt and grit can grate on components and cause rust. So, ensure you wash, dry and lubricate your bike after every ride in snowy and icy conditions. Also, check for any signs of damage and punctures in the tyres. So you’re not caught short on the icy roadside mid-ride.
9. Let someone know where you’re going.
If you’re riding alone in ice and snow, tell someone where you’re going. Even if you’re confident in your abilities, a momentary lapse in concentration or hitting a patch of black ice can cause serious injury. Use a GPS tracker so your loved ones can track where you are in case you have an accident.
10. If in doubt, don’t go out
You are the judge of your ability. If you’re worried at all about the conditions, don’t risk it. Falling off your bike could have terrible consequences compared to a bit of FOMO. Play it safe, and don’t ride if you’re not confident in snow and ice. Instead, take a rest day. Or, if you need a workout, invest in a home turbo trainer and cycle indoors.
Stay safe cycling through snow and ice with Swinnerton Cycles.
When conditions are sketchy outside, we always recommend being safe rather than sorry. Don’t let your need to complete a workout cloud your judgement. If you are cycling in snowy and icy conditions, be prepared. Equip yourself with adequate equipment to give your bike maximum grip and to stay warm from essentials collections online at Swinnerton Cycles.
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