Useful tips for Cycling in the snow

Posted: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels:

Some sagely advice by

• The more tread on your tyres, the better. You can ride in snow on slicks, but I wouldn't choose to. If you have a mountain bike, with chunky off-road treads, this is the day for it.

• Let some air out of your tyres, whatever sort they are. Ride them soft: you'll get more grip.

• It's natural, when you're a bit anxious about conditions, to ride leaning forward and tense, with your hands on the brakes. But try to relax the hands and arms, and keep your weight back.

• As in any slippery conditions (such as very wet roads), do your braking early and as much as possible in a straight line. Definitely only use the front brake in this way; otherwise, use the back brake more. And you can also use the back brake to test the amount of adhesion you have.

• Try to steer "with your hips" rather than your hands: in other words, make directional changes progressively and with your whole mass on the bike, rather than by sudden sharp steering inputs at the handlebars.

• As snow gets grooved by car tyres and refreezes, you can encounter rutted tracks and momentary "tramlining" effects. Deal with this by allowing the front wheel of the bike to go where it wants; again, keep your weight back, stay relaxed and don't be too ambitious about your speed.

• Mostly, on British roads, the snow is cleared or turns to slush quickly, but beware of transitions from snowy side streets to clear roads: this is where you're most likely to encounter ice or tricky ruts.

• I generally ride around town with some sort of hat, rather than a helmet. But in the snow, I'll wear a helmet – there's just a little more likelihood of a slip. Most likely, it would be slow-speed and harmless, but I'd factor in the extra risk by wearing a helmet.

• Unless you have mudguards (with good clearance!), wear old clothes: that slimy black slush is perplexingly indelible and a dirty stripe up your arse is not a good look in the office.

• The most dangerous time, as with any analogous activity (skiing, skating, downhill mountainbiking etc), is when you get over-confident. The day I got a little cocky on the back roads in the Green Mountain State, I found myself sliding down the road on my butt. So hey, what do I know?

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