When it gets very cold outside the roads are more hazardous than normal with the major problems being ice and snow.
Many riders choose not to ride (at least outside) during such weather, however with the right preparation and some forethought it’s quite feasible to ride throughout even the most treacherous conditions.
Our advice can generally be separated in to three different areas, bike preparation, riding style, and the right clothing. In this article we will concentrate on the first two as we have covered keeping yourself warm here
Get more rubber on the road – the bigger the contact patch that your tyre puts down on the road the more chance you will have of finding grip. The easiest two ways to do this is to run your bike with the fattest tyres you can, and then lower their pressure as much as you can. If you have access to a tyre with knobbles or a tread pattern then that will help as well.
Studded tyres – a bit specialist this one but if you know that you are going to be riding on icy / snowy conditions for a more than the odd day or two then consider getting some studded tyres to help you cut through the slippery stuff and provide grip. The choice of studded tyres (in the UK at least) is much less than for standard tyres but there are still a few choices for different wheel diameter and width combinations.
Try tubeless – if you have tubeless compatible rims and tyres then this may also be another way to get more rubber on the road. One of the advantages of tubeless is the ability to run tyres at lower pressures without the fear of a pinch puncture.
Flat pedals – if you’re a clipless or toe clip pedal rider then consider swapping your pedals out to flats for slippery conditions. Sure, you’ll use a little bid of pedalling efficiency but it’s probably a small price to pay to be able to get your feet on the ground quickly if you need to in an emergency. If you can’t (or would rather not) fit flats then adjust the tension on your pedals so you can get your feet out as quickly as possible.
Get disc brakes – if you don’t have a winter bike but are looking to get one then seriously consider one with disc brakes. The value of the extra stopping power and control, especially in the wet or ice can’t be over estimated.
Keep away from the kerb – this is good advice at any time of the year but even more so when it’s icy. The gutter will accumulate all sorts of rubbish, slush and frozen pooled water. If you can try to get out into the part of the road where car tyres are running as this will generally be cleaner and less likely to be frozen.
Increase braking distance – bit an obvious one this but it still needs to be said. Icy conditions will increase the amount of time it takes to come to a stop so give yourself plenty of leeway, and try to look ahead and anticipate to buy yourself as much time as you can.
Keep away from front brake – under normal circumstances careful use of the front brake can be useful to help you slow, but on the ice it’s not a good idea. Any loss of control and /or traction is likely to cause you to get in to an unrecoverable situation which could end badly.
Choose your road carefully – if your normal roads are nice quiet country lanes then you may need to re-think your route to use roads that are little busier and may have been gritted. Also if the worst does occur and you have a mishap then you’ll find assistance etc on a busier road.
Choose your line carefully – just as important as choosing the right road is choosing the right line on the road, especially if it’s a bit twisty or has sharp turns. Taking a wider line than you normally would to flatten out tighter turns means less turning of the front wheel and less opportunity to lose control.
Keep it smooth – along with keeping the line smooth, try to keep your pedalling style and speed smoot. Constantly accelerating and braking will give your more opportunities to lose control whereas maintaining a more consistent speed will allow you to coast to stop where possible and reduce the possibility of locking the brakes up and skidding or sliding out of control.