Riding skills – Smart cycling, safe cycling
Winter conditions can bring a few challenges that we do not face in summer. Slippery roads, shorter days and low visibility in some conditions should be considered when biking in winter. Here are a few things to keep in mind while enjoying your winter ride.
The slippery stuff
There are a few skills that take a little practice. Winter brings road conditions such as fluffy snow, ice patches and slush. The number one rule for conquering these obstacles is to know them.
Fluffy snow is actually very fun to ride in. If there is packed snow underneath there is not much to worry about. Enjoy the fresh tracks. Go slower than normal and keep your momentum by shifting to an easier gear and continuing to pedal.
Ice patches are trickier. They can hide under snow, look like melted water or be long and intimidating. If you are approaching ice, or somewhere you suspect there to be ice hiding under a layer of snow, you have two choices; stop and walk your bike around the area or keep on riding. You cannot brake on ice safely, so either slowdown/stop before you get to the ice or commit to going over it by continuing to pedal in an easy gear. This takes a little practice but much like riding on loose gravel, you do get used to it. Studded tires are great in climates that have frequent freeze/thaw cycles. They really grip in and give you the traction you need over ice.
Slush can be filled with salt and dirt and other debris. It is very slippery to ride in due to its consistency. Try to avoid slush if possible. It is better to ride in the compressed tire tracks that cars have made before you, than trying to muscle through this unstable slop. Finding a route that is cleared early and regularly will help you avoid these conditions.
Due to the accumulation of snow and other debris the edge of the road can become hazardous for a cyclist.
Just like in summer months, you need to find the safest position to stay visible and confident when riding. Remember you can take the lane when needed.
On warmer days it is important to avoid “slush puddles”. These can be very deep and hold unseen hazards such as potholes or trash.
As with any season, ride as predictably as possible. Avoid erratic movements, shoulder check and use hand signals when changing lanes or turning.
Rely on your eyes
Snow muffles sound, as do the extra layers you may be wearing under your helmet. The sound cues we take for granted when cycling in the summer aren’t always as audible in the winter. A small mirror attached to your helmet or handlebars can be very effective in keeping you aware of your surroundings and of the other road users.
Motorists and pedestrians do not always expect to see cyclists on the road or pathways in winter. Always riding with lights on (flashing red on the rear and solid or flashing white at the front) is a good practice. By riding predictably, following the rules of the road and keeping as bright and visible as possible, you will experience a much more enjoyable ride.
By riding predictably, following the rules of the road and keeping as bright and visible as possible, you will experience a much more enjoyable ride.