Given that you have chosen to cycle –or have decided there is no alternative but to cycle, you should bear in mind that both you and other road users will find it harder to travel.
You will need to accept that your front brakes may be more of a liability than normal (hard breaking causing a skid!), and sudden movements may cause you to fall.
What the expert says:
John Franklin is the author of Cycle Craft, the cycle trainer’s bible. (We recommend you buy a copy, if you want to know about ‘proper cycling’!)
On page 205-207, his advice can be summarised as:
- Wrap up warm
- Start out cautiously
- Reduce tyre pressure for better adhesion
- Make every move gently and brake as little as possible
- Go slow/use a low gear
- Don’t make sharp turns
- Fresh snow is good, compacted snow is bad
- Don’t be afraid to get off and walk
He also adds:
‘Personally, although I have ridden in such conditions many times, it's not something I enjoy. When I cycled daily to work I would sometimes walk instead on the worst days and it's important that cyclists recognise that this is a justifiable option.’
Be warm- If it is more likely that you will fall off, then take this into account. Wear clothing that will lessen the impact of any potential fall. (Not a lot but it might help a bit!)
Be seen- If it is more likely that other road users are finding it harder to travel (particularly drive!), then make yourself more visible. If you don’t wear hi-vis clothing normally, now is especially the time to get and wear them (and the same of course applies to lights).
Be confident- get trained! If you are not a confident cyclist, we would in any case recommend that you take some cycle training. It really helps people who are nervous of cycling in traffic. But being confident in traffic is likely to help if you are forced on to more major roads!
Making the bike safer- It is difficult to know if there is much – or any – authoritative research on cycling in icy weather and if particular bikes or parts of bikes (tyres!) work better. (We have certainly struggled to find any). There are however some hints that some cyclists offer:
Make sure your bike is in good working order. If in doubt, get it serviced.
Lower your saddle – if you’re are closer to the ground, it will be easier to put your feet down and prevent that fall
Let some air out of the tyre – it increases grip between tyre and ground.
Use a wide wheeled tyre or bike
Use winter tyres*
We leave it to the reader to decide how helpful any of these are. There is an element of ‘if it works for you, stick with it’.
*Please note that winter tyres can be hazardous in non-wintry conditions!
Making the journey safer-
Your normally travel to work by your chosen route. This may involve cycling down side roads.
General advice is to stick to the main roads which have been gritted. This may not always be the case, if a road is particularly slushy.
Also, if you hit a slope or an icy patch, don’t be afraid to get off and walk.
If you decide to alter your journey, and are not sure how to go about it, then - if you live in the Greater Bristol area - get hold of the cycle maps produced by the 4 local authorities, which show cycle routes.