Published: 18th MARCH 2019

Eight top tips for cycling in the snow

Snow can make cycling quite perilous and it may be sensible to walk your journey instead, if possible. But if you’re determined to cycle, give yourself some extra time to get to your destination and have a look at these tips for cycling in the snow.

Commuters in Bristol walking and cycling in heavy snow

Snow and ice can quickly build up on your bike so check that the brakes are clear and still functioning properly at various points throughout your journey.

1. Check the weather forecast

Check the weather forecast before heading out the door, to help you decide on the right clothing and to find out if ice is a threat. Ice is most likely to form overnight, so be extra careful if you’re heading off to work early.

2. Think about your hands and feet

Cold hands and feet can make you feel miserable. Most likely you will already have your winter gloves out, but also wear appropriate, non-slip footwear. Not only will your feet stay dry and warm but you’re less likely to slip on your pedals or the ground when stopping.

Overshoes, thermal socks and winter boots are all a good idea. Has it started snowing whilst you are already out? A humble plastic bag or cling film over your socks can make a big difference to keeping out cold and wet, as can disposable gloves - if you can't get some from a shop, a cafe might give you a food prep pair, or some petrol stations have them on their forecourts.

3. Use a different bike or tyres

Consider using wider or knobbly tyres, or if conditions are really icy you could even try studded tyres. If you don’t have the option of different tyres, try running your usual ones at a slightly lower pressure.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to more than one bike, try switching to one more suitable to the weather conditions, for example, a mountain or cyclocross bike.

4. Lower your saddle

Drop your saddle a bit to lower your centre of gravity, which will allow you better control and to get your foot down flat on the ground more quickly if you do have a slide or wobble.

5. Consider a different route

Main roads are more likely to be cleared by cars and treated with salt, so if snow and ice are widespread consider sticking to these rather than your usual route to work or school.

Take particular care when you turn off a main road, which may be clear of ice, on to a quiet street that might not have been treated.

6. Stay out of the gutter

Puddles, which will freeze, are more likely to form in the gutter, and you’re better off staying in the centre of the lane, where cars have driven and cleared the snow.

7. Brake gently

If braking, gently apply the back brake only. Or better still, if you find yourself on the ice, completely avoid braking altogether, stay relaxed and try to pedal smoothly. Give yourself longer to slow down and stop, and remember it's going to take other people longer to slow down too.

8. Keep checking

Snow and ice can quickly build up on your bike so check that the brakes are clear and still functioning properly at various points on your journey.

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