Cycling in icy conditions

We’ve had some bouts of super cold weather recently.

At the London Cyclist we’re always keen to help you keep pedaling in winter, but icy conditions can be dangerous, and sometimes you need to either adapt your ride or try something a little different.

bike in snow ice

Adapt your route

Riding in the city center, on roads with a high traffic count, can actually be safer if there is a risk of ice.

Country lanes are more likely to stay icy, as they are untreated and not passed by so many cars, whose exhaust fumes melt ice. Not only that, but in rural areas, you are less likely to receive help from a passer by should you skid. Main roads have plenty of car traffic, and people traffic – making them a safer environment in this case.

Adapt your bike

Your tyres form the contact point between your bike and the ground – so they are important.

If you ride a mountain bike, cyclocross or hybrid, you should be set, and you can often get studded tyres for extra grip in ice and snow.

If you’re a roadie, opt for chunky tyres, 28c if possible, and pump them to a much lower pressure. This spreads the surface area of the tyre, giving you more grip. The ideal tyre pressure is determined by your weight, but go for 20psi or so less than you would on a sunny day.

Adapt your riding style

Firstly, it’s best to ride with other people – this means you can all look after each other in the event of slippage.

It’s also a good idea to slow your pace down, this gives you considerably more time to react to any unsteady moments. Look out for areas where ice is likely – the edges of puddles, drains, anywhere a person has clearly washed their car in a driveway.

If you do reach a patch that doesn’t feel quite as it should – and your wheels slip, all is not necessarily lost.  Try not to brake, keep your handlebars straight and body as steady as possible, pedal lightly, and try to glide over the area. Braking or swerving are absolute no-no’s.

When climbing, stay in the saddle, and keep a firm grip on the handlebars – this gives you more traction.

In the case that it’s still below 0 degrees, and ice is definitely a risk, here are some alternatives… 

Take to the turbo

If it is definitely icy outside, it really is best to keep off the roads.  Turbo training, admittedly, will not get you to work if riding is your normal means of transport, but if you ride for fitness, a few indoor sessions will definitely boost your fitness.

Turbo training allows you to get your fitness fix with your bike attached to an indoor trainer – like a personal spinning class. It is best to always start with a session plan in mind – check out our tips here. 

Get off-road


Icy roads mean the trails come into their own. Mud that is tricky for beginners is dried out, and replaced by frosty tracks. If you usually ride on the road, and have a MTB or cyclocross bike, it’s a great time to try. Many hybrid bikes are also great for some exploration of your nearest park.

Icy trails of course don’t present such a soft landing as muddy expanses, so take it easy, and just enjoy trying something new.

Cross training

If neither of the above take your fancy – there are plenty of other methods of keeping fit whilst the icy gets bored of troubling us and goes back to the North Pole where it belongs.

Swimming is great for your whole body  – it provides a resistance exercise, without weight bearing. Jogging is also a great exercise, but keep it off road if the pavements are slippy, and take it easy as running is hard on the body.

Have you got any extra tips? Tell us in the comments… 

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10 Responses to Cycling in icy conditions

  1. Nashwa 09/01/2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Thanks for the useful tips, hopefully i won’t fall off my bike as much from now on 😉

  2. C Byron 10/01/2015 at 4:30 am #

    Get a fat bike and ride when and wherever you want.

    • Jacklyn 15/01/2015 at 9:27 pm #

      That’s actually not a bad idea. thanks byron

  3. Dave 10/01/2015 at 5:22 am #

    Thanks Andreas, summer, winter, autumn and spring you keep us up to date and informed

  4. Patrick 12/01/2015 at 3:22 pm #

    The above points are all very valid and I have used them but I have on at least 3 occasions in the past 20 years cycling to work left my trusty bike at home on snow and ice days. Firstly, it is the most dangerous road condition to be riding in.The morning slurry on the roads can be an icy hell in the evening if you end up working late and the freeze sets in. Secondly, the salt from the gritters will kill your bike mechs unless you are on top of regular bike cleaning duties.

    • John H 16/01/2015 at 5:42 pm #

      That would be slush, not slurry surely. Unless you are riding in the country side, there is little chance of slurry ( cows excrement) on the road.
      If you do encounter slurry however, chances are you will end up in the S h1t, (chemical formula for slurry)

  5. Ofer Canfi 15/01/2015 at 10:46 am #

    Well this may not help with road conditions but it will help with your visibility:!Be-Kind-Dont-Blind-The-Sombra-Crowdfunding-Campaign-Is-Live-On-Indiegogo/c1t5y/3D1A6230-A7A5-4AFF-B824-69DA5127A6AD

    To be honest, it started with being blinded on London’s bike lanes by other cyclists 🙂

  6. Murf 17/01/2015 at 5:04 am #

    Great advice.

    I am in Southampton. Ice and snow? I have more scares with Taxi drivers and school home runs.

  7. Murf 17/01/2015 at 5:18 am #

    I dread cycling uphill past pedestrian islands at the best of times. In winter double my ride to secure their absence. Mini roundabouts are also nightmare.

    Shift worker – early and late starts. Bummer.

  8. Ed Shoote 22/01/2015 at 10:28 pm #

    Part of me loves winter cycling, I cycled to work all winter in Chamonix on a MTB through snow or ice. MTB’ing on ice can be a lot of fun when you master the art of no braking nor steering! Also need some warm clothing:

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