Cycling in the snow

It was a very entertaining bike ride yesterday in the London snow. On the main roads everything was fine as they had been gritted and so many cars had already travelled on them. On the side roads however it was a bit of a different story. As anyone who tried a bit of ski cycling in the past week will have found it can be a bit of a challenge.

IMG_0324The front wheel tends to head off in a different direction especially as you are trying to turn. I quickly adjusted my riding style to taking the corners nice and wide. I was not really worried about falling off because that would not particularly matter but I was more worried about a car skidding into me.

This is one of the few times cycling in London that I have found I would have been better off on a mountain bike. I managed to draw a few bemused looks from passers by and the people stood outside the pub as I got on my bike to ride home. One guy said: “You are not travelling home on that are you?”. I pointed to his shoes and said “Your not walking home in those are you?”. He quickly pointed to his big expensive car and said “No, I’m travelling in that”.

Luckily there were no incidents on the cycle back and I must admit I enjoyed it. I can’t remember ever cycling home on snow before so it felt like a good new experience.

How about you? DId you brave the snow or was it time to get on the dreaded tube?

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14 Responses to Cycling in the snow

  1. Sean 22/12/2009 at 12:44 pm #

    Braved it and stayed upright from Charlotte Street, W1 to Twickenham. All was good where the traffic was moving freely, keeping out of the gutter but some horseshow thing at Olympia caused problems. With stationary traffic, the slush between the lanes was freezing, which generated a few “moments”.

    A couple of lengths of cycle lane that I usually use were no go areas – so holding a defensive line down the clear road areas down the A316 added a little more stress than normal.

    A genuine sense of achievement on getting home. Happy to be back on the road again this morning.

  2. Corin 22/12/2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Defeated me, I’m afraid. With slick tyres I managed Vauxhall to Shoreditch on the main roads ok, but not being brave enough to face the A10 I took my usual back roads from Shoreditch to Stoke Newington and was forced to walk most of the route.

    Today was a rare tube journey to work :-/

    And I agree, for the first time I wished I had a mountain bike with thick, knobbly, spongy tyres!

  3. Sean 22/12/2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Corin – a tip for future reference – let some air pressure out of your tyres so your slicks are not bullet hard. I was on 23mm race tyres but as I had punctured earlier in the day and used a hand pump, my rear tyre was probably half of its normal 100psi pressure. I let some out of the front to increase grip.

    There is a greater risk of a pinch puncture but it does add grip and traction by creating a greater contact patch area.

  4. Andreas 22/12/2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Sean good tip thanks for sharing it. Congrats on managing to do the journey and holding your lane on the A road.
    Corin – sucks to hear you had to walk most the route, that is not fun at all!

  5. Corin 22/12/2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Sean, thanks for that. It did occur to me to let the tyres down a bit from 110, but by that time I had been walking a while and my fingers could barely have taken the dustcaps off the valves! (Note to self, ask Santa for better gloves). I’m definitely going to give it a go next time I need to ride in the snow, however.

  6. Sean 22/12/2009 at 3:18 pm #

    Corin – glove recommendations. I have been through loads but current favourites surviving their second winter are Northwave thin neoprene inner (with suede palms) with Pearl Izumi waterproof outer shells. They work for me but there now seem to be tons to choose from.

  7. Angi 22/12/2009 at 5:14 pm #

    None of the side streets or residential areas here (West London) have been gritted…only the main streets. But I’ve seen quite a few cyclists on their bikes recently and felt quite envious…as I slipped about on the pavement.

    Basically it’s one big ice rink around here and I’m too scared of the stupidly moving fast cars (who ignore the fact that the roads are icy) skidding into me…that and the fact that I still do not have a decent bike lock to lock my bike up anywhere other than at work or a few other safe places…so it was the smelly, slow bus for me today.

  8. Andreas 23/12/2009 at 9:53 am #

    Angi the side streets around here are the same, today I’m giving it a miss too even though I desperately want to head out there and try out something for the blog. But it involves cycling very fast so not too keen on hitting a patch of ice!

  9. Sean 23/12/2009 at 10:26 am #

    Andreas – I also gave it a miss – meeting friends for lunch which could be a bit boozy but Angi is right, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the West London ice rink.

    On another note, I punctured twice yesterday and once on Monday. Very sharp pieces of grit……! I have a theory, as I only seem to puncture when it is wet, when the sharps get lubricated and can penetrate the rubber and kevlar/carbon etc. I have been running Continental GP 4000 for some time and have always been very happy with them. However, I am finding the wear rate on the central area far greater than I think it ever did before. Time for an alternative tyre? – any recommendations?

  10. Andreas 23/12/2009 at 10:42 am #

    I’m not really an expert when it comes to tyres but I came across this article on commutebybike you may want to look at: Top 5 winter commuting tyres. Kevlar protection is a good shout. If you combine that with keeping the tyres well pumped up then you should be okay. I guess you were just a bit unfortunate with the grit thing – of course they do say punctures come in 3′s.

  11. Kenny 23/12/2009 at 1:48 pm #

    It started snowing last night on my way home last night, I enjoy riding in the snow for the most part there are only two things about it that I really don’t enjoy. In my area the department of transportation uses cinder bits to grit the roads, little cinder bits flying at me after being picked up and sling-shot by truck tyres pretty much sucks. The other thing is people in big trucks yelling at me out the window as they drive by, I could really do without some fat, brew soaked driver yelling ‘off the f***ing road’. But in the morning as the snow is falling fresh on the pavement, and everything is still and quite as the snow flakes falling out of the sky, that is a perfect moment,

  12. JonF 26/12/2009 at 3:33 pm #

    I missed the snow because I came a cropper on the black ice Thursday 17th. Discharged from hospital Xmas Eve. Fractured left femur. 6 weeks no weight bearing.
    Lets be careful out there (sound of stable door being bolted)

  13. Andreas 26/12/2009 at 6:24 pm #

    Kenny – like the sound of that “perfect moment”. Think its why a lot of people go cycling
    JonF – Sorry to hear about the bad luck, hope you feel better soon mate. Definitely a time of year to be cycling very slow

  14. Charles 07/02/2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I set off at 6am, when the snow was still all frozen and main roads only slightly cleared from it by the cars. I too had though it would be a perfect time to use the mountain bike. I was wrong. I mean I was probably much better off than if I had taken the road bike, but it was still almost impossible to cycle. I tired following the narrow car trails on the road, but I still ended up sliding often and almost falling down one time. You know, now I understand while people don’t cycle on snow.
    Although I was wondering, can you perhaps get some winter tyres for your bike…?
    Fortunately enough, the snow is gone (for now) and this winter is not really severe.

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