Guest post by Godwyns Onwuchekwa
For me, the more dangerous it is to cycle, the merrier I am. Living in London for nearly 7 years now and cycling for 6 of those years, I was thrilled when the first proper snow swarmed us in February 2009. And as a curious person, I was tempted when a few concerned friends called and sent text to warn me from cycling in the snow. Really?
So I hopped on my bike into the thick of it and discovered a whole new world of cycling. I know what you’re thinking now… but lets share some of the experience;
First thing to do before cycling in the snow is to remember that, as before snow, you are no different from a vehicle. So you must retain that thinking of using the road like every other road user; respect and safety first. And to begin with, the following steps may help prepare you;
- Check your breaks are working and tyres are inflated
- Wear suitable clothing and cycling gloves
- Be sure that your bells are working (some bells don’t work when wet; check this, you’ll need it).
- Mud guard
- Slick tyres often cope less well with the snow. Bear this in mind.
Now you are ready to go. However, the danger is in what lies on the ground. For fresh snow – meaning the first snowfalls that are still foamy (or crunchy), – it is quite easy to plough through. However, if it has been at least 6 hours or has been trampled on, it poses more danger. So the trouble is; the longer it has been snowing, the more treacherous it can be. This is because as the hours and days go and the snow is marched on, ice forms beneath it and this could be tricky to steer on.
To successfully cycle in the snow therefore, try the following;
- Have a good grip on your handle with both hands; in some instance, the snow could make your bicycle move out of track, maintain and agree with the snow by gradually steering to remain on your track.
- Do not speed, go at the easiest speed and maintain the momentum; don’t build it up; this means you reduced the rapidity of your fall and can get a grip quickly if falling.
- Use the lowest gears; doing this means you don’t put a lot of pressure on the tyres which can cause it to spin and make you lose traction.
- Maintain a straight line
- Do not do sharp turns into corners
- Watch out for oncoming vehicles; although you are like every other road user(as said above), if the road is very slippery, chances are that a driver may lose control or the car may just slip. So if you see oncoming vehicles on a very slippery iced road, best reaction could be to stop. Depending on the span of the road, and the behaviour of the car, you may have to get off the road entirely to avoid being run (slipped) into.
- Do not cycle on the pavement; the pavement is just wide enough and because you may be skidding [from side to side], it may be too hazardous as the space would not be enough to save yourself should you slip.
- At bends or corners, you may not need to give signs if you have been cycling very slowly’ Vehicles behind you would also have been moving slow [only if you have been part of the road user and maintained that position]. Just maintain the right place on the road so drivers understand where you are going.
Additional suggestions: don’t forget to have strong and sharp front and rear bike lights on if you are cycling in the night. High visibility clothing would be an essential too. Personally I’m also making sure I always have my helmet on too.
- Winter cycling gloves
- Bike lights guide
- Where do you wait at the traffic lights?
- Cycling trousers to keep legs dry and warm
- Tips to keep you cycling safely this winter
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.