Snow, that’s right, snow has been predicted for this weekend. With that in mind we have put together a little guide on a few do’s, don’ts and prep that should help you with the wintery conditions. Those miles will be harder earned, the Winter League never stops so don’t forget folks, stay safe out there…
Base Layers are essential at this time of the year, even an extra layer on top of what you would normally wear in winter is a good idea. It is much colder than it has been for in recent months with the added bonus that the roads can at times be treacherous, it means you are likely to be riding slower than your normal pace, so you may not be generating the same levels of heat.
Hands and Feet are often overlooked at this time of the year but they are such an important part of staying comfortable when putting in those big miles. Overshoes and thermal socks and an absolute must, cold feet make for a miserable ride. Even more important are your hands, trying to control your bike with two blocks of ice on the ends of your arms is not pleasant on any level. Good gloves are a must, the benefit here is twofold, not only do they reduce the wind chill to your hands but they also reduce the chilling effect on brake levers.
Tyres that have a larger contact patch on the road maximise contact, by fitting a wider tyre and not running it at such a high pressure will help with grip. However, in snow a treaded tyre or even a lightly knobbed cyclocross tyre will give extra grip.
On The Road
Road Choice is imperative. Your normal routes may be quieter back roads, but they aren’t usually treated when the ice and snow hits so in terms of keeping upright they are going to be the most difficult. The main roads will be clearer but the down side is that they are also much busier with traffic.
Braking is significantly reduced at this time of year; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that it takes longer to stop safely or even to slow down on icy surfaces. When approaching junctions or making any other manoeuvre that is going to involve slowing down or stopping remember those braking distances
Choosing the Correct Line is the simplest way of avoiding problems when riding in icy conditions. As we all seen year last year, many parts of the country were very cold but also dry, so the roads weren’t uniformly covered in ice; rather it was lying in patches on the road. The biggest problem is when runoff water has frozen so the dry line isn’t always a straight one. Of course sticking to the dry line is not always possible.
Braking… Again! We’ve all heard the saying “your front brake is for slowing down, your back brake is for stopping” but the bit that usually gets missed out is “except on ice where you really don’t want to be losing any of your front wheel’s traction.” Haul on the front brake going over ice and any loss of control at the front is going to be sudden and very hard to recover from.
The ideal thing to do if you find yourself riding across a stretch of icy road is to smoothly pedal through it. If not, gentle braking on the back is your best bet. If you do feel the need to use the front brake do it with the back and do it so lightly that the front wheel never stops rolling, gently scrub off speed, you really don’t want to lose traction at the front.
If the back does step out under braking the first thing to do is stop braking, you also need to make an instant decision to either pedal, or get a foot or even both feet down.
Keep it smooth. Avoiding sudden changes of direction and maintain a smooth pedalling action – it really pays off. Many experienced ice riders also say that you shouldn’t ride in too low a gear mainly because it’s harder to keep things smooth if you are really spinning the pedals – and potentially the back wheel.
Don’t panic! If things get a little hairy, keep your head, neck and shoulders relaxed – what you don’t want to do is to stiffen up and get twitchy… twitchiness can cause problems.
Riding in the ice and snow doesn’t have to be a chore; you just need to give the conditions more respect. If you think conditions are too tough, there is always another day. Alternatively if you REALLY need those miles, there is always the option of a turbo trainer or rollers.