Riding a bicycle in the snow

Riding a bicycle in the snow

Updated: 27/01/2019.

This post explains how to prepare oneself and the bicycle for safe and pleasand snow cycling. Yes, it is possible.  🙂

Is it wise to cycle in the snow?

When I started cycling in the winter, especially in the snow, friends were worried and usually asked these questions:

  1. Is it cold?
  2. Is it too slippery?
  3. Aren’t you afraid you’ll get run over by a car?

I’ll me answer those questions once more, one by one.  🙂

1. Is it cold?

Let me answer that question with a question: is it cold when skiing? Or when walking in the snow?

When one is dressed properly, there’s no need to feel cold. Like some say: there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. If the temperature is below freezing, I usually put ski goggles and a thin skiing jacket. Body creates so much heat during cycling, that wearing thick jacket usually makes one too hot and sweat!

It is hard to recommend winter clothing in advance – it’s individual. Generally, a good wind protection layer is good, and thermal layers below are individual, depending on cold sensitivity of each person. People usually overdress, until they learn what the sweet spot  is and until the body adapts to the cold.

For rides over several kilometres, it is common for layers of clothing to be taken off as the body gets warmer. The clothes are best put away in a backpack, preferably on a rear rack, not on one’s back, since it can get sweaty that way.

Tips for dressing and keeping warm (but not to sweat) can be found here:
How to dress for winter cycling?

2. Is it too slippery?

Riding in the snow is much like off road riding, in the mud, or grass. Most skills are similarly used. Still, it doesn’t take a master of off-road riding to ride a bike in the snow. A bit of caution and slower riding until one gets used to snow and everything will be fine.

Some general tips for easy riding in the snow:

  • Get some good winter bicycle tyres. This post explains how to choose winter tyres: Bicycle winter tyres.
  • Lower tyre pressure a bit. Don’t make them completely deflated, but softer, so they grip better in the snow.

    Under inflated tyres. Great for snow and mud. Not completely flat, but at significantly lower pressure. Watch out for kerbs with low pressure, to avoid snakebites - pinch flats.
    Under inflated tyres.
    Great for snow and mud. Not completely flat, but at significantly lower pressure.
    Watch out for kerbs with low pressure, to avoid snakebites – pinch flats.
  • Avoid hard braking, hard accelerating, hard cornering and sudden quick changes of direction. Bare in mind that the surface is slippery.
  • Avoid leaning with the bicycle. Lean the bike, leaving body straight, so in case that tyres slip, one can land on one’s feet.
  • Mudguards (fenders) are very useful for winter cycling. They protect both the drivetrain and the rider.

If all this is considered, along with good snow tyres, riding bicycle in the snow is very nice, safe and fun.  🙂

Until a rider gets used to riding in the snow, it can also help to lower the saddle for a few cm and to move weight to the rear (if possible).

A separate post explains how to set a winter bicycle and what kind of bike is best for winter.

3.  Aren’t you afraid you’ll get run over by a car?

When there’s snow, drivers who are not proficient usually don’t dare to drive. Also, there’s a lot less nervous drivers in the winter, than in summer heat. So my experiences with drivers in winter time are there’s remarkably high level of courtesy and caution.

Winter cycling is a joy – healthy and nice – it is worth a try!  🙂

Snow cycling - it gives fun and keeps one warm! :)
Snow cycling – it is fun and keeps one warm! 🙂

Leave a comment