Safe cycling in snow and ice

When the clocks go back in autumn many cyclists put their bikes away until spring when better weather returns. However if you are confident enough to continue cycling throughout winter here are some hints and tips to keep you warm and safe. Snow and ice can make cycling quite hazardous, so consider if your journey is really necessary or take alternative transport where you can. 

Check the weather forecast

Before leaving, check the weather forecast to help you decide on the right clothing and to find out if ice is a threat. Ice is most likely to form overnight, so be extra careful if you’re heading off early.

Safety preparations

Main and well-used roads are highly likely to be gritted, particularly in urban areas, whereas backstreets and cycle paths rarely are, so you need to adapt your route to suit. If you wear a cycle helmet make sure it fits correctly and wear clear cycling glasses.

If the snow is falling, make sure you're visible to drivers. Wear high visible clothing so others can see you well in advance and give you a wide berth. Invest in a good pair of winter cycling gloves as your fingers will get very cold within minutes and make it harder to brake and change gear.

Lower your saddle slightly, thus lowering your centre of gravity. This allows you better control and you can quickly get your foot down flat on the ground if you slide or wobble. Don't forget to check that your lights are working and clear of dirt. 

Staying upright on ice

Allow yourself more time for your journey so that you can cycle more slowly, as this will reduce the risk if you do encounter ice. Cycle as smoothly as you can, trying not to jerk suddenly or make a sharp turn. If you find yourself on ice, keep going in a straight line if possible. Avoid using the front brake. You can slow down by gently applying the rear brake. 

Cycling in snow 

Cycling in snow is easier with bigger wheels and fatter, lower-pressure tyres.

It's harder work pedalling so use a lower gear. If you have mudguards on your bike, check and clear them regularly as they will get clogged up with compacted snow and lock your wheels. 

Keep away from the kerb and stay out of the gutter

Don't ride too close to the kerb because it is the least likely part of the road to be cleared. Also, where main roads cross minor ones the ice and snow often fans out from the side road into the carriageway. Puddles, which will freeze, are more likely to form in the gutter, and you’re better off staying in the centre of the lane, where cars have driven and cleared the snow.

Brake gently and give yourself longer to stop

Give yourself longer to slow down and stop and remember it's going to take other people longer to slow down too. 

Be prepared to get off 

If the conditions become too dangerous then get off the bike and walk to the next section where you can ride safely. 

Keep checking

Snow and ice can quickly build up on your bike so keep checking that the brakes are clear and still functioning properly.  Other road users getting into difficulties and losing control of their vehicles can also be a hazard so keep an especially watchful eye on what is happening around you.