When I lived in Denver, wiping and shaking the snow off my mountain bike before hopping on was just another part of my regular commute. I would ride slowly through the sludge and get to work faster and drier than by any other method (deicing a car takes a lot longer than deicing a bike!).
But Seattle is another beast. There’s less snow, sure, but most people here have skinny road tires. And their rides to work may very well include a nose-dive down Denny (whereas Denver is very flat). But can be done! And the best part about riding a bike is that your bike won’t lose traction and go barreling down a hill, endangering the lives of everyone on the street.
Riding in snow is easy. It’s riding on ice that’ll get you. But I suggest you give it a shot if you haven’t already. Here are some of my suggestions. If you have any different strategies, leave them in the comments:
- If you are new to biking in the snow, think of your journey as a walk-bike combo. When you get to a sketchy spot, whether it’s a steep hill or a busy intersection, be prepared to get off and walk if you don’t feel comfortable. Think of the bike more as a walking accelerator.
- Take all turns with too much caution. If you are going to fall, it will likely be because your tire loses traction going over ice (which is sometimes hidden beneath snow). Though your tire may still slip even if you are going overly slow, you have a much lower chance of getting hurt. You have a chance of slipping while walking, too!
- Take neighborhood streets, even if they have not been cleared. Biking in snow and ice is about getting where you need safely (and having fun!). So long as temperatures are below freezing, a busy street that has been “cleared” may still have small patches of ice. Even a tiny patch of ice could catch a quickly-moving bicycle off-guard.
- If you do ride on busier streets (e.g. if it’s the only option), be ready to ignore the bike lanes. Making sure bike lanes are clear of debris is low on the city’s priority list during fair weather. Take the lane and ride the speed you need to feel safe. Take up more space than you usually do and don’t give in to the urge to take turns too quickly.
- Fortify your hands. Warm gloves (or multiple pairs of gloves) are essential.
- Enjoy your snow-covered city! Smile at people walking. Stop and enjoy the views. People do creative things during the first snow. It’s a chance to let loose and interact with your city in new ways, but that’s hard to do from inside a car!
Of course, the best thing to do is to use your own judgment at each situation. People elsewhere on the interwebs have lots of great info on what works for them. Kent at Kent’s Bike Blog posted info and photos of his snow bike. He also thinks fixed gear is better for the snow, and his reasons are convincing.
What do you do to keep your bike’s sludge off the carpet? Josh Cohen has an interesting solution.
Or, of course, you can always forget the bike and just ride a recycling bin to work:
Looks like so much fun.
What are your tips/strategies for snow/ice riding?