Obvious challenges aside, biking in freezing weather can be a lot of fun. It’s also an excellent cure for cabin fever. Today’s flurries mostly failed to stick to roadways and paths, and people in Seattle have reported clear routes during their morning bike rides and commutes. But with below-freezing temperatures in the forecast, this is a good time to get ready for winter biking.
By far the most important thing is to be aware of freezing overnight weather because patches of ice are the biggest concern. When riding over any wet-looking surface that could potentially be ice, avoid braking (especially with your front brake) or turning until you are clear of the spot. If the potential ice in on a curve or near a stopping point, go very slowly until you are sure it is not slippery.
If roads do freeze or snow starts accumulating, SDOT collected snow response information in a blog post. King County has also collected information for people who need cold weather shelter, including a printable flier to help spread Seattle-based shelter options.
Forecasts do not currently predict a long frozen stretch, but in previous years we have seen agencies be slow to clear bike routes, especially trails that fall within Seattle Parks jurisdiction. We argued in 2019 that “while trails certainly don’t need to be the top priority, they should be on the list somewhere.” Hopefully agencies will be at least a little better if major freezes hit the area this winter. When dealing with freezing roads, local agencies focus on clearing and treating priority arterial routes. So especially if there is a lot of ice, the main busy streets might be the most bikeable. Though, of course, biking in mixed traffic on a busy street isn’t for everyone.
Freezing weather also requires warmer clothes, especially for your hands. Having comfortable hands makes winter biking so much more enjoyable. I asked folks on Twitter for glove advice last winter and received a ton of good and interesting suggestions. I highly suggest looking through that thread if you’re looking for a new solution.
Emma Scher wrote a story for Seattle Bike Blog in 2020 interviewing a handful of local winter bikers. A look at the bike counts on the Fremont and West Seattle Bridges showed 40-60% of January riders braved the snow as well.
Do you have advice for snowy or icy biking? Share it in the comments below.