View Full Version : Got snow. Got snow tires. Now what do I do?

12-17-2010, 08:48 AM
Okay... It would have been nice if Dr. Einstein (my extremely sarcastic name for myself) would have helped with riding technique for snow and ice BEFORE yesterday's snow storm. Oh well. Work kinda got in the way of that. Sorry. I'll start a topic and I'd love to hear what works for you.


Back streets are rarely in good shape. Traffic and more narrow lanes means you gotta keep an eye behind you.
Main streets are not much better. Roads are often clear, but the lanes are more narrow.
Cars are nervous and not always in control (Nothing new here... but more-so with the snow and ice.)
Bike paths are covered in "Pedestrian Ice" -- Super bumpy ice and hard pack snow created by footprints, thawing and freezing.

Ho do you ride in this stuff? A lot of this is trial and error. Find what works for you. Here are some ideas that might help.

Fore-aft balance: This comes into play mostly when you're climbing. Tires need weight on them to keep traction. If your rear tire is slipping when you pedal, you need more weight on it. Climb in the saddle if you can. That keeps weight on the back wheel. If you climb out of the saddle, shift your hips toward the rear of the bike. It feels weird, but it keeps weight on the rear wheel.

Gotta keep weight on the front wheel too. If the front wheel is wandering it needs more weight on it. If you've already shifted weight to the rear wheel, you can't exactly lean forward or you'll lose rear traction. Best way to put weight on the front tire is to bend your elbows and bring your face a little closer to the stem. It makes a difference. The bike will stay on line a little more.

Dealing with bumps? Stay loose. If you have a death grip on the bars and don't go with the flow a bit, it is easy to have the bike bounce you all over the place. Let the bike move under you a bit... your arms and legs will take up the bumps. In general, I find having a little momentum is a good thing... it keeps the bike moving in the direction you want. If you're loose and relaxed on the bars, the bumps may move you a few inches to each side, but you'll keep it going in line.

Turning on ice? Here's the tricky part. On snow and ice, the normal "lean the bike and turn the bars" doesn't work so well. The front wheel tends to push and when you lean, it is easy to tip over. I've found it is easier keep the bike a bit more upright and steer more with your hips than the bars. That sounds weird. Treat it like you're steering the bike the same way you do if you're riding no-hands because that's almost what you're doing. One technique that I have found that helps is to press down on the bars on the side of the direction you want to turn. If I want to go left, put a little more weight on the left side of the bars as you go through the turn.

Find a place with no cars and practice a bit. It is fun and gets you outside when you otherwise might stay home.

Have a good day.


12-17-2010, 09:14 AM
Nice summation.

I would add that maintaining a very smooth and steady cadence also helps a lot. Which leads me to thought number two---if you are riding a geared-bike make sure you shift into the proper gear early so that you can maintain a steady cadence, don't have to get out of the saddle, and have time to deal with any snow/ice/mud-related derailleur issues. Definitely shift down if you decide to hop off the trail to go around any really slick spots or you'll bog.

As an aside, I actually had much better control in the snow yesterday on my winter fixie than on my cx-rig last year. And clean up was ridiculously fast and easy. Might have to put the cx-rig out to pasture.

Good luck out there, everyone.

12-17-2010, 10:14 AM
I rode the fixie mountain bike yesterday. It was perfect. I kind of like a fixie for snow and ice riding because with using my legs for rear brakes, I'm much less likely to break traction. I need to change the gearing on the commuting fixie so that it is a little more reasonable for the spiked tires.