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Thread: Riding on snow and ice

  1. #1
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    Default Riding on snow and ice

    I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago. But since I'm in Los Angeles, I've just been watching from afar.

    This was from 6-7 years ago. Unfortunately I'm unable to find the picture of the ice-covered road from the original post.


    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    Several people reported going down today and many have expressed trepidation about riding on snow and ice.
    This morning I rode to Java Shack, back home (near EFC) and back to Rosslyn on my 3-speed Western Flyer with wide slicks (see photo below), and--with just one momentary exception--felt pretty comfortable the whole time. Most of this was on the Custis, but some was on streets, too.

    I'm not saying this to boast, but to relay the fact that it is possible, and pretty safe, to ride in these conditions if you use the proper techniques.

    I think the #1 tip is to avoid using your front brake. If you skid your rear tire, you will slide sideways, but you probably won't go down. (That was my one time this morning: on a downhill a truck presented itself as an obstacle while I was literally on a 20-foot patch of ice. I locked up the back wheel, but did not apply the front brake, but rather steered across the ice toward the packed snow along the side of the road. My bike slid partially sideways, but did not fall over, and when I hit the snow, everything straightened back out. If I had hit the front brake [which is one's tendency], I would surely have gone down. I wasn't travelling too fast to start with, so even if I had gone down, I probably would have only bruised my pride.)

    #2 - Keep moving--straight and steady. A moving bike is much more stable than a walking or running person, and way, way more stable than a still bike. You don't have to go very fast, but as long as you are moving in a straight line your bike will virtually always stay up--even on pretty slick surfaces. Try to keep your pedaling as smooth and steady as possible, so that your rear wheel applies a constant pressure.

    #3 - Plan ahead.
    - If you are going to be crossing an ice field, plan ahead for your exit spot, and plot a straight line to it.
    - If you are going to be heading down a hill, slow way down before the beginning, so that you can roll slowly down without needing your front brake
    - Turns can be dangerous, just like using the front brake, so slow down and plan your turns before you start them.

    #4 - When navigating actual snow (like an inch or more deep), you may find that standing up and pedaling is more comfortable. I'm not sure what it is about controlling the bike, but having the bike slide around while you are standing and pedaling is much less troubling than while sitting--at least for me. A more advanced skill is to stand and shift your weight backwards, so that your rear wheel has more weight, and hence more traction, to keep you going. This is helpful on uphills when you don't want to come to a dead stop. Riding in actual snow is harder work, but far less likely to result in falls than on icy surfaces.

    As you can see, my avatar above is riding straight and steady on an ice patch--no hands, even!--and is not falling over. So it can be done.

    The street I am standing on in the photo below--taken this morning--is completely rideable, even on a road bike (not recommended, though; my druthers is my heavier, wider-tired, 3-speed), if you use the techniques above.
    Last edited by Steve O; 01-16-2022 at 07:58 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Riding on snow and ice

    Thank you for these excellent pointers!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #3
    cvcalhoun's Avatar
    cvcalhoun is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Um, there are some of us who can't ride a bike hands-free even on a perfect day! My balance has always been terrible, and got worse with age. LOL

    Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by cvcalhoun View Post
    Um, there are some of us who can't ride a bike hands-free even on a perfect day! My balance has always been terrible, and got worse with age. LOL

    Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk
    There are elements of bike design that can help with that (like by lowering wheel flop). I don't say 'fix', of course, but help.

    My beater MTB has super-long chainstays which helps with rear-end wobble on flats but *kills* me when trying to climb anything that can slip out. I simply can't do #4 far back enough.

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    I did find these photos of me riding on 1-inch thick snow/ice-covered streets that had been packed down by cars (photos were taken in different places in different years).
    Dispel the notion that riding a bike requires special balance (track-standing, OTOH, requires balance). A moving bike is a very stable machine and you can use that to your advantage.

    My riding one handed did not require any special skills (or "balance") more than anyone else. It just requires faith in the laws of physics. Your bike will stay up if you trust it to and follow the techniques outlined below.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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    cvcalhoun's Avatar
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    Riding a bike requires that you can "feel" when you are sitting upright (to go straight ahead) or leaning but not too far (to turn left or right). If it didn't, kids wouldn't fall off the bike when they are first learning. I have in fact had two people I know become totally unable to ride a bike when they lost their sense of balance (in one case to an inner ear problem, in one case to Parkinson's).

    I don't have much of that "feel." People who try to take a picture of me constantly complain that I am leaning one direction or another--even though I am totally unaware of it. Lacking the ability to tell when I am sitting straight up versus leaning, I ride a bicycle through constant small adjustments to my handlebars to compensate for the fact that I'm leaning in a direction that is not the direction I want to go. "If you are going to be crossing an ice field, plan ahead for your exit spot, and plot a straight line to it." implies that I could ride a straight line if I set my mind to it--which is not the case.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    I did find these photos of me riding on 1-inch thick snow/ice-covered streets that had been packed down by cars (photos were taken in different places in different years).
    Dispel the notion that riding a bike requires special balance (track-standing, OTOH, requires balance). A moving bike is a very stable machine and you can use that to your advantage.

    My riding one handed did not require any special skills (or "balance") more than anyone else. It just requires faith in the laws of physics. Your bike will stay up if you trust it to and follow the techniques outlined below.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	on the snow.JPG 
Views:	26 
Size:	34.4 KB 
ID:	26193

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	icy.jpg 
Views:	25 
Size:	79.2 KB 
ID:	26194

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  9. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    I did find these photos of me riding on 1-inch thick snow/ice-covered streets that had been packed down by cars (photos were taken in different places in different years).
    Dispel the notion that riding a bike requires special balance (track-standing, OTOH, requires balance). A moving bike is a very stable machine and you can use that to your advantage.

    My riding one handed did not require any special skills (or "balance") more than anyone else. It just requires faith in the laws of physics. Your bike will stay up if you trust it to and follow the techniques outlined below.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	on the snow.JPG 
Views:	26 
Size:	34.4 KB 
ID:	26193

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	icy.jpg 
Views:	25 
Size:	79.2 KB 
ID:	26194
    Asterisk - as many of us who have been passed seemingly effortlessly by Steve O on an 8% grade climb, Steve O is part mountain goat. YMMV riding on snow and ice.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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