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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 08-09-10, 09:54 AM   #1
Chalupa102
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I'm doing it this winter

Last winter I did a little bit of riding after getting some good studded snow tires, and it was fun. Unfortunately I didn't get much experience riding on snow covered roads because I started so late in the season. I now have a dedicated winter bike and it's pretty much ready to go for when the snow starts falling (which hopefully won't be for a while now cuz it's August). That being said, this year I decided I'm gonna take the plunge and be a full time winter rider. This brings me to a few questions for you pros out there.

Where is the best place to ride on the road? Do you guys find that you stay more towards the right or do you take the lane more often when there's snow on the roads? Or do you guys just ride the same place as you would if the roads were clear?

Snow plows/sanders: What do you do when you see one coming up behind you, especially while on side/narrow roads (figuring at the time they have their plow down clearing the roads)?

Other road users: Are vehicles losing control typically problems due to slippery conditions that you have to watch out for? Do vehicles give you more or less room during the winter, or is it about the same as now?

How much more time do you give yourself to get to destinations? Right now, my ride to campus takes 1:15 on a good day.

If anyone has any other tips that might help me out, please let me know. I plan to ride 3x a week to college (38 mile RT) and do shorts trips to the store, church, and things like that as well.
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Old 08-09-10, 01:04 PM   #2
irclean
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I usually stay to the right as I normally would, except in conditions where it's nothing but icy ruts along the curb. As the winter progresses and more and more stuff gets pushed up along the side of the road by passing plows I find myself drifting further into the lane. I will take the lane if necessary but, for the most part, there is still room for me and passing motorists. In my experience many drivers give me more space in winter than in fair weather... I hope that remains the case. Make sure you're well lit because many drivers won't expect to see a bicycle being ridden in the winter.

So far I've never had to move for a plow, but I think I would dismount and get out of the way to allow him to pass.

I give myself extra time to get to my destinations - probably about 25% more time, although it likely only takes about 5 to 10% longer than normal. I am slowed marginally by my studs but the extra time is more due to riding more slowly (and more safely). You just never know what to expect so it's good to be proactive. Don't forget to budget extra time for getting dressed, undressed, etc.

Fenders are an absolute must (I'm assuming you already have them installed) and if you use panniers make sure they're waterproof, or better yet have a rain cover for those slushy, sloppy days because they will get coated with slop. I also use a dollar-store showercap to protect my saddle when parked outside; it helps keeps my butt clean and dry on the ride home, plus doubles as a helmet cover when necessary.

Last edited by irclean; 08-09-10 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 08-09-10, 04:55 PM   #3
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Around here the crews do a pretty good job plowing, including the bike lanes, so I just ride more or less normally. In general I try to give cars more clearance at a few tight spots. For instance at one left turn from a divided highway I normally will cross over and hug the left shoulder leading up to the turn. When conditions are snowy or icy, I don't do this. I keep right until the intersection and then stop and cross during a clearing.

In general, I recommend evaluating each danger spot on a case-by-case basis and doing whatever you feel is safest. No need to adhere to any fixed set of rules, because every situation is different.

Plows haven't been a problem for me.

On a normal 45 minute ride, I've found I need an extra 15-20 minutes riding time on snowy days. Maybe 10 minutes extra on icy days.

I think the most dangerous time is the first snow of the year, when drivers are still getting used to the conditions.

Paul
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Old 08-09-10, 06:11 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
Where is the best place to ride on the road? Do you guys find that you stay more towards the right or do you take the lane more often when there's snow on the roads? Or do you guys just ride the same place as you would if the roads were clear?
I generally don't change. When conditions are very bad, I'll take the lane more often.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
Snow plows/sanders: What do you do when you see one coming up behind you, especially while on side/narrow roads (figuring at the time they have their plow down clearing the roads)?
I get out of the way as quickly and safely as possible. (This can also mean crossing to the other side to wait.) I'd much rather ride in the freshly plowed path behind them than try to prove some sort of VC point by staying ahead of them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
Other road users: Are vehicles losing control typically problems due to slippery conditions that you have to watch out for? Do vehicles give you more or less room during the winter, or is it about the same as now?
Generally, I get a lot more room in the winter. I'm not sure if it's because they think the crazy will rub off, or if the "balance of fear" tips in our favor (drivers becoming afraid of us falling in front of them). YMMV.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
How much more time do you give yourself to get to destinations? Right now, my ride to campus takes 1:15 on a good day.
My fair-weather average commuting speed is 16-17 mph for the whole ride, depending on route and traffic. I lose 2-3 mph off my average just putting the snow tires on the bike. In very bad conditions, I drop to the single-digits. In extremely bad conditions I'm barely moving along.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
If anyone has any other tips that might help me out, please let me know. I plan to ride 3x a week to college (38 mile RT) and do shorts trips to the store, church, and things like that as well.
Do not over-dress, especially on long rides like those you plan. Sweating through your clothes will cause hypothermia. I aim for slightly under-dressed at all times. It's easy then to warm up by pedaling harder. Once your clothes are soaked, you can't warm up until you're inside and out of the soggy clothes--which could be an hour or more away on the long rides you describe.

This is also why several light layers are recommended. You can strip off a layer or two if you find you've accidentally over-dressed. Of course, you'll want to do this as early as possible.

Last edited by tsl; 08-09-10 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:20 PM   #5
electrik
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Hmm, at 1:15...it may take double that in a storm - that is quite a journey - i wouldn't attempt it if near 5cm of snowfall is predicted.. Check which routes are plowed first, usually it's large arterials and bus-routes.

A nice bright set of lights helps a lot, check out the magicshine stuff...
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