Tips on Cycling in Snow and Ice

The fens have just started getting snow and sadly, our councils are not as cool as Copenhagen's snow-clearing yet:

Riding through fresh snow is surprisingly grippy but it often doesn't last long before some of it gets compacted into ice by other road users. It can also hide debris - one of my best bike rides was through deep snow in Norwich's Eaton Park, but I did have to stop to pull a large branch out of my spokes at one point! (I wasn't thrown from the bike because the jammed wheel just skidded through the snow - and even if I had fallen, deep snow would have been a soft landing!)

When it's icy, I'd either fit studded tyres (I don't think our local bike shops stock these, but they can be bought online) or stick to gritted roads. Some of the grit may spill over onto adjacent cycle tracks, but there may not be enough people cycling on them to grind it into the ice and prevent it freezing hard.

If you can delay your ride until the ice has melted, consider it. If you can't, the NCC Norfolk Winter Map shows which roads are gritted (plus the A47 is gritted by the UK government). The current gritting map should be linked from our maps page at any time.

NOTE: Norfolk currently fails to grit cycleways, while even the road parts of Route 1 are not gritted between Saddlebow and St Germans (stay on the main road instead?), south of Lords Bridge (junction with Regional 30 - head west to Terrington St John and the old A47?), or north of Sandringham (use the B road through Dersingham?), and Route 11 is gritted only between Watlington and Denver.

Even if you're cycling on gritted roads, it's probably a good idea to:

  • make sure you can put your feet down easily,
  • use a lower gear so it's less dramatic if the wheel slips,
  • try to avoid sudden movements - no sudden braking or sudden turns,
  • pump your tyres slightly softer than usual (but not so soft that they pinch-puncture) because even gritted roads might not be completely free from ice, so you need all the grip you can get,
  • wrap up warm so at least you won't freeze if you have to fix your bike or walk,
  • keep a sharp eye out for nearby motorists losing control of their vehicles on ice, especially if you have studded tyres, because motorists don't; and
  • rinse your cycle off with clean water before putting it away because road salt can quickly corrode chains, gears, some frames and so on.

Chester Cycling has some similar tips.  Or you could do like some of KLWNBUG and switch to low-down three-wheels - maybe one day, we can see them put on a display like this:

But if you take care out there, you might see some beautiful scenes before anyone else does... please consider sharing any pictures of your bike out in the snow and ice with our Facebook group.

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