Icy roads can change the rules of that game, where a hasty move or forceful braking can throw you off balance when riding on slippery surfaces. To avoid going down in the instance of ice, for starters you could just stay home, or instead you could prepare yourself with a few precautions for riding a bike on ice.
The secret is in how to stay upright.
There’s really only one basic goal whenever you throw your leg over a bike: it’s to stay upright. Icy roads can change the rules of that game, where a hasty move or forceful braking can throw you off balance when riding on slippery surfaces. Then it’s game over when a loss of control sparks an overreaction that leads to a fall. To avoid hitting the deck in the instance of ice, for starters you could just stay home, or you could trick out your bike to help keep you vertical, or instead you could prepare yourself with a few precautions for riding a bike on ice.
One of the surest ways to keep the rubber side down is with studded tyres, which are essentially 6 mm screws drilled into your tyres from the inside out to expose the screw tips. If you don’t have 15 hours to spare (or the will) to stud tyres on your own, ready-made studded tyres are for you. In addition to functional fashion, studs add a significant amount of weight but who cares when you can ride more confidently?!
Reducing tyre pressure increases your tyre’s surface area to give you greater traction and stability. Your tyre’s sidewall should feature the recommended tyre pressure range, which will give you an idea of how low you can go. Stay within the range to avoid pinch flats and bottoming out on bumps.
Changing direction can pose a threat to your balance because pedalling usually stops (or slows) when turning, and because turning usually requires the rider to lean into the turn. A slick surface can turn against you if you lean in too hard so your best bet is to avoid icy turns altogether or, if that’s not an option, plan on making a wider turn than you would on more stable ground. It also helps to slow way down when turning because you’ll go nowhere if you’re on the ground instead of on your bike.
Fast is fun until that terrifying moment when a patch of ice suddenly appears up ahead and leaves you no choice but to hit the brakes, which can result in a spectacular wipeout. Take a page out of Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” and be like the tortoise because slow and steady is better than being fast and falling.
Embrace the experience of maintaining a pace that spares you the chills of descending and the thrills of braking on ice by sticking to flat roads. What goes up usually comes down and the heat that’s generated on a climb can disappear in a blink on the descent, which can turn a nice ride into an ice ride. Spinning along on the flats also avoids hard braking since you’re in better control of your speed.
Roads that have been treated with salt or sand reduce the risk of ice so stick (almost literally!) to those routes that have been seasoned for the season. Tip: what you’ll gain in traction on treated roads, you’ll lose in bike cleanliness. Keep your bike in tip-top shape with a quick rinse and dry (or a thorough wash) after a ride on salted or sandy roads.
Riding a bike on icy roads may be unavoidable if you prefer to ride outside in winter weather, but that doesn’t mean you should stay inside until spring. Maintaining control and staying upright are simply practices in precaution on your way to an enjoyable ride in the great outdoors.