Surviving the icy roads.

img_3415This last week has seen very low temperatures with hard overnight frosts and daytime temperatures barely rising enough to melt the ice.

Ice must be the single biggest worry to all cyclists, unlike most other weather phenomenon’s you cannot always see it lurking to catch out the unsuspecting.

For the leisure cyclist the choices are, 1 stay off the bike, 2 use the indoor turbo, 3  take your chances on the ice.

While 1 and 2 would seem the sensible choice I believe you can cycle provided you think through the problems and try and tilt the balance in your favour.  I have been described as both brave and stupid for cycling in these conditions, I would like to think I am neither of these so I thought I would share in some of my reasoning I use to make my decision and how I decide to go or not.

Do your research, a trusted weather forecast is the place to start, what is the minimum temperature and a key one for me is what is the humidity level. If the humidity is high and the temperature is below freezing as in freezing fog my alarm bells are ringing, likewise if we have rain that has cleared through to leave a clear night with sub-zero temperatures the roads are likely to be icy and any salt laid before the rain stopped will likely have been washed away.

If the air is dry as in low humidity and we have had no rain and the roads are predominantly dry I am more optimistic about my chances to cycle in low temperatures.

I check the weather forecast to see at what time air temperatures are set to rise into positive numbers to possibly give me the opportunity to delay my departure. I also have an alternative plan B route using only main roads that are subject to the Counties salting policy if I am not happy that secondary roads will be clear of ice.  I definitely stay away from cycle paths which are not only bottom of the salting list but usually at this time of year covered with wet leaves.

Side roads and country lanes that are not gritted are going to be icy so if you are unable to avoid them a few tips to help you survive. Reducing tyre pressure by 15psi will get you more grip, slow down and select a low gear that will give you easy traction with not much effort and do not snatch on the brakes, just keep them covered and above all keep your weight central on the bike. Keep an eye open for damp and shiny surfaces which could be black ice and try to pick the dry line.

If I do come across a patch of ice my method is to reduce speed before hand and look for an exit point on the ice, aiming for it without braking or turning the steering. I am also happier cycling on my own as opposed to in a group in these conditions as you are never sure of the bike handling skills of other riders.

Nothing there is rocket science and probably the sensible advice is, if there is ice, don’t cycle,  but if like me you do feel the need to get out, hopefully a few tips to help you make an informed decision and survive.



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