"Snowflake"As the end of September approaches, snow season in Utah is well on its way. Depending on which part of the state you live in, your first flakes may fall only days from now if they have not started to fall already.

For those who commute by bicycle, winter may be a less-than-friendly thought. Colder, harsher riding conditions, limited visibility during snowfall, and slippery, icy roads can lead to an increased number of accidents and a decrease in overall riding morale. While biking in the snow can be difficult and challenging, it does not have to be impossible. With the proper gear and the correct safety approach, you can minimize the negative effects of icy cycling and learn to enjoy spending your time in nature’s winter wonderland.

Embrace the weather conditions for what they are

No matter how hard you try, you cannot will the snow to go away. Especially in Utah, where it typically snows on and off for half the year, snow is simply a fact of everyday winter life. Consider this: when it snows, cars slow down and traffic becomes significantly more congested. If you learn to master riding in a few inches of snow, you will avoid having to change your commuting style when winter comes. Avoiding miles and miles of slowed or stopped traffic can help you actually arrive to work faster than if you were in a car or on a bus—plus, it will help keep you in better shape during most people’s athletic off-season.

Make sure your bike is prepared for the elements

Choosing tires that have enough tread is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe in the snow. The chunkiest, bumpiest tires are going to be your best bet, as they will have the most traction over rough patches of ice and gravel. You will also want to keep your tire pressure lower than you would during the dry days and summer months. Let air out of your tires and ride them “softer” to achieve better traction. Allweathersports.com recommends beginning at around 15 or 20 psi and using a trial-and-error approach, although they say sometimes even 5 psi can work for certain conditions.

Change up your riding style

In the snow, you are especially prone to slipping and falling, so it is important to balance your weight correctly to avoid landing face-first in a fresh pile of powder. Try to avoid leaning forward too far and gripping your handlebars too tightly. Relax as much as physically possible, and keep your weight on the back of your bike. Try to brake early, and break in a solid, straight line. The more you can avoid swerving, the safer you will be.

Steer with your whole body, focusing the movement at your hips. Do not attempt to make sharp, sudden turns using only your handlebars.

Dress for the cold

As always, never ride your bike without a helmet! Make sure you are wearing proper gloves, coats, and hats to stay warm and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Slush and day-old snow can be quite dirty, so make sure you are not biking to work in your suit or skirt. Wear durable clothes that are able to protect  you from the elements and from the temperature.

Sources: The Guardian, All Weather Sports

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Magill and Creative Commons