How to stay safe when you’re winter cycling

Story by Thom Fountain

Take it slow

While snow will naturally slow you down, make sure to take it easy even when the road looks clear; black ice could bring you down without any warning.

Take the lane if needed

Wisconsin state law requires cyclists to ride as close to the shoulder as reasonable, but in winter that might be the middle of the road. Don’t worry about holding up traffic; it’s your right to take the lane
if needed.

Be visible

Always wear at least a front headlight and back reflector when biking at dusk or night. Also, try to wear brighter clothing and avoid dark colors and black.

Clean brakes, chains

The sand and ice that will end up on your bike at the end of the day can rust your chain and make your brakes slip. So wash them off with a rag or toilet brush after you ride.

Keep tires inflated

It’s always important to check your tire pressure, but with the fluctuating temperatures, tires deflate a lot quicker.

Fenders

Fenders keep slush and snow from flinging up your back while you ride.

Lower your seat

When you inevitably hit an ice patch or slick spot, having a lower center of gravity will help you stay upright.

Thick or thin?

There’s a lot of debate over whether thick, treaded tires or thin road slicks are better for winter biking. First go with what you have, but if you have the choice, here’s some guidance:

 

Thick:

Thicker tires sit on top of the snow, which can be slower, but will give you better traction in icy spots.

 

Thin:

Thin tires will cut through the snow, but will slip more on icy spots.