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Winter Tip #2: Brake Slow, Even, and Early

Are you one of those riders who isn't afraid of riding in the snow? If so, you deserve a medal. If not, perhaps it's time to try. No matter your position, it's important to brush up on your winter riding skills, and today's tip is all about riding slowly and safely and how to use your brakes to do so. Simply put, make sure you brake slow, even, and early.

First, you want to brake slowly if you're riding on icy or snowy roads. Don't try to make sudden stops or you risk skidding. Second, apply even force on both your brakes and pedals as you try to stop. This will help you maintain traction. Lastly, give yourself enough time and space to stop, just as you would when driving a car.

Below are some more detailed tips on best riding practices for snowy conditions, which are from this blog post all about winter commuting: Dill Pickle Gear Winter Commuting.

Slow down:

First and foremost, realize that it’s going to take you longer than usual, and slow down. Actually, this is good advice if you’re driving in the snow, too. On top of that, sometimes it’s just a slow, hard slog to push your way through snow, kind of like how running on sand is hard work. And it gets harder when snow gets packed up under fenders and brakes and so on, too. Just relax and be patient, and you’ll get there.

Keep momentum:

Let your forward momentum keep you going forward. The wheels can slip around a little without taking you down as long as you don’t freak out and overcompensate. Stay loose, pedal smoothly, and don’t lock your elbows.

Ride straight over ice:

If you have to ride over a patch of actual ice, do not try to slow down, speed up, or steer while you’re actually on top of it. Keep going at a steady speed in a straight line and you can make it over just fine. That means that if you are going fast, slow down BEFORE you get to the icy patch, not while you’re on it.

Shift weight forward:

On uneven/unpredictable surfaces like packed ice and snow, it’s helpful to get more weight onto the front wheel. This helps keep traction in the front, and helps it cut a little farther in. You can do this by leaning farther forward, or by getting out of the saddle. Incidentally, it does not necessarily mean putting more weight on your hands; if you lean forward your center of gravity moves forward and puts more weight on the front wheel, regardless of whether your upper body is being supported by your hands or whether it’s being cantilevered against your pedaling force. 

Apply even force:

Just like a car can drive up a slippery hill as long as the wheels are turning slowly and steadily but will slip and slide back down if you get impatient and try to accelerate, the rear wheel of your bike can spin out if you stomp on the pedals. Apply force evenly and slowly, depending on how much traction you have. 

Plow through:

But in some cases, your best bet is to just use your momentum to plow through. In particular, when a snowplow or someone digging out their car has left a big pile of snow across the road, you can usually just shove through it, even if sometimes it looks like you can’t.


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