Cycling on ice

It looks like many cyclists have discovered studded bicycle tires this winter. Here’s a very brief post about them.

After several years of year round commuting on a skinny tire road bike, I purchased a single studded tire for my mountain bike from Nashbar a few years ago. While it’s very possible to cycle across slick ice without the studs, even a single studded tire mounted on the front wheel improves control considerably.

To ride on ice without studs, you must pick your line very carefully. Any change of direction and speed must be done with utmost care. Watch for ruts. When cycling on apparently clear pavement, watch for black ice, especially at intersections and especially if you’re turning. If there are long stretches of ice, try to bike on snow that might be layered over the ice.

I’ve learned that mountain biking skills and low speed bike handling skills are very helpful for riding in icy conditions. I’ve muscled my bike over monster ice ruts, for example, in the same way that I cleared logs. Recovering when the rear of your bike squirms out from beneath you is about the same whether it happens on muddy singletrack or an icy road, though on ice that squirm happens much more quickly. Crashing without (too much) injury is another useful mountain biking skill.

If you’re not absolutely confident in your bike handling, I recommend staying off of the bike or using studded tires. With studs, you should still pay attention, but the going is much easier.

Enjoy this video from Lucas Brunelle as he and a friend bike on the frozen Charles River without studs.

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