Mountain biking in snow and ice
Hone your riding skills, reaction times and balance by riding in snow. Certain conditions are grippier than velcro, others are slippier than a banana skin. Learn to read the conditions and anticipate early. Slamming on the anchors is likely to end in tears.
- Head for firm snow. Slush is terrible, deep stuff unrideable and ice feels scary. The best stuff is that where a handful of people or vehicles have travelled your route previously creating a firm, smooth line.
- Where the deep stuff is soft and fluffy, then it can still be quite rideable, as long as you get down to a firm base.
- Keep a straight line as much as possible. Tracking your bike helps in wheel ruts and even where the route is wider, you can obey Newtons law (bikes continue in a straight line and speed unless influenced by external forces. Generally external forces aren't a good idea on ice!).
- Keep an eye out for surface changes. Look for colour and texture changes to the snow surface to anticipate where the grip might change. Shiny or clear surfaces that can even look wet indicate slippy ice, whereas a deep white or translucence indicates good grip, especially where the ice has some texture to it.
- Look for other indicators like sections that have frozen after melting the previous day, these usually smooth out and make it rather uncomfortable (as in scary).
- To hold a straight line, move your upper body from side to side to keep your bike tracking.
- Drop your heels and keep your weight back to maintain traction on your rear wheel, or to stop the front wheel diving when your descending.
- Look where you want to go - it helps keep you on track.
- Maintain your speed - keeping your speed up stops you sinking into softer surfaces and aids your balance. This might mean doing short sprints then little rests in between.
- Where you see a change in surface, or suspect some ice imminently, make sure that you brake beforehand rather than on the ice, if it helps your confidence then clip out. Most importantly, apply Newtons Law. Don't pedal, brake or steer; keep your weight evenly balanced, and crucially, relax. Then you'll come out the other side upright and ready to ride the rest of the day.
- Do everything gently. Big pedal strokes end up in wheelspin, harsh braking in slides. Use your whole pedal stroke to apply power smoothly, steer a little bit rather than setting up sharp corners.
So get out there and make the most of the conditions. With the snow generating a completely different look, feel and challenge to your local area, reduce the traffic demands on the already pressured roads and go from home. We promise, you'll never have enjoyed your local circuits as much!