mild adjustments for extreme weather: part 2

Winter Bicycling in Chinatown NYC

The benefits of riding a bicycle for transportation in the city don’t subside during the winter. In fact, some may multiply. Think zipping past traffic stalled by sloppy weather. While it’s true that cold temperatures and snow can throw some curve balls your way, a few adjustments in your riding technique, choice of a route and routine on arrival at your destination will keep your rides safe, comfortable and enjoyable throughout the winter months.

Click here to view Part 1 of this series, in which contributor Neil Bezdek focuses on what to wear and how to prepare your bike for winter riding. Also read Neil’s Rambling Man blog about life on the road as a pro racer at

Your skills

Staying safe on wet roads is all about thinking a step ahead and remembering that your traction is limited.

•    Brake twice.  Quickly squeeze and release the brakes before you really need to slow down.  This clears water off your rims, and you’ll have much better stopping power for round two.

•    Brake before turning.  Braking and turning each apply lateral force to your tires.  Doing both at the same time doubles this force and is more likely to send your tires sliding.

•    Lean your bike, not your body.  It’s impossible to turn without leaning in, but leaning your bike instead of your body makes it easier to keep your mass over your tires and correct for a skid.  If you lean inside with your body and your tires slide outside, the only place for you to go is down.

•    Use the rear brake.  A sliding rear wheel is much easier to control than a sliding front wheel.  Deliberately skidding your rear wheel can also help you gauge how slick the road is.

•    Avoid puddles.  You never know what’s lurking beneath.  And If you’ve let some of air out of your tires to improve traction, you’re more likely to suffer a pinch flat if the pavement is rough.

•    Dodge pigeons.  New York’s beloved mascots slow down considerably when temps drop below freezing.

Your route

•    Follow subway lines.  On icy days, streets with subway lines running underneath are the last to freeze over.

•    Take it easy on bridges.  With nothing but frigid air beneath them, bridges can be icy even when the streets are clear.  Remember that the Brooklyn Bridge’s wood planks are slicker than the pavement on other bridges.

•    Beware of metal, cobblestones and paint.  These surfaces are slick as ice when wet.  Also watch out for patches of oil mixed with water, especially if it’s been a while since the last rain or snow.

Your arrival

•    Park away from the curb.  Snow plows pose the same danger as street cleaners.  Ever wonder how all those twisted, abandoned bikes on the sidewalk got that way?

•    Clean off your bike.  A bicycle is like a bathroom—a quick cleaning on a regular basis is a cinch, but it will turn into a hopeless mess with neglect.  Simply wiping down your bike, especially the chain, rims, and brake pads, goes a long way towards keeping it clean and free of corrosive salt.

— Neil Bezdek

photo: Joanna Pan

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