When winter snow begins to melt, it feels great to get outdoors on a bike. Spinning the pedals energizes both body and spirit. Just take extra care as you set out. Cycling in slush and other remnants of snowstorms can throw unwelcome surprises your way. Here are eight quick tips to help you stay warm, dry and safe on your ride:
- Defend with fenders. These are your first line of protection against the spray of water, salt and grime in sloppy weather. Although many bicycles designed for city cycling come equipped with this accessory, most bicycles don’t. (Citi Bike share bikes have both fenders and skirt guards.) Installing permanent fenders, or buying clip-ons now means you’ll be ready for spring showers, as well. Just be sure to seek advice from your local bike shop; size and width of your tires and other features such as brake type are necessary considerations in picking fenders. Read our guide to bicycle fender types here.
- Even with fenders, though, you’ll need to protect your clothes from spew. If you’re commuting to work, wear rain pants over your clothes or travel in old pair of jeans. Glam, no, but effective, yes. (I spotted one guy riding in fisherman’s bib overalls on Fifth Avenue.) Pack and carry fresh clothes for work in a plastic bag. If you’ve got a rear rack on your bike, read this easy hack to help keep your tush dry.
- Keep your feet warm and dry with insulated, waterproof boots, and tuck in your pants.
- Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. This cannot be overemphasized! Most bicycles come equipped with the type of brakes that use rubber pads to squeeze against the rims of the wheels. Snow and ice can accumulate on these, stretching the time it takes to slow and stop. Reducing speed also helps you better observe your surroundings to prevent a spill if you encounter black ice or an obstacle.
- The road narrows. Snow accumulation, plows and trucks catching up on deliveries may block the bike lanes. This means you may need to signal to motorists and “take” the adjacent traffic lane more frequently than usual. Under these circumstances, good visibility is crucial, especially as dusk falls. Don’t forget your lights!
- As always, actively scan ahead to anticipate the actions of cars, pedestrians and other cyclists and to give yourself time to plan your own moves. But also keep a close eye on the road right in front of you; metal or painted surfaces — anything that’s not asphalt — may become especially slippery, and snow or slush may hide debris. In the Sixth Avenue bike lane, for example, I encountered splintered wood boards that were almost perfectly camouflaged by a few inches of slush.
- Expect the unexpected. On Prince Street, I got showered with the output from sudden ignition of a sidewalk snow-blower. Oof!
- Wipe down your bike with a damp rag as soon as you get home. If allowed to accumulate, road salt and grime can take a toll on your bicycle frame and components. It’s super-easy to remove all this while it’s still wet — so why wait?