Hints & Tips

Thundersnow is Coming: 5 Tips for Safe Riding

We're told to expect not storms, not snow, but THUNDERSNOW

We were a little bit perplexed when the weather reporter told us to expect ‘thundersnow’. Snow we know about, same for thunder and storm. But Thundersnow is something else. 

As is oft the case, Google quickly threw up an explanation that seems to just about make sense (though it doesn’t explain why this is not called Thunder Snow, then Thunder-snow, and finally Thundersnow as tradition would dictate):

Thundersnow, also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thunder snowstorm, is an unusual kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain. It typically falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone.

Great – so the sky is going to rain down on us with really cold, icy particles – which means we need to combine our knowledge of how to ride in rain, ice and snow to weather the storm.

Here are a few tips to help you out over the coming days…

Lower your tyre pressure

With the kind of conditions we’re expecting, it’s not likely that temperatures will drop low enough for major ice patches to form. However – we’ve already seen and heard evidence that this isn’t the case all over the country:

Where there’s risk of ice, and even when the roads are damp as they certainly will be, it’s a good idea to lower your tyre pressure to increase your contact patch with the ground. If you usually run 100psi, go as low as 80psi. However, don’t overdo it, as this will will slightly increase your chance of a puncture. We’d choose mending a puncture over sliding out any day, though and with quality tyres you should be fine down to 70psi.

Wrap up warm

It kind of goes without saying that if it’s cold enough for rain to fall down solid, then you need all the layers you can get. If you’re cold, you’ll struggle to concentrate and numb fingers can affect your bike control – so layer up. If your ride is fairly long, it’s not a crazy idea to grab yourself a pair of ‘Hot Hands’ hand warmers either, quite a few garages and corner shops stock them.

Consider visibility

In all the flurry, visibility will probably be poor. For yourself, try to wear glasses with clear lenses so you can keep the flecks out of your eyes and don’t have to use your eyelashes on overdrive.

To make sure others see you, wear something bright and load up on lights. Take a dominant position on the road, and cycle extra defensively – poor weather can lower observation from other road users.

Brake sensitively and leave space

Wet, greasy, potentially icy roads aren’t the easiest for stopping on, but it’s likely you’ll need to stop at some point. It’s a good idea to use more heavily populated roads, as country lanes are more likely to be icy. However, make sure you leave extra space when cycling in traffic. When you do need to slow yourself down, apply very gentle pressure and try to keep it even between the front and rear. If you do feel any slippage, remain calm, hold the bars firmly and keep moving in a straight line.

Pedal mindfully

Isn’t mindfulness a whole other thing?! Possibly. But you need to think more about your pedal stroke here.

This is not the time for sprint training, or for high resistance pounding. When surfaces are questionable and visibility is poor, it’s a good idea to keep your pedalling as smooth as possible to improve your stability as you ride. You can further improve your purchase on the the road surface by keeping your weight firmly planted over the rear wheel, sitting a little more upright than you usually would on a road bike.

Well done for keeping up with your riding, and we hope you enjoy that lovely warm cuppa when you get in! 

You might also like… 

How to Stay Safe Riding in Icy Conditions

Top Tips to Keep you Commuting by Bike Through the Winter

Defensive Cycling Tips for Confident Commuting

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