Rolling Through the Snow Part 2: Riding.

Check out part one here.

As you can see by the cover photo of this article, you roll through a lot of interesting things in the snow. From ice, to patches of hardened snow, to the sandy mix that accumulates days after the storm, snow riding is a varied and unique thing. Here are some tips I have gathered over the years from riding in unique situations.

Slow Ride, Take it Easy

This is most important for riding in a storm/riding shortly after a storm. Ride at a slow but consistent pace, being wary of what materials lie beneath your bike at any given time. Remember that it may take a little longer for you to reach your destination, and budget time in regards to that.

Know your route/challenges you face during the winter

The biggest threat to a cyclist is the unknown during the winter. Whether its a snag of ice underneath thin snow (more on that later) a car that is unaware of your presence, wind, or wildlife, wintertime will bring things that summer does not. Keep that in mind as you ride around the city.

Wonder what is plowed or not? While they are currently transitioning to a new GPS tracking system, Denver’s Plow Tracker is helpful in locating where plows have already been. Can’t access the plow tracker? Here’s a good rule of thumb for the order of operations when plowing:

  1. Major Streets/Trails go first

This includes streets such as Santa Fe, Broadway, Colfax, and Federal and trails such as Cherry Creek Trail and South Platte River. While the major roads are not necessarily the most desirable for bicycle commuting, major thoroughfares and protected bike lanes are also plowed consistently. For instance, a plow designed specifically for the 13th Ave protected bike lane is deployed fairly early in the day after a big snow

2. Minor Streets and minor trails

Think Sanderson Gulch, 16th avenue, and the streets adjacent to major streets. My biggest suggestion for areas like this is to keep lights aimed at the snow and ride incredibly slow

3. Areas that never get paved

These are the areas that will, regardless of temperature fluctuation, have a trace amount of snow on them. Think alleyways that are north facing, incredibly low trafficked streets with buildings that cast shadows throughout the day, and unincorporated parts of surrounding counties. My general gut instinct and advice to newer riders is to avoid these stretches at all costs, as they may never get paved.

Snow after the large late-November snow from 2019

The Eternal Issue of Ice

When I talk to people that don’t ride regularly, the biggest problem that they usually cite besides temperature is ice being a large issue. I am not going to disguise it as all: falling on ice is scary as hell, and is still a thing I am always wary of after four years of riding in the metro area.

How to Approach Ice

  1. Don’t make any sudden movements.

Treat ice as if you just discovered that a bear was tracking you. The biggest mistake that many cyclists make is flinching when they feel terrain changing rapidly. Roll over ice slowly, and concentrate on getting past it.

2. If you fall.

This has happened to me a couple of times in my life. Here are some general best practice tips I would suggest when falling, loosely adapted from this article.

a. Don’t brace yourself for the impact

Falling on an elbow, hand, or arm will do a bad number on it. Keep hands on handlebars if possible and try and tighten them close to your elbows.

b. Pick a good landing spot

Picking a good landing spot is like picking a good war to serve in. My general gut advice is to try and fall away from traffic and into an area that is a lot more comfortable, especially thinly packed snow.

That’s part 2 for you! In part 3, we will talk about maintenance during the winter.

Stay Tuned!

Check out Part 3 here

2 thoughts on “Rolling Through the Snow Part 2: Riding.

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