How to bike in the Snow and Ice

The view from my window last week

The view from my window last week

I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to bike in the snow, but it is awfully dangerous, and incredibly difficult. However, I live off-campus so I have to commute to school. And work. And buy groceries. I don’t have the luxury of just NOT leaving my apartment every time in snows.

It’s snowed twice so far in Tokyo, the first of occurred on one of the worse possible days (the Japanese coming of age ceremony), shut down several bus lines, ruined some kimonos, and caused quite a few accidents.

Seijinshiki, January 13th 2013

Seijinshiki, January 13th 2013

The second snow (less than a month later) wasn’t so bad, but it was annoying.

Last time in snowed, my fiancé took me outside and tried to teach me. He had some good advice, so I thought I ought to share.

How to bike in the snow:

1. Bike slowly. Even if you think it is clear, go slowly. Other bikers and cars (especially if they don’t have chains) can’t stop so easily.

2. Stop completely on turns. Snow and ice are slippery; my back wheel spun out and tipped me over one time when I didn’t slow down enough on a light turn.

3. If you see “fresh snow” that hasn’t been walked/drove/ridden in, speed up. It’s kind of like biking on sand (which is also annoying) or mud, the snow will spin under your wheel and you won’t make progress.


4. Try to bike in the car treads. The more compressed snow is, the most similar to asphalt it is. Also, car treads usually compress snow smoothly, and lessen the chance of you accidentally hitting a hidden bump.
For instance, if you have the choice between biking on the side-walk or foot path (even if it has been most shoveled) and the street, choose the street – even if you have to back up traffic. The cars behind you will understand. Biking in the snow is scary.

5. Assume it takes three times as long to stop. You always hear about cars slipping on ice – but bikes can as well. And bikes only have two wheels, not four, so slipping and sliding is even more dangerous.

Even though snow hadn't piled up yet, it was still very slippery

Even though snow hadn’t piled up yet, it was still very slippery

6. Above all: keep your eyes and ears open. If it was a bad snow, countless others have probably already been in an accident. Ambulances will be running back and forth. You don’t want to be “that guy” who holds up the ambulance, or “that guy” who accidentally hits an old lady who stepped out from behind a car.

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele


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