Riding in icy conditions brings with it a very demanding set of issues. It’s best avoided altogether, but if necessary or if you’re caught off guard, extra vigilance will be required.
In challenging winter conditions we need to be even more focused, scanning the road environment constantly and being attentive to all potential hazards.
Early morning riding will be challenging, but roads can remain frozen throughout the day. Ice can be particularly stubborn to thawing in shaded areas, on roads with only light traffic, in the shadow of trees or large parked vehicles and anywhere where water has pooled.
Using main routes that are more likely to have been gritted is wise, although residual salt isn’t a pass to return to your usual riding style. Black ice and patches can remain throughout the day, even on gritted roads, so a steady ride is best.
Micro climates, where conditions can be different from those in the area as a whole, can occur a points throughout your ride. Bridge surfaces are often colder than other areas as they are exposed on all sides, so can remain icy when surrounding roads have cleared. Similar micro climates can be caused when riding through patchy fog.
In cold weather your body is working harder, so on longer rides don’t underestimate the effects of fatigue. Look for the signs and stop riding if you become tired or your concentration dips. You need to be attentive, actively scanning and anticipating hazards for a safe ride.
We all know that the freeze/thaw process has a detrimental effect on road surfaces, so even on a familiar route, be alert to new or bigger potholes or damage, that can catch you out.
Extend your following distance to allow more time to react to hazards and remember that your stopping distance on ice will be up to 10 times longer than usual.