Cycling in the snow – a real adventure!

I have a confession to make – I’ve never been cycling in the snow before today.  Partly because I’ve spent most of my cycling years  on the western side of the UK, where we get snow so infrequently, and partly because it’s never appealed.

Two years ago we did have a lot of snow at the start of the year, and Chris cycled the boys up to the school in the trailer every day (which was about the same time he confirmed everyone’s opinion of him as the crazy cycling dad!)  but I was working, so never got the chance.   Chris also has great memories of cycling in the snow as a lad and whilst a student, so is confident to give it a go.

Setting off on the bike ride to school in the snowSo this morning, when we woke to find a couple of centimetres covering of snow it didn’t even occur to him to deviate from the regular routine of cycling N up to school.  I have to admit I thought him a bit mad as they set off, but the excitement on N’s face was evident. Apparently he sang at the top of his head all the way to the school, relishing this new adventure.

When Chris finally returned home after a quick ride out round the local snow covered roads he was totally exhilarated.

I thought to myself “now is the moment – you can’t run a  family cycling website and turn down the opportunity to try out cycling in the snow for the first time”. Plus Blue Peter’s Helen Skelton cycled to the South Pole, so surely I could manage a quick trip round the local suburbs!

I got wrapped up and was ready to attempt my first bike ride in the snow.

Several things to note:

a)  I was riding a mountain bike with new off road tyres
b) I did not have the boys with me on my first experience of snow cycling
c)  it was a fresh snowfall that morning, so there was no old compacted ice to deal with
d)  I am an experienced cyclist, used to riding in bad weather conditions and towing / carrying children, trailers, bikes etc
e)  I live in a quiet suburban area, and traffic was very light today

Cycling in the snow for the first timeTentatively I set off round the cul-de-sac, and the first couple of moments were a bit nerve wracking before I realised I was being nervous for no real reason. After a couple of circles round, I headed off down the road – it was strange cycling in the snow for the first time, but it was a very short lived experience. The adjoining road had been gritted and the traffic had turned the snow into a brown mush, which was messy (and fun!) to ride through.

The next road down is busier still, and I found myself disappointed that there was absolutely no snow on the road.  Whilst pedestrians were struggling with snow filled pavements I was able to cycle without any problem.  This wasn’t what I wanted!   I headed into a small estate where the roads were ungritted and still snow covered.  A loop around and I was hooked, and wanting something a bit more challenging.

Cycling in the snow – a proper adventure!

Cycling in the snow is extra special when you're the first one through it!Off to the local cycle route down to the canal.  This was more like it! Much thicker snow, disturbed only by dogs and their owners.  As these got less dense I started to appreciate the attraction of cycling in the snow.

Being the first to make a crisp line through virgin snow is strangely satisfying, especially when it’s accompanied by the sharp sound of the bike wheel cutting through the snow.  This was my usual quick spin out route transformed beyond recognition. I didn’t go too far, yet felt far removed from normality.

I stopped to chat to a lady with two dogs, who admired the Polisport windscreen (which I had to explain was for my son, not me!) and who kindly took my photo.  I also got stopped by a man doing some work for British Gas, also wanting to talk about the windscreen – appears people think this is a special snow cycling windscreen. It was useful for ducking down behind when there was a strong gust of wind, but it’s really designed to keep a little one sheltered from the rain and wind when on a front bike seat.

Me, Cycling in the snow for the first time! By the time I’d return home I was grinning from ear to ear, having experienced one of the most exhilarating rides I’ve been on for ages.  It was natural then that I should go and collect N from school, when the text arrived saying they were shutting at 1pm. He was delighted to see me arrive with the tagalong, and was soon asking why Snow Cycling isn’t a winter Olympic sport!

The reaction of other parents and the teachers was less enthusiastic – with a couple of people suggesting I was putting my child’s safety at risk. Given there were many people heading off to allow their kids to go careering down a slope on a piece of plastic with no brakes or method of steering I was slightly bemused!

On the way back home N was whooping with joy, and almost combusted when a strong gust of wind blew snow around us. “Mummy, we’re cycling through a blizzard!” he shrieked!  This was certainly one of those bike rides that we’ll both remember for years to come.

Tomorrow the snow will be frozen over and compacted, and it will be much more dangerous to ride on, so I’m so glad I managed to get out and enjoy my first cycle ride in the snow.  I’m off to check the weather forecast to find out when I can I do it all again!

For more information about cycling safely in the snow,  I recommend this excellent blog about Cycling in the Snow on the London Cyclist website

Please do not attempt to cycle in the snow without the correct tyres, nor if you’re an inexperienced or nervous cyclist.

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