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Icy bicycle rides: how to survive the wintry West Coast roads

Cyclists seek ideas to make downtown Fredericton safer for them

Frosty mornings and icy evenings might not be the ideal conditions for a bike ride, but, for die-hard cycling fans, there are ways to improve the chances of surviving the wintry West Coast roads.

The right set of tires for winter conditions can make all the difference whether in a car or on a bike, said bicycle shop owner Joe Ward, who runs North Park Bicycle Shop in Victoria, B.C.   

Choose tires with a stickier compound or ones with studded steel inserts for better grip, he told On The Island  host Gregor Craigie. 

"They are probably the best way to ride a bike in icy or frosty conditions," he said.

As a stop-gap measure, lower tire pressure to the minimum level — usually around 30 to 50 pounds per square inch, depending on the bike. This gives the tire a larger surface area for contact with the ground and so it grips better.

"If it looks like a frosty morning and you've got regular tires and you absolutely have to ride a bike, drop the tire pressure," Ward said.

Staying upright

Curtis Leblanc, who works at the same bike shop, agreed that a good set of tires are key but said it's not the only way to keep on peddling. 

"It's probably the main thing but there are also a lot of tips and tricks to staying upright," Leblanc said.

One of the most common causes of bike accidents he sees in the winter is speed.

"Most often, it's probably riding a little bit too fast," Leblanc said. "Trying to corner with a little bit too much speed, leaning into the corner too much, maybe using your front brake too much in the icy conditions."

The front brake provides between 60 to 70 per cent of the bike's braking power but locking up the front wheel by braking too hard is a sure-fire way to skid out. Avoid heavy braking with the front brake in slippery conditions. 

Some areas are more slippery and dangerous that others, Leblanc said.

Take extra precaution in shady areas that might be concealing ice on wooden or metal surfaces like manhole covers and on painted lines in the road.

"If it's frosty out, and you don't have to ride your bike, it's better to leave it at home," Ward said.

To hear more tips and tricks for winter bicycling, click on the audio link below:

With files from On The Island.