Tag Archives: snow

Snow problem for a bullitt cargobike

Today we have snow, Leciester has got off lightly but with some snow in the night and snow all morning we have maybe 5cm of snow.

So it was a good opportunity to try by new Schwalbe winter tyre with studs.


I had decided to only buy a front studded tyre. Maybe this was a mistake as it turns out to be fantastic. I rode a couple of miles to Thurmaston in quite heavy falling snow with 5cm on the ground over mixed terrain of cyclepath, side roads and main roads (surfaces included everything from virgin snow, to packed snow and deep slush) with some gentle hills. The front tyre was amazing, it did not slip at all and was very confidence inspiring. I found myself using the front brake while going downhill on packed snow with no problem at all. My only problem was losing traction with the rear wheel when going uphill, some big sideways slides but no falls.

On the way home I called in at Starbucks (getting practice for January as I was given a set of dated 50p off vouchers, one per day). Sadly the cars were busy queueing to get in and then struggling to find spaces, cargobikes have no problem though 🙂


After Starbucks it was over the road to Asda to get the Turkey and a few other bits. Poor car drivers were again queuing and then having to walk through the wet slush. Cargobikes get special treatment right by the entrance 🙂 The Sleigh disguise seems particularly appropriate in the snow carrying the ingredients for Christmas lunch.

You get plenty of great comments from kids, I heard one Mum explaining to her son that I had borrowed Santa’s sleigh.


Back home the shortcut avoiding the long queue to get out of the Asda car park means I beat all the cars home as well.

After the recent discussion about 4×4’s, I was feeling very sorry for the 4×4 drivers as they were stuck in the same queues as all the other cars. Must be frustrating to spend all that money and then have a bike zoom by, coping with the snow better than anyone else thanks to a £35 tyre.


Today I am going to drive

I don’t like it. I don’t want to but I am about to drive to a meeting. It has snowed again, it is snowing again but it is not the snow that means I am going to drive.

It is not the distance that means I am going to drive.

It is not the cold that means I am going to drive.

It is not fear of falling off my bike that means I am going to drive.

It is not lack of time that means I am going to drive.


The only reason I am going to drive is that I do not trust car drivers. I do not trust car drivers to take enough care. There are no cycle paths on the roads where I am going. There are no off road routes I can take.

The roads are full of people insulated from their surroundings and I don’t trust them to not hit me.

So if you are a car driver and find the roads too congested then I suggest you look at your behaviour and what you can do to make others feel more safe. If they feel safe to walk or cycle when you are driving then you will benefit from less congestion.


We need less well insulated transport

At 10:30pm I was cycling home on sheet ice. It was no problem on a bike although walking would have been difficult.

In some places the ice was under fresh frozen snow, in other places the snow had melted during the day and now the water had frozen. In other places the snow had been compacted and polished into ice by cars.

On the 3 or so miles home I used separated cycle paths, minor roads and avoided riding on any main roads.

After just a few days of riding in the snow and I am at ease doing so. I have now ridden about 40 miles in the snow and ice. In that time my bike has slid away from me only once.

The problem comes when I need to go near cars. On separated cycle paths there is no problem. On most residential roads there is no problem. But on roads where there are many cars it is a very different story.

The problem is that car drivers are so insulated from the world around them.

On my bike I am very aware of the surface and how much grip I have. I know about slowing for corners because if I go too fast I will come off and I don’t like hurting myself. On shared paths I am very aware of pedestrians, we connect, I can’t ignore their humanity, I can see them slipping and sliding.

In a car everything is done to hide, protect, insulate the driver from the world around. The heater will have hidden the real temperature, the traction control will have hidden the lack of grip, the sound system will hide the humanity around, the ice not fully cleared off the side windows and mirrors will hide the people around.

The insulation from the world means that it is only when you are sliding out of control towards a child, a cyclist, a pedestrian that you discover that you have no grip.

For everyone’s safety we need to reconnect drivers with the world around, remove layers of insulation. Here are some suggestions:


We need to end the various legal insulations between drivers and the consequences of their actions. For example:

  • Implement strict liability
  • any driver who has killed anyone to lose their license permanently
  • any driver who has injured anyone to lose their license for 5 years
  • any driver convicted of an office such as dangerous or careless driving to lose their license for several years
  • the penalties for speeding to be massively increased. Two offences should mean losing your license for several years. Speeding fines should be be increased 10x (if people can’t pay then take the car as payment)
  • parking fines to be increased 10x. These to earn points on the license (eg 4 offences means losing your license for several years)
  • Driving without insurance, tax or license. Take the car away immediately and scrap it. Take away their license for life. Require significant amounts of community service. Implement a fine through the tax and benefit system (treat the fine a bit like a student loan).
  • If you are caught speeding outside a school then your car and license should be immediately taken away pending fine/points etc.


  • There need to be a visible and audible signals when anti-lock brakes are activated. These need to be visible to all passengers and also to people outside the car.
  • The same with traction control. When it is activated then everyone in the car and outside need to be aware.
  • These warnings should continue for some time after the activation.  As a cyclist I want to know if the car approaching me has needed anti lock brakes or traction control in the last 60 seconds or so as I may need to get off and run for my life.
  • There needs to be an automatic speed limiter applied following use of anti lock brakes or traction control. Say for 10 minutes after activation the car should be limited to 20mph. If there are further activations in that time then the time should be increased significantly.
  • I would also like to see gps controlled speed limiters with radio control. They would prevent anyone breaking the speed limit anywhere but would allow for speed limits to be automatically lowered due to weather and traffic conditions


  • Immediate implementation of a 20mph speed limit on all residential streets.
  • No 30mph limits within the boundaries of a town or village (eg in a town the size of Syston, about 12,000, there is no need for any 30mph limits).
  • In freezing conditions any road that has not been gritted should have a 10mph speed limit



39.5kg of books in the snow

I am just back from the morning service at Harrison  Road. As you can see from the two pictures below there is still plenty of snow and ice about.

So what was it like riding a loaded cargo bike a total of 7.6 miles in the snow and cold (according to the car -9C when I left home)?


You can see that by noon the main roads are clear but nothing has been done to the pavements or cycle paths.


Here is the bottom layer of stuff. Three bags of books plus change of clothes (my suit is too thin for these temperatures and my best shoes too slippery). Total weight of cargo (according to our bathroom scales) 39.5kg

The important thing to note is that the trip was totally without drama. I went pretty slowly, although on the way due to my forgetting that the service was at 10:15am not 10:30am I had to put my foot down a bit. The Bullitt was sure footed and gave me no scares.

I do get a lot of comments from people about how hard it must be to ride with a load like this. I have to say that exactly the opposite is true. The riding it is easy. The Bullitt gets steadier as you load it and the gears are plenty low enough for the hills around here. I think I got down to 3rd gear when I had to stop at the mini roundabout just before climbing over the Railway Bridge at Syston. But that made it very light and easy pedalling. I am pretty confident that just about anyone that can ride a bike can ride a cargobike with a load like this.

Obviously I am not going to break any speed records on the road. But then neither were the 54 cars queueing to get out of Syston onto the roundabout by Thurmaston Shopping Centre as I came home. Nor will the drivers who spent ages defrosting their cars so they could see.

When I collected the books from Syston I pushed the bike inside and loaded it in the warm without having to carry the books far. At Harrison Road I also went straight inside to unload. There are double yellow lines outside Syston Methodist Church and the Car Park at Harrison Road was already full. So I would have had to carry these heavy bags of books quite a distance too and from a car.

So this way was much more convenient (again) and probably quicker (count the time for defrosting the car in -9C, parking, carrying 2 loads of books, queuing). Plus I arrived unstressed and awake. Also a bit warm, still over estimating how much clothing I need 🙂 Remind me again why anyone would want to drive on a beautiful day like this!


Tips wanted for cycling in the snow and ice

Following my post Bullitt cargobike in English snow I am looking to collect wisdom on cycling in British winter conditions where there is snow and ice about.

There are plenty of films on youtube showing ordinary people cycling through snow, even blizzards in the Netherlands and Copenhagen.

However, things are somewhat different in the UK:

  • I have not yet been anywhere in England where any cycle path has been cleared of snow or gritted. Pedestrians are frequently forced to walk in the road due to ice on the pavement.
  • Generally we don’t get much snow (compared for example to the 40cm that fell in Copenhagen yesterday).
  • The result of doing nothing to make walking and cycling safer is that car traffic levels are often appalling when there is snow about. People panic about getting to the shops and so the roads fill up with frustrated and inexperienced drivers.
  • We have very little cycle infrastructure and what we have is rarely properly separated from motorised vehicles. Being on the road is very scary when there is snow about as the lanes end up narrower so there is little or no passing space and you are being followed/overtaken by several tons that can’t stop and do not realise how little control they have.

I am not very experienced to be offering advice. I have had 2 winter falls in the last 3 years. One where the bike just seemed to slip out from under me on ice and the other where I cam a cropper in deep snow when there was a frozen stream under the snow that I reached at about 20mph.

So I am interesting in hearing from more experienced riders.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  1. Consider studded snow/ice tyres such as the Schwalbe Marathon Winter range. I have got a front studded tyre on order for my Bullitt cargo bike (I think the front tyre is more critical as you can control back wheel skids but if the front wheel goes then you are likely to come off)
  2. I have been told it is a good idea to ride with lower tyre pressures fro better grip. Seems to me that works better if you have tyres with a lot of air in them rather than skinny road tyres.
  3. Lowering you saddle to make it easier to get your feet down might be a good idea.
  4. Make sure your bike is lit up like a Christmas tree. Car drivers are not expecting to find a cyclist on the road if it is not a summers day.
  5. Go slow, allow plenty of time. Use your bike as a support to walk across tricky bits. Don’t try to prove anything, particularly near moving cars.

Bullitt cargobike in English snow

So the Danes are used to coping with snow 🙂

Things are a bit different here in England.

  1. We don’t usually get anything like as much snow as the Danes (we had between 2 and 3cm overnight here in Syston, Leicester).
  2. We don’t clear cycle paths (or most pavements which I think this is a huge safety problem, especially for the elderly) of snow and don’t sprinkle grit/salt on them either.

This means that cyclists are frequently riding on roads where there is the full range from clear to fresh snow, then compacted ice via compacted snow. The edges often collect slush and ice making them treacherous for cyclists. As we don’t clear most pavements the snow gets compacted and turns to ice often lasting ages after the snow has gone everywhere else.

So I went for a ride this afternoon (after 5pm so it was properly dark) to try out some new clothing but also to see how my Bullitt cargobike would handle in these conditions.

Over 11 miles in -3C I tried a wide variety of conditions around here:

  • residential streets with no gritting/salt and a variety of traffic levels so conditions ranged from fresh snow through varying amounts compacting the snow to some that were just sheets of ice.
  • busier streets where the snow had mostly disappeared but the gutter sometimes had snow, sometimes ice in it
  • separated cyclepaths with either pretty fresh snow (encouragingly always some bike wheel tracks).
  • Paths through various bits of Watermead Park including some unsurfaced ones (exploring some bits I didn’t know in case I could find a route to Birstall from the northern part of Watermead that is not blocked by something impassible to cargobikes.
  • My route included four urban areas/towns/villages (Syston, Thurmaston, Belgrave, Birstall, Wanlip).
  • No real hills, steepest slope is from the canal up into Birstall where clearly cars had been slipping a lot

I did not fall off once. That will seems obvious to Europeans who are more used to bikes and snow. We English tend to assume that anything without 4 wheels and an engine will immediately fall over if there is any snow about.

In fact my Bullitt handled the conditions very nicely. I was in no hurry and was pretty cautious. I had my back wheel slip slightly under power climbing bridges over the canal twice. I locked my front wheel braking once (forgot that my Bullitt has the brakes the European way round, front on the left rather than the English front on the right) but the effect was much less than locking the front wheel on an ordinary bike so was no problem. I had a bit of deliberate fun with rear wheel skids a few times 🙂

I was actually surprised that the Bullitt went so well over quite long stretches of sheet ice (although I didn’t try stopping at that point I did make it over some speed bumps).

As you would expect the combination of hydraulic disc brakes and hub gears meant there were no mechanical problems. The only thing that did not work fully was that my phone camera flash was disabled due to the cold. So here are a couple of “atmospheric” shots as I left Birstall.



All in all very encouraging for me to continue to ride each day. Tomorrow morning I expect it to be pretty icy, but I only have to go about 4 miles to Harrison Road Methodist Church. Mind you I will be carrying about 40 copies of the hardback Methodist Worship Book, so I’ll probably just cut through the ice 🙂


Reliable transport needed for winter

Carlton Reid gives a good example of the most reliable transport when the weather gets bad. Q: What is better than a 4×4 at climbing hills in snow and ice? See Quickrelease.tv » Spike to School Day.


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