Can You Ride a Bike In Snow? (Explained)

Snowy days in winter with white streets packed in snow may often push you to stay inside. However, bikers and cyclists will always have the urge to break their comfort zone and get out for a ride to experience the thrill but wonder whether you can ride your bike in the snow?

YES, you can ride a bike in the snow but it is not an easy task due to variations in surfaces where the snow turns into icy patches based on cold temperatures. However, with proper planning, preparation and practice you can learn to have better control of your bike to complete your rides safely.

In this article, we will go over various important factors that you must consider before taking your bike out in the snow for a ride.

Assess Weather Conditions

Weather assessment is a must, as it can be difficult to keep track of the snow on the ground. Whether you are biking on pavement or dirt, knowing the snow’s condition will help you avoid accidents.

Surfaces with snow are categorized as being either slushy, wet, packed, or hard-packed.

  • Slushy conditions have a thin layer of snow that is wet and loose.
  • Wet conditions are similar to slushy except the layer of snow is thicker and the surface is continuously wet.
  • Packed conditions have a thick layer of snow that is firm.
  • Hard packed conditions are similar to packed but the snow is even thicker, firm, and packed down.

Biking on Slushy and Wet Surfaces

Surfaces are slushy or wet when the snow is loose and has a low friction coefficient. Slushy conditions are also known as sloppy.

Sloppy conditions are those with a thin layer of snow and a low friction coefficient, hence posing a risk of losing control, so extra precaution is required including slow riding speeds.

Biking on Packed and Hard Packed Surfaces

Surfaces are packed or hard-packed when the snow is packed down with a thick layer. A hard-packed surface is also known as dry-packed and has a high friction coefficient.

Hard-packed surfaces are less likely to cause you to lose control. Biking on a dry-packed surface is safer than that on a wet or slushy surface because the surface has a higher friction coefficient.

Not forget about the windy conditions in addition to the ones explained above. Extreme windy conditions can be very hazardous, as not only does it drive the temperature to drop but also creates white screens that can totally affect your visibility. I would not recommend getting out in such conditions due to its extremely challenging nature.

Make Sure You Are Ready – Are You?

Mental and Physical readiness is the key to a great ride and is by far the most important thing to consider. Often times we get over ambitious about a certain activity whereas we are mentally half-committed or may not be in great physical condition overall or from recent exhausting activity.

Riding a bike in snow is certainly a challenging activity that requires full mental commitment and to be in great physical shape and rested. I do not mean to say you have to have six-packs abs to be fully able to pull this, but you should not be tired from another activity.

A well-rested body is ready to take up a challenging task and complete it much better as compared to a tired one.

Is Your Bike Fit for Snow Conditions?

You must have your bike fit for snow conditions for safer and more reliable rides. Here is a quick checklist you can go over to make sure your bike is fit for a ride in the snow.

  1. Inspect your tires for cracks or damage, that may lead to activate in extreme cold conditions and snow contact. Make sure your tires are in good shape.
  2. Make use of fatter tires if possible, this helps with better grip and avoid skidding.
  3. Usually, lighter frames are recommended over heavy frames, as the impact of a slip or skid could be less severe on a lighter frame.
  4. Ensure brakes are in great shape and perfectly aligned to have better control. Usually disk brakes are preferred over Y-brakes.
  5. Make sure you do not have a rusty chain, as it can impact your ride and gear changing fluency.
  6. Get a proper bell/horn that is audible enough to alert people of your ride and clear away from your riding path. I have noticed almost 50% of riders do not have these on their bike. Being a pedestrian you appreciate it even more to have a bike coming from behind giving you an audible alert instead of swooshing through your shoulders without any alert catching you to a total surprise.
  7. Make sure your drive train is nicely lubricated and free of rust. You’ll be surprised how quickly metal parts get rush in moist conditions especially in winters.
  8. Ensure your seat and seat-post is tight and secure. These are the culprit of losing control over your bike if they are loose.
  9. Check your paddle grips, as extreme wear can cause your feet to slip in wet snow conditions.
  10. Make sure you have LED lights in front and back of the bike, as they can help in poor visibility and white-wash conditions due to snow.

Plan Your Ride

Planning your ride carefully ahead of time will result in safer and more enjoyable rides for sure. Keeping an eye on weather conditions, you can plan your ride a day ahead to select the most optimum route for your ride.

Select The Best Route for Your Ride

If you are planning to take a ride around town, make sure you select a route that is quieter with less traffic. Sometimes you pay for other people’s mistakes and this becomes more important in snowy conditions to avoid them.

Time of The Day Effective for Your Ride

During weekdays, time of the day also plays an important role in planning, as the streets become busier in the morning when people get to work, and also around 5 pm when they get off work heading back home. You should avoid those timings for your ride.

Usually, noon works best, however a couple of hours before or after also turns out to be a better choice. Having a GPS with a live traffic view is best to have on your hands, and cell phones get fits the bill, unless you have a dedicated GPS unit.

During Weekends, you may have more flexibility for picking your time.

Riding at night time in snowing conditions is something I would not recommend due to poor visibility may lead to poor judgment and increase the risk of your ride.

Always Check The Weather Forcast Before Your Ride

Checking the weather forecast for the timings you aim for your ride is a critical element in planning that must not be skipped. At times we tend to slide off by assuming the next day’s weather based on the current day, which often turns out in a total disappointment.

In snow conditions, it becomes even more important, as conditions like blizzards, powdered snow on the ground with gusty winds blowing may not be the ideal weather to get out for a ride.

I have been through a blizzard condition riding on side roads and could not spot a car accident with cops cars and flashing lights in about 20 meters due to a white screen from wind gusts blowing the snow on the ground completely blinding me. Such conditions, we must avoid for safety reasons.

Similarly, heavy snowfall during the rides can reduce your visibility, which you should avoid as well.

Luckily such days are not many during the winter season in most parts of the world, so you will get better days while skipping the riskier ones.

How to Prepare For Your Ride in The Snow?

Preparing for your ride is an essential step to make your rides more enjoyable. This becomes more important in snow conditions, where lack of preparation may result in an unpleasant experience which we must avoid at all costs.

Let’s explore some of the major items in detail.

Wear The Right Gear

Keep yourself warm and dry through your ride in snow conditions. Here is a quick list of items you must wear for your ride.

  • Gloves: Get a nice pair of gloves that is nicely insulated inside and are water-resistant to keep your hands warm and prevent getting wet.
  • Layering: Getting several layers to keep you warm is essential for your ride in the snow. Depending on how cold the weather is, wear appropriate warm breatheable layers that are best suited for keeping the moisture out.
  • Socks: You should get the socks that can absorb moisture but does not get transferred to your skin. Some of the nice choices are Wool, Nylon, Polyester, and Elastane.
  • Ear Muffs: When your ears are cold, you feel the cold in your entire body. Keeping them warm will make your rides comfortable and more enjoyable. Invest in good quality Ear Muffs to keep your ears warm through the ride.
  • Sun Glasses: I’d like to add sun glasses here as not only they give help you in your visibility but also protect your eyes from direct wind. In wet, and snowy conditions, this becomes more essential item you must have on.
  • Helmet: A must have for safety, never bike without helmet. A good quality helmet goes long way to offer comfort and safety.
  • Grippy Shoes: In wet snow conditions, slipping your feet off the paddles can throw you off balance easily. Make sure you wear grippy shoes for the ride.

Keep Yourself Hydrated

Keeping hydrated through your rides in winter and snow conditions is equally important as in summers. It is quite common for us to feel not getting thirsty just because the outside temperatures are low.

In fact, when we apply effort, our body will tend to sweat regardless of outside temperatures, hence we get dehydrated through the ride without feeling it much especially during cold weather.

Although seems like a no-brainer, at least a water bottle, or even better a hydration pack is a must-carry item to keep hydrated through the snowy rides. Hydration packs are also great to sip on during your ride without having to stop for a water break.

Bike Essentials Gear to Carry

Here is a list of the essential gear you must carry when going out for a ride in the snow.

Air Pump: Cold temperatures tend to condense air inside the tire, keeping a portable air pump is always helpful to get the tire pressure back to normal levels. It can also help get you going if you get a partial flat.

GPS Unit: Keeping a GPS unit will always come in handy when taking detours due to road constructions and keep you on track.

Fenders: Fenders or Tire-Guards are recommended to protect you from water splashes due to wet road conditions in snow, and help keep you dry.

Cell Phone: A must-carry item to be reachable and remain in contact. It also provides you with a secondary GPS device.

Lights: Front and Rear lights are essential for your rides in the snow and cloudy conditions where visibility is poor. Red-colored lights with blinking feature work the best.

ToolKit: Keeping a lightweight toolkit is highly recommended to perform quick fixes by yourself. It may be a loose screw of your bike seat that can significantly affect your balance while fixing it is easy and simple provided you have the tool for it.

Keep a First Aid Kit (Always)

Let’s be honest like any other sport biking is also not free from risks. While we do everything we can to avoid risks, at times we do take a tumble, slip, and fall.

Carrying a good quality First-Aid Kit is essential to treat minor injuries immediately from slips and falls in snow conditions due to reduced grip on snow surfaces.

Time-lapse on an injury without immediate treatment can make things worst, which we must avoid by all means.

Inform Your Family or a Friend

One of the common mistakes we, as cyclists, tend to do is getting out for a ride without informing anyone. Let’s face it, we do rely heavily on cell phones these days assuming we are a call away for a contact.

In fact, muting your phone without realizing it and outdoor cell phone signal issues are some of the common items that can keep you isolated during your ride. It is best to inform your family or a friend about your ride, timing, and route for your safety.

Keep Your Pace Slow and Controlled

If you are time-bound or in a rush for another activity to get through your ride quickly especially in snow conditions, it is best to postpone your ride than rush it, which often leads to mistakes that could be costly.

Keep a slow yet controlled and balanced pace through your ride for an enjoyable and safer experience. Slow down even more through the turns and corners to avoid slipping.

Get a Good Rest Before Your Ride

With a well-rested body, you can be more in control and enjoy your ride better. Always recommend avoiding a cycling activity when you have a previous day full of activities that stretched you to the limits.

Your muscles need rest to restore, so give them that time to be ready for even a tougher challenge.


Riding a bike in snow is a skill to master that comes with practice and patience. Always use your best judgment and due diligence in picking the days for your ride.

Extreme cold days and conditions that pose a higher risk of slips should always be avoided and replaced with mild ones for a better and safer ride experience.

I hope you found this article helpful. Always keep your safety at top priority than the element of fun. Stay safe!