You see it every winter. Lines of cars tailgating at high speed on icy roads and drivers wearing no helmets.
Everybody is doing it. Must be safe, right?
Then come the silly comments. You must be brave (cycling on icy roads).
I have 608 studs on the bicycle tires. I have tire chains for deep snow (I can ride in 6″ of snow. The combination of tire chains and studs are the best grip you can have on winter bicycles. The bike is AWD. It is a heavy bike at around 76-100lbs plus the weight of the driver. There is about 300 lbs of weight on a few square inches of tire that provided an impressive amount of traction. I have throttle control over the front wheel. In dicy situations, pedalling the rear wheel provides a lot of stability and control. In deep snow, I’ll use just enough throttle for the front wheel to pull itself through the snow and produce most of the power pedalling because the rear tire carries more weight and has better traction.
Top speed in winter is about 30kph on ice. Sometimes I’ll drop the tire pressure down to 25-30psi if cycling in car tracks or on loose snow mixed with packed snow and ice. This allows all the tire studs to be in contact with the ground, including studs on the sides of the tires. The flat contour of a half deflated tire means cycling in car tracks won’t cause it to slide.
When the bike slides, I’ll shift into neutral to let the tires regain grip and proceed at a slower speed. The faster the speed, the more traction is needed to control the bicycle. I wear a bicycle helmet unless its below -20C when I’ll wear a lamb’s wool hat to stay warm. I’ll wear extra clothes, carry tools, water and food plus lights and batteries.
Driving on ice is way more dangerous. No studded tires. No tire chains. Top speed with car tire chains is about 50kph, far too slow for impatient drivers. Tire chains tend to shred at fast speeds and when they break loose, they can do a lot of damage so people don’t use tire chains much on cars.
The false perception of safety in cars creates an embellished sense of courage. Within inches of a driver’s head is steel and glass. While a cyclist may wear a helmet, drivers do not. The result is about half of all brain injuries happen inside cars. Cyclists only about a 10% risk, or 1/5th that of drivers.
A driver’s safety is concerned more with driving as fast as possible rather than reducing speed like a cyclist would in slippery conditions. Drivers love to tail gate on icy roads, waiting for the first person to spin out who then sets up a chain reaction of crashes.
Sometimes the driver gambles with how much traction the car has. Much of the feedback from the car has been engineered out to make cars feel safer than they are. On old vehicles you knew you were on ice when you had power steering on a car that doesn’t have power steering. Many of the warning signals in new cars that could tell you there is ice on the road, have been engineered away.
When a car suddenly looses traction, drivers tend to slam on all 4 brakes or stomp on the gas. You can’t use more traction than what is available. As they spin out of control, veer across the median into traffic approaching at over 200kph, you’re fucked or dead. Rather than slowing down like a cyclist would, they speed up and gamble their lives away.
The whole point is not cars vs bikes. Its about each vehicle working differently than the other. With those differences come different decisions like slowing down verses speeding up. Like driving according to conditions, not speed limits. Like following a long distance behind rather than tailgate.
When it comes to common sense, its not about who is smart or dumb, its about doing the same things other people are doing which will cause you the same problems. Some problems you can live with, some you can’t. Don’t let the peer pressure to drive fast like an idiot, make you dead like an idiot. Its your decision!