The general advice about cornering is to lean the bike, not the body, to put pressure on the outside foot, and not to brake or brake only with the rear brake if absolutely needed.

Well, does this advice hold for snowy terrain?

Today is my second day riding in snow this winter and still have the feeling that if I lean the bike, it will simply slide out under me. The tires are Schwalbe Land Cruiser. So I actually lean my body, keeping the bike as straight as possible through the turns. Exactly opposite to the general advice.

I am talking about 10km/h riding, and I already managed to fall a couple of times (luckily at those speeds falls are harmless, when outside traffic).

"On snow" for the purpose of this answer means autumn leaves, over which there are several cm of frozen, hard or melting snow.

I am fortunate that 1/3 of my commute is through a non-paved park, where I can practice funny things without the danger of being hit by a car. There are even some small (30cm) and other not so small ramps, but I haven't summoned the courage to jump those ... yet.

  • 2
    It all depends on what you mean by snow. Here in northern Germany, we don't get more than a couple of cm of snow, which doesn't impact riding at all. It's the ice that may be under the snow that's the problem. While living in Switzerland, I had more than 30cm on a regular basis, but without ice -- that's a whole different story.
    – arne
    Nov 28, 2013 at 9:17
  • Some of the information contained in bicycles.stackexchange.com/q/12901/5271 might be useful. Nov 28, 2013 at 9:25
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    Could you put on some protective gear and find a place with no traffic to practice? Nov 28, 2013 at 10:19
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    On a slippery surface, if you lean the bike, a slight side slip of a wheel will dramatically change the center of gravity of the bike, increasing the force in the outward direction and very likely leading to a fall. If the bike is vertical the change in center of gravity (and hence the change in force) is much less severe. (And wet leaves are one of the diciest surfaces possible.) There are other issues for "cutting through" deep snow. Nov 28, 2013 at 13:06
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    Can't speak for cornering at "fun" speeds, but my practice riding a slick tire on icy roads last winter was always: start braking 200m before the turn, slow to less than 10km/h, and then turn the bike very slowly, making a wide turn, and keeping the bike as upright as possible. 0 falls, but maybe not what you're seeking. Nov 28, 2013 at 18:18

5 Answers 5


It's different insofar as walking on ice is different from walking on concrete. Traction is reduced anywhere from somewhat to greatly. It takes a much smaller change in direction, much smaller amount of braking, and much shallower lean angle in a turn to cause you to break traction. In terms of the physics and techniques involved, they're the same, though mountain bike techniques come in handy as you are likely to spend much more of your time without traction compared to typical riding on paved surfaces.


Cornering is cornering. There really isn't any difference in the physics. What is different is the unpredictable friction of the surface you are cornering on.

There are a few things you can do.

  1. Improve the predicability of the friction of your tires. Studded bike snow tires will help the most with this, but even switching to a tire with a more robust tread and wider profile can help. Lowering the tire pressure will also help a little as this increases the contact patch and lets the tire conform better to uneven surfaces.

  2. Don't push the limits of what friction you have. These means generally riding slower, braking more gently and turning at slower speeds.

  3. Learn to react quickly and correctly when the friction does disappear. Find someplace safe and experiment with the limits of friction on snow. Make slow speed turns and try braking with both front and back wheels. Be very cautious with the front wheel, even at slow speeds loosing the front wheel traction can be a very hard fall. With practice you can learn to use your momentum to reestablish traction.

If you're going to spend a lot of time on snow, studded bike tires are well worth the investment.

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    It should be noted that studded tires will perform worse than normal tires on dry pavement, and in some other circumstances. There is no panacea. Dec 2, 2013 at 18:31

In my experience of riding on snow both with a fully loaded touring bike and with a mountain bike. With the touring bike do your best to keep the bike upright and turn in short stages. As previously mentioned brake early and turn gently. However, if you are cornering at speed the best idea would be to stick a dabbing leg out if you feel the tyres are slipping away. If you ride on snow you will get some bite with normal tyres but it will wash out intermittently. You can go for some studded or spike tyres and these can allow you to ride happily on snow at any speed. I once saw a guide riding up a piste like this.


Brake early and gently. lean softly.


To add to the answers above: Whenever possible lower the angle of your turn, make it as wide as possible. Although each turn has an 'actual radius', which can be quite tight, you can always increase your 'effective radius' by pulling away from the turn before and after the corner, but cutting close to the corner at the midpoint of the turn.

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The larger the effective radius of your turn the less sideways force your tires' friction needs combat and the less you will need to lean, the two culprits for having your bike go sliding sideways from under you.

If you're on a path just cut as close as you can, assuming no one else is in the way. Hit the far side of the path going into the turn, turn gradually but aim to pass close to the corner, and follow that arc through to end at the correct angle after the turn on the far side of the path as well, where you can leisurely adjust yourself. You'll find many bike paths are planned for this and are already widened around the turns (or unplanned but use has increased them there).

If you're on a road just shift to the far side of the traffic lane before the turn, as a bike you've plenty of space. Although it may be more important here to note where car traffic has been heaviest and avoid the compacted icy parts.

  • But it's important to distinguish between cornering on smooth pavement (with snow) vs on a dirt bike trail. On a well-used trail one can often take advantage of natural "banking" of the turn by hugging the outside of the turn more. Dec 4, 2013 at 12:35

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