"Forecasters predict up to two weeks of wintry weather, with plummeting temperatures and snowfall possible in many areas," warns Sky News. The BBC is not so flustered: "this week may begin a transition to some colder weather. The rest of January looks as though it may continue to bring colder than average temperatures with an increased risk of some snowfall."
But if there's a long period of ice and snow in our future, bike shops should be prepared for a spike in sales of bike tyres dotted with tungsten carbide studs. Stocks of studded tyres are likely to dwindle as the cold weather approaches.
Gritted roads may be safe to cycle on but not all roads get gritted. And unlike in the Netherlands, very few bike paths in the UK get gritted (and even fewer are heated). So, more and more cyclists who wish to keep commuting by bike are now using tyres studded with 'spikes'. In previous cold snaps studded tyres from brands such as Nokian, Conti and Schwalbe sold out very quickly.
The Schwalbe supplier in the UK - Bohle - supplies studded tyres for MTBs, 700c road and cross bikes, and some folding bikes. Cambrian Tyres stocks spike tyres from Continental: the Spike Claw for MTBs and Nordic Spike for 700c bikes.
In 2010, an NHS study found that falls on black ice are a major cause of bike crashes. The study - by NHS Bristol - was the UK’s largest and most comprehensive survey into non-collision cycling incidents, ie crashes that do not involve another road user.
The survey revealed that slipping on ice is the most common non-collision incident, being mentioned by 26 percent of respondents. The next most common incident noted was slipping on wet roads, with 8 percent of reported incidents.
Rob Benington, NHS Bristol’s injury prevention manager who conducted the research said:
“I hope this research will help cyclists stay on their bikes. As a keen cyclist I was amazed that slipping on ice was by far the largest single cause: the finding helps put other hazards into perspective. While ice is not the only cause we need to consider, if we raise awareness cyclists can prepare to take appropriate action which will help keep us riding all year round.”
In 2008/09, 9,447 cyclists were admitted to hospital in England following a non-collision incident and ice caused an estimated 40,000 incidents in total. By comparison, during the same period, 1,826 cyclists were admitted following a collision with a vehicle. Other non collision incidents reported by riders included failing to mount a kerb, mechanical failure, potholes, slipping on gravel or wet leaves, swerving to avoid dogs and more.