Briefly on winter riding technique
Once we have the tyre change got over with, there comes time for us to match the right riding style to given weather conditions. While electric unicycles secure the user front/rear stability, the side stability is what we need to take care of on our own – and this is also the main cause behind slippages. Here are my reflections on what to pay attention to in winter. I am leaving aside the question of pedestrians and other road users, as this has already been raised and so for a number of times, making it obvious that we need to ride slowly when around pedestrians, with some safety margin left and as not causing any fear in anyone.
1. Acceleration and braking
The principle is simple: we should neither perform accelerating, nor braking in a rapid way unless some emergency circumstances require it. We should gain our speed gradually and begin to brake much earlier, decreasing the speed in a linear fashion. Apart from the fact that such a style prevents us from skidding, it also provides us with more time to react to unexpected situations. What is particularly important, we should not speed up rapidly while taking uphill rides.
We should also remember that battery parameters considerably drop at low temperatures.
2. Riding straight ahead
When riding along a straight road, we are free to do more. Even if it is covered in snow, it is still possible for us to reach a high speed – provided that:
The route is well familiar to us and we are sure that there are no potholes under the snow,
The snow is not packed and there is no frozen surface along the route,
We are riding in a straight-ahead and stable manner, avoiding sudden movements or manoeuvres,
What is more – even if you follow these instructions, I still advise you against exceeding the speed of 25 km/h.
Let us remember that there can still be ice under an apparently safety-ensuring layer of snow – this is why we should always take particular care in such conditions and turn our attention to the road, trying to identify potential obstacles or other threats.
- One should slow down to a greater degree before turning than when on a dry surface,
- Slowing down while turning should not be done, while braking should be performed while still taking a straight course and before beginning to take a turn,
- While exiting a turn, namely when we are to adopt a straight course after having just made the widest curve, we can start accelerating (in a stable and gradual way, like mentioned under point 1),
- The leaning of our body to the side should be kept to the minimum, It is better to make a wider curve than to take a short bend that can get us a skid.
When it comes to the degree of leaning our bodies, the height of pedals in our device plays an important part here. The lower their placement, the closer to the ground our centre of gravity is, making it harder to get a skid. This is why it is easier to experience skidding while turning in the cases of Inmotion V8 / V5F than when riding e.g. Ninebot One E+ or IPS Zero. Pedals placed higher may have their advantages – they do not rub against the surface at sharper bends, do not snag on most bums and let us ride closer to kerbs, etc. – but these are particularly lower-placed pedals that rule on snow. What is my advice then? The higher our pedals are mounted, the wider curves we need to take, trying to expose our unicycle to the slightest tilts possible. Riding this way, even in the case of V8, we will make snow no threat to us.
4. Riding on frozen surface
If, in spite of it all, we are taken aback by the presence of a layer of ice, it will have to be dealt with anyway. If we manage to notice it early and have enough space to brake – we should perform our braking until we stop. If there is no time for braking, we should quickly determine how long the ice-covered distance is:
- If it is short – we should neither brake, nor accelerate, but maintain the same speed and follow a straight line. We will manage to cover the frozen section of road and regain grip before any skid throws us off the device.
- If the distance is long, we should brake gently in order not to fall down from the device and lean forward at the same time not to make our unicycles slip out from between our legs. In other words: we need to transfer our body weight to the back in order to bring on the braking action but we should not lean our whole body towards the back. If there is any possibility for us to manouevre us out of the ice-covered section before we enter it, e.g. to the roadside (even if meant as ground covered with grass) – we should not hesitate to do it. If such a route, letting us escape the ice ahead us, is too distant, we should not use it – taking a sharp bend towards it will make our unicycle topple. The best we can do in such a case is to brake without changing our direction, also trying not to fall out of our unicycle.
Still – if we are sure that we are about to fall, we should concentrate on using our legs to turn the unicycle to the side so that it will not continue moving or sliding on its own farther on. We should also protect our own bodies while falling down – as it is also an art of its kind; this is why such knowledge is worth absorbing and not only so because of the prospect of sliding on ice.
Have you ever fallen down while ice-skating? This is, more or less, how careless winter unicycle rides may end. While such a speed should not threaten our health and the whole situation may leave a funny memory in us at most, it is still most important to secure our surroundings by toppling the unicycle / changing its direction once it happens, so that it will not crash into other road users or enter any road on its own.
5. Emergency braking
We should always pay particular attention to our surroundings, while braking itself should be done as early as possible. It is also not reasonable to take fast rides among other people or in crowd.
Still, sometimes there may occur some situations whose course does not necessarily depend on us. Each time a man or animal suddenly runs out of nowhere to appear in front of us, as well as when another road user violates the right of way or there appears an obstacle on our way (especially if any confrontation with it may result in something worse than falling down could), we need to perform emergency braking.
If we decide to brake rapidly, there is a chance that the unicycle could slip out from between our legs and crash into the object we wanted to avoid. This is why we need to adopt the best direction letting us evade the object we are getting closer to. If we are riding down a pavement having a road joined to its left side, it is better to move to the right, if possible. If it is not possible to evade this obstacle and we can only take a sharp turn, we should do it and perform simultaneous braking – more forcefully so than on an icy surface but not as rapidly as to make the unicycle slide away on its own. If we are about to fall down, we should perform the braking for as long as possible, leaning to the side together with our device. We will then fall down on our shoulder, being able to protect our head with a hand, while the unicycle that is sliding ahead of us will not be able to ride on its own, thus not posing any threat any longer.
The pieces of advice elaborated on above are my own reflections and they may not work in the case of each situation there occurs or turn out to be helpful to everyone. If you are exposed to danger of this kind, you should always try to take the best decision there is and secure your unicycle in a way preventing it from continuing its ride without you.
If you have personal experience on the subject or can provide us with better ideas, feel free to share them in the comment section!