The ultimate snow ride
December 22nd 2022
Like much of the country, we had quite a dumping of snow here this month. “Snowmageddon” and all that. For even the most dedicated winter rider, the constant vigilance of watching for packed ice, black ice, and inexperienced snow drivers puts a damper on cycling. I even reverted back to driving the 4WD for a week or two!
So now is a pretty good time to get inspired by cyclists who thrive in this weather, conquering…
Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only way to downhill, if you’ve got the right equipment. “Fat tire bikes”, or simply “fat bikes”, have grown in popularity as a biking trend since Surly first introduced the Pugsley in 2003.
Tires on the Puglsey have now grown to a beefy 4.8 inches wide, making it popular for expeditions where trails simply do not exist. No weight is listed, so these are best used in downhill, flat, or gentle rolling hill situations.
It turns out that all you need to ride safely on ice is the right set of tires, like the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro. Available in 27.5″ x 2.1 for the CHANGE 812 mountain bike, it brings safe ice and snow riding to the CHANGE line of full-size folding bikes.
…Despair and loneliness?
You’ve probably heard of the Iditarod dog sled race. Well, there’s also the Iditabike, as it’s informally named. Because this event is organized by the same folks as the Iditarod, and they’re worried about brand erosion, it’s actually called the “Itidarod Trail Invitational”, with a semi-committed focus on biking.
There are courses of 150, 350, and 1000 miles. Ultimately, what this event is all about is battling cold, darkness, exhaustion, and your inner demons.
Velocity and bike control.
At the other extreme, there are high-speed bike races that actually cascade down glaciers. There’s no time to get introspective about your place in the wilderness because someone just wiped out in front of you at an insane speed, there’s a pile-up, and you’ve got less than one second to get around it or join it.
One glacier race is the Glacier Bike Downhill, starting in the Saas-Fee area of Switzerland. Bikers speed downhill from Mittelallain to the glacier village below, a vertical drop of over 1,700 meters –well over a vertical mile–in just seven minutes. Watch this guy hit 132 kph (82 miles per hour)!
Interestingly, they’re not all on fat bikes, either. But I’ll bet there are a lot of ice spikes for control…
Not to be outdone, France has their own snow ride freefall (free for all?) called the Megavalanche, taking on the Pic Blanc descent.
A total drop of 2600 meters (1.6 miles), it’s the longest downhill bike race in the world, mostly on snow but also with lots of big, loose rocks thrown in for fun. Just when you get used to controlled sliding on snow and slush, it turns to ice. Or bare rocks. Or where ever you need to swerve (in a controlled way) to avoid the most recent crash.
Think that’s an exaggeration? Look at the first two minutes of the 2018 Megavalanche…
The rider above was a master of control, and even he had trouble avoiding the mayhem around him! At least they crash on snow…mostly…
And now, with perspective, back to your local icy roads.
Your commute could be a lot more challenging. It could be as lonely and draining as the Iditabike, or as control-free as the Megavalanche.
Whatever you’ve got, know your risks, ride accordingly–do you need snow tires?–and watch out for the drivers around you.
Be safe, and we’ll you out on the (snowy) roads.
Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.