If you tell people you are going snow biking they may assume you are joking or look at you like you have gone crazy.
After all, bikes are made for paved roads and dirt trails, right? Cycling has always been associated with summer, but that does not mean the warm, sunny season owns exclusive rights to the sport.
Snow biking can be just as entertaining. Some may even argue that it is more exciting because you sort of feel like you are breaking all the rules. If you consider yourself to be a serious cyclist, then your cycling skills need to go beyond riding with no hands on the pavement or navigating a trail filled with obstacles at the park. You need to develop and perfect the skills needed to cycle in snow conditions.
Reasons to Cycle in Snow
You may be wondering if snow biking is really worth the effort. Well, not only is it quite an impressive skill to have; there are a few other reasons why this cycling skill is considered indispensable.
- Why rely on unpredictable public transportation in the winter? In snowy conditions, your bike may be the most convenient and reliable means of transportation. It sure beats dealing with significant delays that tend to be recurring occurrences during inclement weather.
- Training in the snow eliminates the decrease in performance that cyclists experience during the “off” months.
- You will maintain your technique. You may be thinking you will just use a stationary bike, but these indoor trainers are not 100 percent accurate in simulating the experience you get cycling outdoors. Therefore, when spring comes along, you have to spend valuable time finding your footing again.
Tip: Let a little air out of your tires
It is a good idea to let a little air out of your tires while cycling in the snow. Softer tires deliver better traction on slippery surfaces.
- Snow biking will save you gas money. Turning on the heater uses more gas, too.
- Riding your bike instead of driving your car will save the extra wear on your battery. Cranking a cold engine forces the starter to draw more amps from the battery. Plus, on shorter trips, the battery never really gets the chance to fully recharge, which shortens its life.
- Cost of maintenance on a bike remains consistently low, regardless of season.
Three Golden Rules of Snow Cycling
Why should skiers, snowboarders, and ice skaters have all the fun in the winter? You can have just as much fun cycling in the snow, if you have a reliable bike and proper cycling clothes. Of course, you are going to need some winter-specific riding skills, as well. The following three golden rules will have you on your way to having fun in the snow.
To stay warm you have to stay dry. Your first instinct may be to just put on extra layers or wear a heavier coat, but this could do more harm than good, if you don't choose the right fabrics.
If you are wearing a cotton base layer, it is going to stay soaked when you start sweating. This wet layer continues touching your skin throughout the ride, which is going to eventually make you incredibly cold. You need to choose moisture-wicking fabrics, especially on the base layer.
Ride on Deeper Tread
Similar to the tires on a car, the tires on your bike are going to play a leading role in snow biking. It is never a good idea to ride on bald tires, especially in the snow. You need deep tire treads to have traction on a slippery surface. Knobby, all-terrain tires are great, but studded tires are even better.
Steer with Your Hips
Steering can be the trickiest skill to perfect. In the warm months you naturally steer with your arms. However, if you move your handlebars suddenly while snow biking the probability of skidding is quite high. Use your hips and body weight to steer and guide the bike, and you will have better control.
Snow Biking in the City
You may be thinking that city biking in the winter will be no big deal because the streets get plowed. However, plowing creates other challenges. Once roads are plowed, salt usually follows to melt the ice and snow. As you probably know, this leads to slush, if the temperatures are a little above freezing. The following tips will come in handy.
- Even though the city has plowed, roads can still be slippery.
- Traveling at faster speeds increases your risk of colliding with a motorist
- In snowy conditions it will take you longer to come to a stop when you brake.
Thoroughly Clean Bike Parts
- In urban areas there is a good chance your bike will be in contact with salt.
- Salt can be damaging, especially to metal components.
- Thoroughly clean every element of your bike after cycling in the city. Put extra care into cleaning the derailleur because it is very prone to salt damage. You should also rinse the salt out of your tires' treads.
Winter Mountain Biking
If you enjoy exploring the path less traveled in the summer then you should love winter mountain biking. Cutting through a blanket of fresh powder is truly exhilarating.
Terrain you may not have been able to navigate in the summer might open up new possibilities in the winter. Not to mention, there is nothing quite like seeing the landscape shining like a blanket of diamonds as the sun kisses the snow.
Snow biking is fun and will improve your overall cycling skills. Just remember to dress warm, slow down, and follow safety precautions to ensure you enjoy every minute of your experience.
If you are getting into snow biking, there are a few items you may want to buy.
- Winter biker head gear
- Long biking pants
- Winter bicycling gloves
- Long sleeve bicycling jerseys
- Basic bicycle rain gear
- Winter bicycling socks