Let's Talk About Snow Bikes

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Up where I'm from, it is a long off-season if you don't ride snow. I haven't been out since forever. It makes me cranky and depressed. I need trails.
My lovely wife is pushing me to get a fat bike, but I was raised in the weight weenie era of MTB, so I have resisted those big beasts. However, out walking the trails, I see those 3-4" wide tracks and it makes a little more sense.
Then there's 26+ or 27.5+ size tires, you can get the big tires without as much of the weight. But rumor has it that these are in their way out, getting harder to find rubber.
Also, is it worth discussing regular old 26? I have a few in the fleet, but I don't know if I like the idea of skinnier tires in the soft stuff.
I'm not talking about commuting or road riding, I doubt spikes are needed, this is strictly for trail use. If anyone cares to share experience or information, let's have it! Stories and inspirational photo are also welcome.
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I have only ridden my Surly Wednesday once in the snow. It was a race. I only have 3.8" tires. I don't have spikes. I suffered. Almost everyone who rides fat bikes up in the Berkshires uses spiked tires. Now I know why. Previously I had thought all I needed was fat tires.

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Gravelgrinder59

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I rode my trek Roscoe with 27.5 x 2.8 in 4- 5” no problem this past week. I tried riding the next day in 7-8” and it was too deep. Was trying to get away from riding fat bike, as you mentioned they are SLOW. I have 26” x 4.5 on front and 4.0 on real( widest I can fit) wish I would have spent money for bike with more modern tire size, 26” not many options. ( but we really don’t usually get that much snow, couple days to a few weeks, so really don’t want a lot invested in fat bike) I can ride in powder 8”-9” , anything more is really tough , when it’s that deep I look for tire tracks to ride in, or compact trails. Fat biking is almost like taking a hike in the snow on ungroomed stuff. I tell myself “it’s better than sitting on the couch” while riding.
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us56456712

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I hate single track snow biking, but that’s just me. If you are going this route spend a lot and get a full carbon job and put as small a chain ring on it as will fit and use the biggest tires available. This is what all the people do here. It will most likely be the lightest bike you own. Fat tires steer like poo, even the super expensive ones. I don’t like any fight in steering, that’s why I hate it. If, like me, you ride on plowed gravel, then any pretty good fat bike will work, even wit 26 x 3.8 tires. For this you don’t really need super wide rims. It works great. When the roads turn to ice I use an old mountain bike with carbide studs in the tires. I use neoprene hand covers, lobster claw mittens and fill the hand covers with 5 chemical hand warmers. After the ride I put the hand warmers in a small zip lock bag so they can be rescued about 4 times. I avoid the extremely expensive snow biking boots by using very light weight Baffin mid rise snowmobile boots. They are incredibly warm and light. Then I use flat pedals. For the little single track I do ride, I put on army surplus gators.

Plowed gravel on my 15 k route. Looks like a mountain bike with + tires would work here but it doesn’.
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My boots

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My ice bike with studs. I don’t used hand covers on my ice bike, if you fall you cant get your hands out of them fast enough to jump off the bike. This happens mostly when there is ice under water. I put hand warmers in my mitts and hope I don’t have to do any sudden shifting or breaking.
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us56456712

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Most winters we get constant snow in higher elevations away from Lake Superior so some of the trail systems are always soft, hilly and narrow. Some places get 140 to 300 inches, depends on location and weather that year. I can’t stay in very narrow soft tracks with the poor steering from fat tires so I spend a lot of time making snow angles and pushing until it’s down hill and I can get momentum to ride again. Some grooming here is done with a two wheel drive motorcycle that tows a small trailer tire. This makes for single track that is not enjoyable for me but with a 20+ pound low geared fat bike a lot of folks swear by it. If you’ve never snow biked, borrow one to see how bad you hate it before you invest. Studs on fat bikes are more common here in the last few years because of climate change. I’d say about 5% use them. Last winter I let my son use my fat bike and I used my mid fat + bike with 3 inch wide tires. We went 10 miles on plowed gravel. I had to push the soft places and riding was much harder than on my fat bike with 3.8. I love winter riding on plowed gravel with a fat bike. In the spring the paved and gravel roads slowly clear off and I can find routs to ride, adding different sections as the ice melts off. For this spring riding I use a Walmart $98 Kent fixie that I put different junk stash seat, bars, tires and BMX cog on. It’s a cheap bike so I don’t care about the salt corrosion.
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If you’ve never snow biked, borrow one to see how bad you hate it before you invest
That seems prudent. I watched a pair roll by on fat bikes as I was shoveling out the driveway yesterday. They looked like they were having more fun than I was... They had matching outfits and bikes. It was cute
 

us56456712

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Seven years ago, when I was younger and more insane, I rode my studded bike on the city bike path. We don’t live there now so I can’t ride every day it’s plowed off. It got very icy as the sun would melt off the black top and the water would collect and freeze in the snow bank shadows or at the bottom of hills. I crashed quite a bit so I used knee pads, elbow pads and padded snow board shorts. On one crash I landed on downhill ice and slid down the hill on my knee and elbow pads, rocking back and forth in a relaxing rhythm, stopping when I encountered a frozen 3 foot snow bank. No scrapes only an aching back for a day. Three years ago I rode in the rain over ice rink ice. Stupid yes, but you get cooped up. If you put your foot down you fell. I had to start in my garage because I couldn’t stand up on the ice. The studs worked, until I got to the top of the biggest hill. The back tire spun, I stopped, I put my foot down and slid 75 meters to the bottom, stopping in a puddle. I had to carry the bike through the woods in knee deep slush to get up, you couldn’t walk up the gravel road. When you go down on ice it’s usually in the blink of an eye. The moral of this narrative is that the fluff is annoying to crash in, but if you ride ice, well I’ll leave it to you to decide how to dress. When the lakes freeze and no snow has fallen, you can ride a mountain bike on it without studs, being careful when turning. It’s flat so no studs are required, if your careful. When my kids were young they rode junk bike on the frozen lake and jousted by crashing into each other. I enjoyed watching this spectacle from my picture window. They got bruised up. Kids, they also put on baiting suits and flip flops to ride ice flows in the wind in the spring. They would push the ice sheets from shore with tree limbs. Occasionally a flip flop would come off and go in the lake so they went swimming to get it back.
 
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This is an interesting discussion. Last years we had some snow in the Netherlands, but nothing severe or to brag about compared to examples used in this thread :grin:

We do have ICE from time to time. Every road of the country gets sprinkled with salt. Cars and bikes get rusty quick.
Some cobbles stones stay very slippery and a lot of folks on bikes fall hard.

I never saw or heard people using spikes on tires here.

Biking on thick snow is hard, I tried it several years ago.

To contribute to this thread:

24x3.0 Felt Berm Master tires quickly filled with snow and got very slippery fast.
Picture example: (the snow is nothing, I just want to show of my bike again :p )
54gyexh.jpeg



@us56456712 how cold does it get when you used the double mittens and chemical warmers? :eek:
 
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@us56456712 that information only adds to my desire to stay off the roads. Not into falling on ice, I want to roll on the soft stuff.
@BartRidesEternal don't ask about temperature, it's better if you don't know. The way you tell if it is cold is to take a deep breath through your nose. If all the hairs freeze up, it's cold. We're getting there now, a balmy -20°c this morning. US56 rides colder than I would. He's made of tougher stuff.
 
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Bart's question about temperature has me thinking about different types of wilderness peril. Once on a hike, I fell through the ice into a creek and had to walk a mile or two in -30ish temps to get to warmth. Feel free add clothing and emergency supplies to the discussion.
 

us56456712

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This is an interesting discussion. Last years we had some snow in the Netherlands, but nothing severe or to brag about compared to examples used in this thread :grin:

We do have ICE from time to time. Every road of the country gets sprinkled with salt. Cars and bikes get rusty quick.
Some cobbles stones stay very slippery and a lot of folks on bikes fall hard.

I never saw or heard people using spikes on tires here.

Biking on thick snow is hard, I tried it several years ago.

To contribute to this thread:

24x3.0 Felt Berm Master tires quickly filled with snow and got very slippery fast.
Picture example: (the snow is nothing, I just want to show of my bike again :p )
54gyexh.jpeg



@us56456712 how cold does it get when you used the double mittens and chemical warmers? :eek:
Well it’s -20C out right now. Today I would have a face mask and no goggles or glasses as they freeze from your breath. In temperatures like this and below you need to dress warm, use nylon wind breakers, then you overheat as your body warms up. Your hands and feet still get cold but the body gets hot. In -20 - 30C I can only do 5 mile rides as I over heat and freeze. Some younger folks can ride a lot further. When it’s - 7C and down to - 15 I use multiple hand warmers. When it’s above freezing, up to +10 I still use two. I’ve tried electric sox and gloves but they don’t last but a year or two and if the batteries die on a ride it’s not fun. One of my riding buddies who is also in his 70s uses electric ski mitts that he has cut into so he can also insert chemical warmers. He also wears a battery heated ski jacket when he rides. Finnish studded road and mountain bike tires are the best but they are also more expensive. Don’t buy ones with stainless steel studs, get carbide studs. I used to make my own studded tires but they are very heavy. Other brands offer quality carbide studded tires for a more reasonable price than the Finnish ones. If you can only afford one studded tire, put it on the front. I use 26 x 1.75 on the front and 2 on the back. The price is less for 1.75 than wider ones and they work well. I never saw hills when I motored around the Netherlands so 1.75 front and back will make your riding safe. Carbide lasts a lot longer as you will end out riding on pavement. I actually look for ice to ride on if the pavement is mostly bare as this saves the studs. You should get at least 3-4 years of winter riding. Rotate them each year. I just looked out our window and we have 10 wild turkeys at our bird feeders. First time they have visited in two years.
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My coldest commute in the snow (-19f) was on my Cruiser Supreme when it was still mostly OE. It had the CST "diamond pattern" 26x2.125 cruiser tires on it with about 25psi and they were outstanding in the dry-ish snow here. Nowdays, the Pugsley is the right tool for the job. I use it for both utility purposes and singletrack on occasion. There is one trail up high here that is not a difficult climb and the descent is always a lesson in drifting at 20mph+ that is always a good time.
 
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us56456712

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One more thing I forgot to mention. Some people here have had issues with their empty beer can weight carbon fat bikes. Their tubeless tires go flat. They are carbon hookless rims and if you ride on single track snow you use 6-8 psi in the tires, or else you cant climb and you will gouge up the soft track and get yelled at. Fat, low pressure tires tend to burp off some of these carbon rims In the winter. Some have more problems than others. Some use inner tubes. One person told me he kept them from burping by using multiple windings of thin Gorilla Tape on the inside of the rim to build up a ridge. I can’t figure out how he mounted the tires to get both beads between the rim and tape. Their hard to mount without dealing with a tape ridge. I use tubes as I ride plowed gravel and don’t have to be super light weight. Hope this helps.
 
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I have a Pugsly don't ride it much but think I will start as I need the exercise.
Way more rolling resistance even on dry pavement than a regular bike or mountain bike .
You are going to be peddling all the time and coasting very little .

I also believe somebody also talked about breaking through ice that had water underneath I have done this on my DX in winter
it was while turning a corner and nearly pitched me over the handlebars .
Think the fat tires would have just rolled over it and not dug in .
Lots of hidden dangers so be prepared to fall .
 
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I used to ride partially cleared streets on ol' Droppy (a scratched up rusty Good Vibrations) last century. Chances of that happening now are zero. Put bike and snow in the same sentence and this is what comes to mind.

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Bart's question about temperature has me thinking about different types of wilderness peril. Once on a hike, I fell through the ice into a creek and had to walk a mile or two in -30ish temps to get to warmth. Feel free add clothing and emergency supplies to the discussion.
DANG. And here in PA I'm thinking it's cold when it gets into the teens.

Every time someone talks about falling through the ice into a body of water, my thoughts IMMEDIATELY go to Jack London's short(ish) story To Build A Fire.

And just now, reading the Wikipedia entry, I learned there was an earlier version of the story with a significantly less grim ending:

Edit: just noticed @hamppea 's comment:
Supplies🤔
A Jack London book. The one with the dog in the Yukon... oh wait, which one...

Yep, that's the one.
 

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