Ridding bike in snow conditions

Dream about riding in the deep snow is universal childhood desire. If you went back to those days, looking through the snow outside – do you recall how attractive was that idea?

I do, thought 28 years of experience gave me inner feeling about conditions, terrain, equipment and despite several strange and ill fated attempts, sine adulthood I didn’t attempt anything like this this. 2020 was stressful, not only because of the pandemic, so I started to think out of the box….with other words as a kid full of enthusiasm and fate. More over, taking into account global warming, every day with snow is very important we never know if next year at this time we would have powder. So in November with first cold waves and snow raining I started to experiment. For those several months I gained about 600 km (370miles) – mostly riding in hilly areas in my hometown of Sofia. About 100 km (62 miles) were riding on a mountain trails (off course covered in deep snow or with ice). Ironically my main concern as a biker are cars, not difficult weather conditions – Bulgarian road laws are infamously not followed, the reason why Bulgaria is on the second place in road mortality chart in EU (with humble population of 7.5 millions people).

So what are snow bike riding disadvantages?

  • Lower friction between tires and snow/ice cover – having to balance the bike on a 2 tires might be quite difficult, no matter if you ride on a standard or a fat bike. One trick I learned while riding was to go downhills a a little bit faster, in order to ensure tires won’t slip, yet moment of breaking is the issue with such situation.
  • Different breaking conditions – breaking on snow is harder – worse frictions enlarges breaking distance. Stopping immediately is not an option as well, because it will lead to slippery situation on the ground. The rider is forced to break gradually, meaning the breaking distance will be always longer.
  • Breaking materials – depending on what technology of breaks you are using, melted snow might lead to less friction between pads and wheel rim/ disk rotor, again leading to longer break distance.
  • E-bikes issues – riding an ebike in the deep snow might sound like much more fun then riding a traditional bike, however the greater torsion  will lead to slippage, because of the low traction between snowy surface and tire. Having to ride your ebike without the motor assistance mean you have to move heavier bike.
  • The biggest disadvantages of all: maintaining. Most European countries with winter season are spreading salt on roads in order to maintain them clean from the snow. Combination of salt and snow/water is huge challenge for steel materials on your bike, as well on tires. Even if most components on your bike are aluminum – disk rotors, heavy duty bolts, the chain and spokes are made from steel. Which means that after every winter adventure you have to dry your bike and then to take care of those parts.

Advantages of Winter riding:

  • Joy of the slippery downhill rides, skidding in trails.
  • The better fitness.
  • And lets not forget – using your bike you are avoiding driving a car, so it is more ecological.


Ivan Kalpazan Written by:

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