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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 01-17-07, 03:11 AM   #1
Cosmoline
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Snow Bike vs. Ice Bike

I've been noticing a dramatic difference in the way my bike performs on snow as opposed to ice. I selected a heavy steel frame Electra with wide Nokians for biking on the assumption that it would have a low center of gravity, easy reach of boot to ground, and easy handling. All of these features do make it excellent for ice, and to date I have not slipped on the ice even though it's been on the ground since October.

But the same features that make it great for ice bog it down quickly in the snow. Beyond a few inches of drift or loose doughy snow, I start to slow down greatly. The curved bars and cruiser style make it hard to stand up for more torque, and there are only three gears. For deep snow, a very different style seems called for.

Have you found this to be true, or is there one style that will work well with all winter conditions?
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Old 01-17-07, 08:01 AM   #2
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I find a hardtail (better yet, full rigid) mountain bike works great for almost all winter conditions. The only thing mines not great for is the realy deep snow that only Pugsley type bikes handle well.
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Old 01-17-07, 08:57 AM   #3
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I think it's as unrealistic to look for one bike to do everything in the winter as it is in the summer. I couldn't ask for one bike to be great for long road rides and big-mountain freeriding, and conditions in the winter are even more variable.

Performance on both glare ice and loose snow would require a huge studded tires, that would probably be unrealitically hard to pedal on any other type of surface.

(having ridden and suffered on pavement with both wide DH tires and high-stud count winter tires, I dread the resistance that would come from having both)

The MUPs and singletrack trails around here tend to melt and refreeze often to become ice-footprint-fields, thus I ride a bike with suspension and Hakka 2.1s. It's great for neither pavement nor deeper snow, but I have to play the odds.
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Old 01-17-07, 09:31 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cosmoline
Have you found this to be true, or is there one style that will work well with all winter conditions?
I find that a standard rigid mtb is the best for snow/ice. The geometry of a cruiser, with the weight shifted towards the back, makes the front wheel tend to wash out. The wide nokians should be ok for grip in snow. As you've noticed, the wider the tire, the more work you have to do to push them through the snow.

You might try switching out the super tall cruiser bars out for some mtb risers- would get your weight forward, and allow you to stand up a little more. A larger rear cog, for a lower rear gear, also might help. I run a 42X20 winter gear on 26" wheels.

On deep snow, if you have a low gear, and just keep pedaling, you can just power through some pretty gross stuff- the forward momentum gives you time to get the front wheel back under you.
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Old 01-18-07, 04:07 PM   #5
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I think I'm going to work something up on a Pugsley frame for next winter and keep the Electra for summertime. Its big advantage of one-crank-per-block crusing is moot in the heavy chop. On the plus side, I'm getting a heck of a workout and the bike is exceptionally stable.
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Old 01-22-07, 08:58 PM   #6
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You don't mention the exact Electra that you own, but suffice it to say, you have a very relaxed geometry bike there. Bikes like these are hard to generate a lot of power on, which could be problematic. I also have no evidence proving that they are "better" on ice.

I run a rigid hardtail in both snow and ice and get along well in both conditions with a few exceptions. First of all it is important to keep the big picture in mind. A bicycle isn't the best vehicle for riding in the snow or ice for that matter. Sure a lot of us here are doing it but it's because we love riding and this is just another form of that, albeit not the best sometimes.

In reading a lot of posts, sometimes it seems like there is the notion that there is the perfect bike out there for riding in snow. Maybe some are better than others but all in all, a pair of snow shoes are a better choice in deep and/or very wet, heavy snow. Even walking is often a better choice.

So I think we have to be careful about the notion that one bike is going to be a lot better than the other in extremely adverse conditions. There becomes a point where nothing works well. But in more moderate snow riding conditions I think there are better bike choices than others. A bike that allows for wide tires and good power transfer is desirable in restrictive snow.

As far as ice is concerned, the tires are a much bigger issue. I prefer a wider tire because this provides a bigger contact patch with the ice and theoretically more studs hitting the ice at a given time. I can't really see where one bike is better on ice than others except for maybe one allowing for bigger tires, but my experience in ice riding is limited to a hardtail mountain bike with studded tires.
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