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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 12-16-13, 12:13 AM   #1
Ozonation
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Techniques for riding (fat bike) in deep snow in urban setting?

Southwestern Ontario got its first real taste this past weekend: about 15 cm to 20 cm of snow. So, I hauled out the fat bike (Salsa Mukluk) and away I went. Now, I'm not a technical rider, and I don't have MTB experience, but I seemed to do okay last winter, including up and down a local hill/park popular with MTB riders for practice.

This past weekend was different. It was much tougher on the side streets that had yet to be plowed: there were deep furrows from car tires. I managed to make it out to the same local park I mentioned above, but surprisingly, but could not get enough traction in the deep snow to ride in the field. I was finding it difficult to get the right gear. And if I had to stop because the snow was too thick to cycle through, I often couldn't get restarted. For what it's worth, the conditions were bad enough that most cars were going slow, and several of them were fishtailing.

I had both tires at about 9 or 10 psi (kind of hard to measure that accurately). I think 8 to 10 psi is the recommended for most fat biking in snow/sand. Because the tires are so fat, it seemed like they could not cut or bite into smashed up or furrowed snow. On the other hand, they float better so you don't sink or get knocked out of track that easily. It almost seems I should have a narrower, studded tire up front to bite, and a fat tire in the back for snowy urban scenarios.

So I don't know if I'm doing something wrong, or if I just hit the limit of what's possible.
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Old 12-16-13, 09:13 AM   #2
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What tires are you running? They make low pressure tire gauges, I highly recommend one. I use 45Nrth Husker Du tires, the rear one mounted backwards, at 12 psi to start. I'll go to 8psi if I need to, and 5psi as a last resort before walking. Subtle changes are pretty noticeable. You'll get used to it!
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Old 12-16-13, 09:58 AM   #3
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What size tires? 3.8 or 4.8? Try lower 6-8 psi. Running tubeless? Rim size? Rider weight?
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Old 12-16-13, 10:06 AM   #4
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What tires are you running? They make low pressure tire gauges, I highly recommend one. I use 45Nrth Husker Du tires, the rear one mounted backwards, at 12 psi to start. I'll go to 8psi if I need to, and 5psi as a last resort before walking. Subtle changes are pretty noticeable. You'll get used to it!
I'm running them at about 10 psi. Yes, I should pick up a low pressure gauge!

Why mount it backwards? Does increase tread bite?

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What size tires? 3.8 or 4.8? Try lower 6-8 psi. Running tubeless? Rim size? Rider weight?
3.8". It's a stock Salsa Mukluk 3 (2012 model) - I picked it up on demo pricing. No, they're tube tires. Ah.. can't remember the rim size - I just assumed they were all the same. I clock in about 210 lbs, plus another 20 lbs in weight sometimes if I'm carrying some stuff for errands, etc.
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Old 12-16-13, 04:57 PM   #5
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Just got my very first fat bike this weekend and ran into this exact scenario (I live in Michigan so there's plenty of snow). This is timely!
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Old 12-16-13, 10:50 PM   #6
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This latest snow was different, or at least the version of it that fell in central Illinois. The starting temps were so high that there was a layer of moist snowy slush on the pavement, and we received so much snow that it acted as an insulator to keep said slush very slushy. That, coupled with significant accumulation (7" here), made for some challenging riding. This is my second year on a Moonlander shod with BFLs. This most recent snow was the first time I encountered traction issues. I'm not sure Nates or some other more aggressive tire would have helped. At least not on pavement and paths. The tire is still going to grind its way to wet pavement and then slip. Be patient. There's more snow on the way and hopefully it will be more fun!
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Old 12-17-13, 12:13 AM   #7
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Good comment about the snow. I talked it over with an experienced MTB cyclist and roadie, and most likely, my difficulties stemmed from some inexperience plus equipment.

1. When I started from a stand still, I was up and out of the saddle as I pedaled on the downstroke, so there was insufficient weight to provide more traction to the back wheel.
2. The snow had built up on the tires to the point that they were no offering much traction regardless.
3. The tire tread was not aggressive enough: I have stock tires and they're all around tires for combined hard and soft surfaces.

Some more trials coming up soon!
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Old 12-17-13, 01:01 AM   #8
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If the snow is really sticky you are going to get the tread packed with snow if you cannot maintain enough rpms to let the tyres fling that off... rock the lowest gear you can spin at a higher rpm from a seated position.

When you stand up you unweight the back wheel which will already be struggling to get enough contact pressure.

The secret to going farther is to keep spinning at a higher cadence to keep those tyres spinning... if you stall in deeper snow it is really hard to get going again and you will want to back up and ride over your tracks, which should be more compressed, to get a little more pickup and speed.

I have ridden through snow that was crank deep but we rarely get the really wet stuff and was rolling some Large Marge tyres which shed crap wonderfully and can be kept spinning more easily that knobbier tyres.
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Old 12-17-13, 07:53 AM   #9
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If the snow is really sticky you are going to get the tread packed with snow if you cannot maintain enough rpms to let the tyres fling that off... rock the lowest gear you can spin at a higher rpm from a seated position.

When you stand up you unweight the back wheel which will already be struggling to get enough contact pressure.

The secret to going farther is to keep spinning at a higher cadence to keep those tyres spinning... if you stall in deeper snow it is really hard to get going again and you will want to back up and ride over your tracks, which should be more compressed, to get a little more pickup and speed.

I have ridden through snow that was crank deep but we rarely get the really wet stuff and was rolling some Large Marge tyres which shed crap wonderfully and can be kept spinning more easily that knobbier tyres.
All good points! Thanks. I didn't ride in the snow back in Edmonton, but the snow here in Southern Ontario is generally heavier and wetter overall.
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Old 12-17-13, 12:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Aunt Roady View Post
This latest snow was different, or at least the version of it that fell in central Illinois. The starting temps were so high that there was a layer of moist snowy slush on the pavement, and we received so much snow that it acted as an insulator to keep said slush very slushy. That, coupled with significant accumulation (7" here), made for some challenging riding. This is my second year on a Moonlander shod with BFLs. This most recent snow was the first time I encountered traction issues. I'm not sure Nates or some other more aggressive tire would have helped. At least not on pavement and paths. The tire is still going to grind its way to wet pavement and then slip. Be patient. There's more snow on the way and hopefully it will be more fun!
+1 The conditions on that recent storm here were brutal. The combination of the freezing rain, and then deep wet, then more snow and the timing meant plows were way behind. It was the hardest day I've had on my Moonlander ever. (running bud and lou tires). The float was not as good due to the deep wet loose snow so the pedaling was hard but certainly doable. But when it came to crossing streets and ruts of deep tire tracked snow with ice under it was treacherous, and dangerous in traffic and downright brutal.

Yes, Get a low pressure gauge. Usually the lower the pressure the better they do in snow. I had to stop a couple times (gladly) to lower the pressure during that day. I'm running wider rims and more aggressive tread tires than you so FWIW for the deep show it's around 6psi front and rear. If it's just hardpack snow I'll start at 9psi Front and 10psi rear and adjust on the fly usually lower if anything. In the summer on hardpack dirt with a BFL in the front Lou rear I run 9F -10R

There will be better conditions ahead I think that day was just one of those really tough combinations. Use a high cadence, be aware of how your weight distribution affects steering and traction, work the tire pressures, and don't worry about your speed. You are out to have fun.

Last edited by modernjess; 12-17-13 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 12-17-13, 12:40 PM   #11
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Rims for fat bikes range from 50, 65, 80 and 100 mm's. Wider= more float. Typically the 3.8 ones use 80 mm and the 4.8 use 80 or 100 mm rims.
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Old 12-17-13, 02:58 PM   #12
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Thanks to all. Any recommended low tire pressure gauges? Also, which type/brand of fat tire would have better tread for snow?
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Old 12-17-13, 10:22 PM   #13
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Thanks to all. Any recommended low tire pressure gauges? Also, which type/brand of fat tire would have better tread for snow?
The SKS Airchecker is great for low pressures. It's digital and reads in 1/2 pound increments.

I use Surly 4.8" Bud & Lou on my 100mm rims. I think if you have the 80mm, the Surly Nates are your best choice for more snow traction.
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