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Whats the secret??

Old 01-24-16, 12:23 AM
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Whats the secret??

As some of you know we here in Nashville got a little snow. I have been waiting for it all winter long. I have a mountain bike all rigged with studded tires just to commute to work.

The snow came, all 6 or 8 inches of it which is an enormous amount for us. It was still coming down when I left for work. This was my first ride in the snow and I could not stay upright. At least it was hard to stay upright. I started to get a little use to it but had to call it quits when I found my MUP was not plowed at all. I turned around and road back home. It was about three miles total.

Driving to work I reached down town Nashville. I ran into a man riding a bicycle which was not meant for snow, talking on a cell phone with one hand, and the other hand on his handle bars. I rolled down my window and asked how do you do it? His response was it took practice and he road off.

Practice in the snow is something we will not get much of here. I assume like most people here he was from somewhere else. I am just wondering how do you guys and girls ride in this stuff? It was fresh snow so it was not packed so maybe that has something to do with it but really is there a secret or what? How long does it take to get it down like that guy?
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Old 01-24-16, 12:34 AM
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I'm from Nashville. Lived there 21 years. Anyone who says they had practice is a transplant. With all the new money in town I don't even see how that isn't the most likely scenario. If you tried to ride a bike in the snow you probably aren't from Nashville either. Lol.
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Old 01-24-16, 01:16 AM
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I'm not sure that practice is enough. Levitation or hover-tire skills might be involved. There's a video from the NYC blizzard showing bicycle delivery guys trying to ride, giving up and just pushing or straddle-walking their bikes. Maybe this is their first east coast winter, who knows.

Still waiting for our first snowfall to see if I can ride. Gonna start on the nearby vacant lots and open fields for a softer landing. Yep, gonna video it because it'll be hilarious if I'm not killed.
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Old 01-24-16, 05:45 AM
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I've rode in the snow but don't know if it was eight inches. All I can say is that my mountain biking skills helped. Could fear of the situation prevented you from handling it? If it's something you want to do practice when getting to work isn't involved. A mountain bike is the perfect bike to do it on. Be safe and have fun.
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Old 01-24-16, 06:04 AM
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I drop my tire pressure. No studs on my tires. Trick is too ride and power through deep sections of snow trying to keep your body upright in a straight line. Turning and leaning can lead to falling. Corners need to be taken much more slowly and upright. Plus I use a beater Bianchi so am not so concerned about avoiding snow and ice. Just go right over it. Like I said, it's the flinch/ over correction/ veering to avoid obstacless that make you wipe out in snow. Keep those wheels straight as much as possible. That will require more use of upper body strength to keep your bar going straight. Snow like to push the wheel sideways. It requires much more fitness to ride through snow I have found. Especially single track where you have no idea what lies underneath. A 10 mile ride can feel like 20.

Last edited by hatrack71; 01-24-16 at 07:01 AM.
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Old 01-24-16, 06:20 AM
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I've tried riding in snow. It hurt.
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Old 01-24-16, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave Cutter
I've tried riding in snow. It hurt.
Yeah, it's not optimal. That's for sure.
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Old 01-24-16, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by baldilocks
I've rode in the snow but don't know if it was eight inches. All I can say is that my mountain biking skills helped. Could fear of the situation prevented you from handling it? If it's something you want to do practice when getting to work isn't involved. A mountain bike is the perfect bike to do it on. Be safe and have fun.
No not fear. I tried it. The problem was the front wheel giving way under the snow. I end up losing balance and start to fall. My pannier did not help. It was added weight on one side that seemed to help put me off balance to some degree. Also, like I said the snow was fresh and not packed. I think that might have a big part to do with it too.
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Old 01-24-16, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by hatrack71
I drop my tire pressure. No studs on my tires. Trick is too ride and power through deep sections of snow trying to keep your body upright in a straight line. Turning and leaning can lead to falling. Corners need to be taken much more slowly and upright. Plus I use a beater Bianchi so am not so concerned about avoiding snow and ice. Just go right over it. Like I said, it's the flinch/ over correction/ veering to avoid obstacless that make you wipe out in snow. Keep those wheels straight as much as possible. That will require more use of upper body strength to keep your bar going straight. Snow like to push the wheel sideways. It requires much more fitness to ride through snow I have found. Especially single track where you have no idea what lies underneath. A 10 mile ride can feel like 20.
I have noticed that. I would slide and correct but would have to insure I did not over correct or I would fall.
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Old 01-24-16, 10:34 AM
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More than about 3 inches stops me, too hard to push through it and still have traction. That happens once every 4 or 5 years here

The road bike with skinny tires just cuts through the snow if it's no deeper than that, and not frozen and rutted underneath. Don't ask me about mtb with big tires on snow because I've never tried it, but I do know that it's easier riding on top of it after it's re-frozen and has that kind of crunchy feel. The half dozen or so times we've had those conditions here
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Old 01-24-16, 11:14 AM
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It really depends on the snow. The amount of moisture in it, the amount of pack it has to it and the depth of it. Liken it to riding a bike on the beach. Away from the water, it is very fine and gritty and offers very little traction. Down by the water, it is more hard packed and you don't sink into it like you do away from the water. The snow is a lot like that. 4" of fresh powder with nothing underneath and a mountain bike should go through it fairly well. 4" of wet snow will be the exact opposite.

Last year I rode my fat bike to work in the snow. It was snowing and there was probably about 3-4" of fresh powder on the MUP. I was blazing along at 17mph with no issue at all. Tire pressure was dropped slightly since I wanted the added traction. I never slipped once, never lost traction, never gave it a second thought. Well, it kept snowing that day and into the night. When I rode back home 6 hours later, there was a foot of snow and it was still coming down. The snow consistency had changed drastically to a much wet and thicker snow similar to mashed potatoes. My fat tires were getting no traction at all. I couldn't manage to stay upright on the bike for more than a mile before falling. After the 7th time I went down, I stopped counting. The last mile I had to push the bike through a foot or more of drifted snow back to my complex. I couldn't even get on the bike and start pedaling at this point. The snow was too deep, and it was way too wet and heavy.
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Old 01-24-16, 11:36 AM
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I have to either slice thru fresh fallen snow to firmer stuff underneath, or a Fat bike to ride on top.. , scrunch as You go ..

Or follow wheel ruts of the cars .. But Im spoiled on the NW Coast we get Ice & snow briefly and not annually.

Like last month, Up High and Inland they had Black Ice on the highways and streets, We skipped .
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Old 01-24-16, 11:58 AM
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I only ride fresh snow that's less than an inch and hasn't gone through a freeze/melt cycle.
Rim brakes will be affected by snow; keep this in mind when stopping.

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Old 01-24-16, 12:22 PM
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New englander here. Commuted through snowmageddon last year. The secret is to visualize your traction(the ground) six inches (or perhaps more)below what you see, and pedal your ass off.
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Old 01-24-16, 08:44 PM
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There could be several things.

First studs don't do a thing for you if they don't have something solid and unyielding--pavement, ice--to bite into. Studs do squat when you're floating over soft and loose stuff.

Second, when you do float over soft and loose stuff, sometimes as it packs under your tires, that packed snow will itselfl slip on the surface beneath. But since your tires are gripping the snow that's now sliding, there's not much you can do.

These are two of the reasons I prefer narrower tires for commuting. I want to sink through to the road so the studs can get a good bite. Off-road, you generally want the opposite--to float.

More generally, cycling in snow quickly reveals how well you hold your line, and whether you've learned to keep your balance by shifting your weight or by steering. (The former hold their line straighter, the latter weave a lot.) If you keep your balance by steering, you'll be considerably less stable in the snow.

Weight distribution matters. Shift your weight back on the bike. When folks say they use MTB skills, this is the first one they use. My first winter I used a hybrid where most of my weight was on the back. It was a rock. In my second winter, I nearly gave up on my Portland because the roadie position put so much more weight on the front. It wanted to plow rather than steer. Once I learned to shift my weight to the back, it stabilized.

Also, if you carry your weight on your butt instead of your toes, you'll be less stable. In other words, support yourself on your legs (and fingertips), not plopped on the saddle like a reclining chair. Another way this is commonly stated is to ride light in the saddle.

Spin, don't mash. It helps you recover your balance faster during the inevitable sideslips.

Try these things in addition to those suggested above and I'm sure things will get better.

Last edited by tsl; 01-24-16 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 01-24-16, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by tsl
......... It helps you recover your balance faster during the inevitable sideslips....
You included great advice and useful information! There certainly must be a learning curve. And the "slips" did seem "inevitable"... at least for me. Reading your post... I realized I gave up too quickly. I accept an occasional mishap/fall/crash as part of cycling. But it was the repeated slips and near-falls that made me feel like I wasn't doing it right.

I'll have to try again.
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Old 01-25-16, 11:24 AM
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Snow has so many possible depths and consistencies that a technique that works in one combination won't work in another. Urban legend says the eskimos have 21 words for snow. This is where more words would come in handy, because how to ride in snow is not an adequate question.

I went out during the blizzard on Saturday just for fun. The mayor and governor had just enacted a ban on motor vehicles at 2:30, so I expected traffic to be light because of that and because the streets were so impassable anyway. That worked out well. The first street was difficult, and I kept losing traction and had to restart from a standstill a few times.

On the second street, the snow's depth varied widely because the street hadn't been plowed for hours, and at its deepest was over six inches but it went down to an inch or two in the tire tracks left by cars. But the tire tracks also varied a lot in depth. I tried a dozen times to get momentum from a standstill and just couldn't do it. Someone in a shop stepped out to watch me try and fail. He yelled simply, "Bike!"

The next streets weren't as bad, and I was able to roll most of the distance though still stopping and restarting a few times per block.

Once I got to the bike path along the Hudson River, the depth was completely consistent, three inches or less. The radio said the snow was falling at three inches per hour, so maybe the city had plowed the bike path an hour or so ago. I don't think I stopped once, and I went up the path for a mile and back.

Still, even when I was able to keep my momentum, the bike slipped left and right. I was able to keep it up with steering and balance corrections. That may be a skill you lack, but if the snow's depth or consistency was inconsistent, you may not have had a chance at all.
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Old 01-25-16, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by hatrack71
I drop my tire pressure. No studs on my tires. Trick is too ride and power through deep sections of snow trying to keep your body upright in a straight line. Turning and leaning can lead to falling. Corners need to be taken much more slowly and upright. Plus I use a beater Bianchi so am not so concerned about avoiding snow and ice. Just go right over it. Like I said, it's the flinch/ over correction/ veering to avoid obstacless that make you wipe out in snow. Keep those wheels straight as much as possible. That will require more use of upper body strength to keep your bar going straight. Snow like to push the wheel sideways. It requires much more fitness to ride through snow I have found. Especially single track where you have no idea what lies underneath. A 10 mile ride can feel like 20.
This is all great advice. The only thing I can add is, practice on sand. And/or trails that have sandy sections. All that advice is required for making it through sand as well.
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Old 01-25-16, 08:58 PM
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The secret is to live somewhere with better climate, but don't come here to Socal; the traffic is bad enough as it is...
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Old 01-26-16, 09:33 AM
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Not for bikes...
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Old 01-26-16, 10:47 AM
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@Bikerdave222, I asked your question a year ago. You may want to see my thread. There was a lot of useful information, and it led to my building my new winter bike.

Teach me how to ride in snow.
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Old 01-28-16, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by tsl
There could be several things.

First studs don't do a thing for you if they don't have something solid and unyielding--pavement, ice--to bite into. Studs do squat when you're floating over soft and loose stuff.

Second, when you do float over soft and loose stuff, sometimes as it packs under your tires, that packed snow will itselfl slip on the surface beneath. But since your tires are gripping the snow that's now sliding, there's not much you can do.

These are two of the reasons I prefer narrower tires for commuting. I want to sink through to the road so the studs can get a good bite. Off-road, you generally want the opposite--to float.

More generally, cycling in snow quickly reveals how well you hold your line, and whether you've learned to keep your balance by shifting your weight or by steering. (The former hold their line straighter, the latter weave a lot.) If you keep your balance by steering, you'll be considerably less stable in the snow.

Weight distribution matters. Shift your weight back on the bike. When folks say they use MTB skills, this is the first one they use. My first winter I used a hybrid where most of my weight was on the back. It was a rock. In my second winter, I nearly gave up on my Portland because the roadie position put so much more weight on the front. It wanted to plow rather than steer. Once I learned to shift my weight to the back, it stabilized.

Also, if you carry your weight on your butt instead of your toes, you'll be less stable. In other words, support yourself on your legs (and fingertips), not plopped on the saddle like a reclining chair. Another way this is commonly stated is to ride light in the saddle.

Spin, don't mash. It helps you recover your balance faster during the inevitable sideslips.

Try these things in addition to those suggested above and I'm sure things will get better.
Thank you! I found this very helpful. I indeed keep upright by using my front tire rather than my body weight. I might have to try changing that. My tires were 26 in 2.2in tires so they were made to float which may have been the problem. The snow was soft and did not pack well at all so that too might mean something. I did find that my pannier seemed to keep me off balance too.
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Old 01-28-16, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
@Bikerdave222, I asked your question a year ago. You may want to see my thread. There was a lot of useful information, and it led to my building my new winter bike.

Teach me how to ride in snow.
Thanks. I will have to read your thread.
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Old 01-29-16, 03:24 PM
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wait for the plows, then ride in the right tire track. use narrow studded tires (so a hybrid "35" would be better than a MTB "2.0")
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Old 01-29-16, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton
More than about 3 inches stops me, too hard to push through it and still have traction. That happens once every 4 or 5 years here
That's what she said.
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