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Got some snow, ready to go

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

Got some snow, ready to go

Old 01-27-21, 05:16 PM
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gthomson
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Got some snow, ready to go

I can't remember whether I saw a post on this group or the C&V group but I usually prefer posting here. There was a discussion on winter riding and I got some great recommendations on what to wear, studded tires, etc... but hoping for some collective experience here on riding in the snow. I'm a cautious fella by nature, so I don't just dive in without looking. This is only our 2nd snow fall here in my area and the first one was Christmas day so I only got out for a short ride on the 26th and really liked it.

I have an older mtn. bike with nearly new tires that I'm hoping will provide lots of grip. I will avoid ice or paths that had ice on them and are now covered in snow (that's the plan at least). Is it best to ride through the fresh snow or some flattened snow already packed down a bit? Do I stay in a very low gear so I can spin a lot and hopefully not get stuck? I've been told to lower my tire pressure but how much? There's no way I'm clipping in as I'm sure I will be stopping lots so flat pedals for me.

I'm hoping the snow stays until the weekend so I can find some nice trails to ride through.
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Old 01-27-21, 07:19 PM
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gthomson A funny story: Five years ago I bought my first set of studded snow tires; Suomi Nokian W106 26x1.75. I was amazed at the grip and stability in the snow and especially on ice with the tire pressure lowered. I came across a slightly uphill two-block long curb-to-curb ice sheet and began riding, just as another cyclist turned onto the street and rode beside me.

"Are those studded tires?" I asked.

"No!" he replied, "those are dangerous...too slick on pavement!"

After the first block I asked how he was able to stay upright on the ice without studs and he said it's all in the tire pressure...but unfortunately for you he didn't tell me what the pressure was.

I used to ride in the snow and even commute with mountain-bike tires but ice is the main issue here in Colorado Springs and ice under snow as well. Also this was in the 1980s and 1990s before I discovered bikeforums, so I really didn't know what I was doing, and I didn't think to lower the pressure, and I was over-dressing as well so I was freezing.

From what I remember, loose snow was easier, and, in fact, one Thanksgiving morning I rode up a local lookout in 4-5 inch snow. But on more flat ground water could collect under the snow and freeze, like in the slight troughs at intersections, I would slip a lot.

With the studded tires, and the lightly studded W106's in particular, tire pressure is important because of the studs. At max pressure (65psi) the tire is its most rounded, and the studs on the tire's 'shoulders' don't contact the road in straight line riding, only while cornering making things a little less grippy. At 35-45psi the tire deforms and flattens enough that the studs contact the road in straight line riding as well as cornering which is perfect for dry, but icy conditions which we have plenty of on shady side streets here. And for deep, powdery snow they suggest 25psi (or even less) which further aids grip and stability.

But also, as with non-studded automotive snow and ice tires (like Blizzaks) it's the special compound which stays softer in colder temperatures compared to regular tires. That really helps the tires grip in the cold, ice and snow.

My gut feeling is that every type of tire, studded or not, will have its own "sweet spot" when it comes to psi for optimum stability on snow, but as a rule, lower is better, up to a point. You will have to experiment based on your tires, weight, snow conditions, etc.

Also, the same rules for safe winter driving apply to winter cycling in the snow and ice...no sudden moves, watch your speed, and allow for longer braking distances...sometimes infinity.

As far as lower gears...you just have to feel it out for yourself, but fast acceleration leads to more tire slip in my experience. Others on the forum have mentioned fixed-gear bikes are more stable in the snow, and I can see that as they tend not to spin up fast and maintain a more constant speed (except for braking, when there are brakes).

Finally, I commute with toe clips. And when it is slick I will first flip my left pedal and ride on the platform so I can put a quick foot down. If there are lots of icy ruts I will ride on the bare platforms on both sides since icy ruts don't care which side they kick your bike over to. I know you said you'd avoid the ice, but my point is flat pedals are safer for slick riding, although many single-track and gravel-cross or whatever the kids are doing these days will use short toe-clips without straps which give some foot security with easy foot dismount.
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Old 01-27-21, 08:53 PM
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Great stuff BobbyG and thank you. I don't have studded tires as I'm not committing to it yet but will play around with the tire pressure and see if I can get it right. Good to hear that it's something I need to feel out as that's what I was thinking when I did that one snow ride around Christmas. So much depends on the conditions ( is it really cold and dry, or warmer but wet, etc..) I cross country ski so I imagine I can take some of the principles of skiing and use them on the conditions that I'm riding in.
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Old 01-27-21, 09:23 PM
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61 years of snow and ice riding experience here. I started won a single speed Columbia bike in 1960. Those big balloon tires were very forgiving, and one could broadside all over. It was like skiing. I have fond memories of sliding one boot on the snow for stability, with clouds of powdery snow flying around me. When I discovered a bike was better at climbing snowy hills than my father's car, I was hooked. I've been riding on studded tires every winter for 20 years. They work really well here in the Washington, DC area, where there is always an ice layer. Riding on glare ice with studs is a treat. You glide along and enjoy all the motorists embedded in the snowdrifts at the side iof the road. Don't use the rear brake. Be ready to slide a boot on the ice. Loose show is good for stability, but compressed is easier riding. Learn to read the surface ahead of you. Coming home from work in the snow with a bright moon is wonderful.
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Old 01-27-21, 09:29 PM
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We have a few threads here on snow riding, I have a thread if you scroll down. Yes, you can ride an older mountain bike without studs if you air down. One thing you will notice is with thick snow it becomes a total body workout. We are having an easy winter here in northern tip of the mitt Michigan. I ride 3 nights (with good lights) on the streets of our little town. Tonight was mostly bare pavement (from salting) so was easy pedalling. Each ride is a training ride that keeps me ready for springtime breakout. You will also notice the rolling resistance of knobbie tires that are aired down soft. Add to that the increased weight plus your extra clothing...soon you realize this isnt like a summer ride, it’s about staying consistant and just getting out. My rides are about an hour with a good cadence. Hills are a challenge. Best part, it sure beats being inside and riding a trainer. Getting out in the near whiteout lake effect snow tonight was a trip. Warm, tunes rocking, bright light piercing the darkness...surreal.
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Old 01-27-21, 09:56 PM
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The problem in snow is ruts from car tires because they can steer your front tire out of line and take you down. You have to stay clear of them or stay in them, neither of which is always possible.

Also there are many types of snow. Several inches of wet heavy snow can be very difficult to even move in. Rutted snow can easily take you down. As can ice too if you don't have studded tires. Untouched light fluffy snow is the funnest, and quite a joy to ride in!
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Old 01-28-21, 08:27 AM
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I ride a Kona Wo fat bike with studded Vee Tire Snow Shoe Xls. Off road I run about 5lbs, on road 7-9. Lots of people run lower pressure than me. It's almost a contest. In the summer without studs I'll run as much as 12lbs. Most of the maintained off-road trails here only want you to ride fat bikes in the winter as even mountain bike tires tend to rut the path up. Prior to the fat bike I rode a single speed mountain bike with studs -- only on the street. I ran 45 lbs then but probably would bring it down a little if I still owned it.

If you encounter a lot of ice on your rides you might like studs but they are not a guarantee against falling. If that's a rarity, I wouldn't bother with them. Out here it's pretty much guaranteed for 5 months at a time.
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Old 01-29-21, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I can't remember whether I saw a post on this group or the C&V group but I usually prefer posting here. There was a discussion on winter riding and I got some great recommendations on what to wear, studded tires, etc... but hoping for some collective experience here on riding in the snow. I'm a cautious fella by nature, so I don't just dive in without looking. This is only our 2nd snow fall here in my area and the first one was Christmas day so I only got out for a short ride on the 26th and really liked it.

I have an older mtn. bike with nearly new tires that I'm hoping will provide lots of grip. I will avoid ice or paths that had ice on them and are now covered in snow (that's the plan at least). Is it best to ride through the fresh snow or some flattened snow already packed down a bit? Do I stay in a very low gear so I can spin a lot and hopefully not get stuck? I've been told to lower my tire pressure but how much? There's no way I'm clipping in as I'm sure I will be stopping lots so flat pedals for me.

I'm hoping the snow stays until the weekend so I can find some nice trails to ride through.

much fun
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