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Staying upright in snow: Skill, Bike, or Tires?

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Staying upright in snow: Skill, Bike, or Tires?

Old 01-17-11, 11:44 PM
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tjspiel
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Staying upright in snow: Skill, Bike, or Tires?

Studs are great on ice, but don't make much difference in snow. Some tires are better in snow than others but in chunder, brown-sugar snow, mashed potato snow, or whatever you want to call it, it seems like all tires struggle.

So given that, what makes the most difference in being able to stay on the bike in the more challenging snow/ice combinations?

For me it's about 20% bike, 35% tires, and 45% skill. In other words, I think if I had better bike handling skills, that would make more of a difference than swapping my W240s for Nokian Extremes.

What are your thoughts?
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Old 01-18-11, 04:23 AM
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I think it all comes down to a skill. Riding studs through occassional ice patches is very easy, not much challenge to it. But riding through traffic snow, slush , slop , deeply rutted ice can be very challenging and physically demanding, that's where good balance and bike handling skills are important.
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Old 01-18-11, 07:02 AM
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For me I find running tire pressure at around 40-45 helps in the slushy stuff. Oh and obviously skill, balance, and luck!
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Old 01-18-11, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
Studs are great on ice, but don't make much difference in snow. Some tires are better in snow than others but in chunder, brown-sugar snow, mashed potato snow, or whatever you want to call it, it seems like all tires struggle.

So given that, what makes the most difference in being able to stay on the bike in the more challenging snow/ice combinations?

For me it's about 20% bike, 35% tires, and 45% skill. In other words, I think if I had better bike handling skills, that would make more of a difference than swapping my W240s for Nokian Extremes.

What are your thoughts?
As I was riding in this morning I was thinking how do I know when my studs (Marathon Winters) are working, i.e. are conditions slippery enough to make them necessary? It may be a moot point since I use them all winter if there is the least amount of wetness on the road. I sometimes just slide my foot on the road surface to test the slipperiness, but I'm not always sure. Are there any good field tests?

My thoughts about winter bikehandling in general though are that I am more confident in my skills if I have the studded tires on, especially on rutted hardpack/ice. In really bad conditions I will keep my feet out of the toeclips in anticipation of any fall. Last Wednesday was probably my extreme limit, of a hardpack surface with about three inches of new, wet snow on top.
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Old 01-18-11, 08:23 AM
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Did a lot of winter MTB in the 90's. Loved rolling up and down hilly twisty ice covered utility roads and
horse trails in the local state parks. Commuted on a hybrid at the time too. Now I commute on a
tricross/ 700x32 tires and it's all good.
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Old 01-18-11, 09:46 AM
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I'ts mostly skill and experience. Being able to judge how fast to take on an impending problem on typical slushy, snowy city streets is just as important as the right tire. This is the first year I've ridden snow tires (Nokian A10) and they help, but I can't say I can ride more aggressively.

Marc
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Old 01-18-11, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
I think it all comes down to a skill. Riding studs through occassional ice patches is very easy, not much challenge to it. But riding through traffic snow, slush , slop , deeply rutted ice can be very challenging and physically demanding, that's where good balance and bike handling skills are important.
This is basically my experience, though I have yet to try out studded tires on ice, I might borrow my housemate's today on account of freezing rain.
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Old 01-18-11, 11:18 AM
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Steering with hips instead of shoulders is what keeps me upright...no sudden turns up front. It's mostly skill, all of these tires kinda stink in the deeper snow, Pugsley tires excepted.

Still, I've fallen twice this season.
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Old 01-18-11, 11:24 AM
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under the category of skill, but knowing when to carry momentum and when not to is critical and only comes with practice.
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Old 01-18-11, 11:37 AM
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skill helps, but bike does too. If you have suspension then ruts don't knock you around as much.
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Old 01-18-11, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by skijoring View Post
Steering with hips instead of shoulders is what keeps me upright...no sudden turns up front. It's mostly skill, all of these tires kinda stink in the deeper snow, Pugsley tires excepted.

Still, I've fallen twice this season.
My bike handling skills in the snow have improved notably since I learned to ride the unicycle. It kept me upright several times this year when in the past I would have bailed.
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Old 01-18-11, 11:56 AM
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Definitely skill. A good dose of MTB experience helps a lot (I've done a bit of racing). 2nd nature/instinct, call it what you will. You gotta take your lumps. Better to take them on singletrack where it's more likely that you'll land on something softer than concrete.
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Old 01-18-11, 12:12 PM
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For snow. most important are skill and experience, appropriate tires (wider knobbies) and good lights at night (helmet and bars) so you can read the terrain and pick a good line. Also keeping loose (not panicking or braking hard or using the front brake) comes with experience, as does knowing how to shift weight for traction. The bike itself does not make as big a difference unless the terrain is really rough, and a lower center of gravity helps somewhat (MTB with 26" wheels). Platform pedals are nice so you can put a foot down quickly.
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Old 01-18-11, 12:25 PM
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I mentioned the bike itself as having some impact because in my experience have more weight on the back wheel and less on the front helps keep the front wheel from skidding. Technique comes into play there of course too but some geometries naturally put more weight over the front wheel than others.
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Old 01-18-11, 12:47 PM
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i think it is a 50/50 between the bike and skill. each person will have there own preference. i like having all my bikes able to put out extra torque even if i have to a smaller tire on the back to make it have that extra bit of torque i want. some winters i have driven around with a 20" rim on the back and a 26" on the front just for the extra torque. plus it lowers the center of gravity and i could keep my feet on the ground when rolling.
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Old 01-18-11, 07:22 PM
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I'd put it at about 60% skill, 20% tires, 10% bike and 10% luck. I've cruised through snow on everything from 32mm slicks to Nokian Extremes and usually have a pretty good experience no matter what tires I'm rolling. The tires DO make a difference in the chunder/mashed potato snow. I've also had the occasion of catching a rut etc that put me on my butt before I knew it so there has to be SOME luck involved.
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Old 01-18-11, 10:00 PM
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I think the bike has some effect. I have two bikes set up for winter riding - an old Stumpjumper on which more of my weight is over the back wheel, and an old road bike, where I've got more weight up front. For sloppy, nasty days, like we've had here lately, the Stumpjumper is much more stable than the road bike for plowing through snow. The fatter tires at a low psi help with that, too. But now that I'm on my third winter riding year-round, I'm starting to see how much more of a role skill (as opposed to gear) plays in staying upright, specifically using momentum to get through tough spots and, in general, riding with confidence. I also find that spinning in a lower gear helps me get through the heavy stuff.
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Old 01-18-11, 10:12 PM
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+1 on luck and luck favours the one who picks the best line.

Staying relaxed and well balanced with the weight a bit more over the rear and off the front helps. Pedal through the crap.

I ride 700C so +100 on studded tires. Schwalbe Snow Studs are good enough for me but the 26" Schwalbe Marathons have double the studs so if I were on the mountain bike I would buy those.
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Old 01-18-11, 10:50 PM
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I would say tire pressure (lower), width (wider) and tread (knobbier), have a big effect when there's snow. It's one of the few conditions where those are really desirable for riding on paved roads. Though small changes in those parameters probably aren't going to make that much of a difference.

I guess that implies fat bike = win.
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Old 01-18-11, 10:56 PM
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skill.

I'm not entirely sure how I keep upright after front locks or front slips using the correct tires.
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Old 01-18-11, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by trustnoone View Post
+1 on luck and luck favours the one who picks the best line.
This. A lot of the skill component is knowing where to ride.

The rest of it is balance and using momentum to get through tough spots.
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Old 01-18-11, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by AEO View Post
skill.

I'm not entirely sure how I keep upright after front locks or front slips using the correct tires.
You obviously have the wrong tires, there's no snow in Toronto (somewhat kidding, also I will be moving to Toronto very shortly...)
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Old 01-18-11, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by bijan View Post
You obviously have the wrong tires, there's no snow in Toronto (somewhat kidding, also I will be moving to Toronto very shortly...)
we got snow.... on the trails



it's terrible, with all the foot ruts.
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Old 01-19-11, 09:55 PM
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No one mentions strength and stamina? I only ever have a problem when I get tired - either weak or winded.

Take the following elements and go for a ride:

Strength
Skill
Stamina
Steed (bike)
Schwalbes (tires)

Now, start taking them away, one by one, but in different order...

For me, keep my strength and stamina until the very end, because if those go first, all the skill, steeds, and schwalbes are not going to get me home.

EDIT - I was riding as straight as I could:


Last edited by Bat56; 01-19-11 at 10:01 PM. Reason: this post was useless without the picture
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Old 01-20-11, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by bijan View Post
You obviously have the wrong tires, there's no snow in Toronto (somewhat kidding, also I will be moving to Toronto very shortly...)
There isn't a whole bunch here in Montreal either! It has been 1 of the better winter riding seasons!
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