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First bike ride in snow

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First bike ride in snow

Old 01-21-12, 09:29 PM
  #1  
Spld cyclist
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First bike ride in snow

We got about 3" of fluffy snow over the course of last night and today. After shoveling and doing other chores I got my winter bike out for a quick spin around the block. I bought a pair of Nokian Mount and Ground tires back in November, but we've had absolutely no snow since then (very weird winter). I have ridden the bike several times with these tires on mostly dry pavement. I wanted to get a little experience playing around in the in snow before trying to commute in it.

What I learned was that undisturbed fluffy snow on pavement is not bad. Slippery, but in an entirely predictable way. Slush is no problem (at least in thin layers). Densely packed snow and ice - none today, but I think the studs would make these do-able.

What didn't work at all was the snow on my street. Take a few inches of fluffy snow, do not plow, salt, or sand at all, and let 200 cars drive over it over several hours. You get snow that is loosely to moderately packed. No bearing capacity. When the tires rolled over it, I could see all these snow platelets breaking apart and shifting to the side. I found it very difficult to ride on in any controlled kind of manner. I kept having to put a foot down to keep from wiping out.

My city has done snow removal on a shoestring for several years. After any substantial snow storm, it seems like the entire city, other than arterial streets, is like this for days. I gotta figure out how to ride in the stuff or just take the bus until it melts.

Any strategies for dealing with this stuff?
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Old 01-22-12, 04:12 AM
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I can't really offer advice for the snow on the street problem as most of my ride is on a trail. I bought the same tires as you, and they've worked well on the densely packed ice so far. Watch out for the icy ruts though, I hit a few leaving the trailer park I live in and the tires do slide, but the studs did catch and kept me from falling.
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Old 01-22-12, 04:23 AM
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Riding on unplowed roads with lots of cars is rather dangerous. Take the road, ie. use a bit more road than usual to force the cars to be considerate. i only ride smaller less travelled roads when conditions are like that. Learn to let the bike "float", it moves around quite a bit but if you go with the flow and stay ballanced on the bike it works out. I use the 2,3 " nokian tires when conditions are bad, wider is better.
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Old 01-22-12, 12:20 PM
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dscheidt
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Originally Posted by Spld cyclist View Post
We got about 3" of fluffy snow over the course of last night and today. After shoveling and doing other chores I got my winter bike out for a quick spin around the block. I bought a pair of Nokian Mount and Ground tires back in November, but we've had absolutely no snow since then (very weird winter). I have ridden the bike several times with these tires on mostly dry pavement. I wanted to get a little experience playing around in the in snow before trying to commute in it.

What I learned was that undisturbed fluffy snow on pavement is not bad. Slippery, but in an entirely predictable way. Slush is no problem (at least in thin layers). Densely packed snow and ice - none today, but I think the studs would make these do-able.

What didn't work at all was the snow on my street. Take a few inches of fluffy snow, do not plow, salt, or sand at all, and let 200 cars drive over it over several hours. You get snow that is loosely to moderately packed. No bearing capacity. When the tires rolled over it, I could see all these snow platelets breaking apart and shifting to the side. I found it very difficult to ride on in any controlled kind of manner. I kept having to put a foot down to keep from wiping out.

My city has done snow removal on a shoestring for several years. After any substantial snow storm, it seems like the entire city, other than arterial streets, is like this for days. I gotta figure out how to ride in the stuff or just take the bus until it melts.

Any strategies for dealing with this stuff?
Lower gear, and ride a bit faster than you think you should. I have exactly the same sort of stuff on my commute, when it's snowing, and the city hasn't plowed the road, and on the side streets I ride to get the road I ride most of the way, which aren't plowed much or at all.

And my general opinions on snow are the same as yours, except that snow much deeper than what you had is very hard to ride in, even when undisturbed.
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Old 01-22-12, 01:58 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. It may be that it just takes more experience. Where I live isn't very bike-friendly from a road/traffic point of view. I've experimented with a number of routes over the years to avoid narrower streets with a lot of traffic, taking me onto the sort of back streets that don't get plowed quickly. Great when the roads are clear, but maybe not so great when contending with snow.

I've been a 9-month bike commuter for years. (Which really means I would bike in any month provided there wasn't snow or ice, but as a practical matter that meant I biked very little January - March). I hoped to extend that a little bit this year. I'll have to see how it goes. The studded tires will definitely help get me out there when road conditions are pretty good, but there are the occasional patches of snow or ice).
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Old 01-22-12, 07:52 PM
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Snow is interesting like that. If enough cars have driven over an unplowed road to make some nice ruts down to the pavement then I'm fine... but that crumbling layer or the brown sugar spots are always annoying.

I've seen a few people here riding some 'fatbikes' (surly puglseys and such) to contend with those conditions, but I can't justify an expense like that for the few times that it's really been a concern.

Keep that gyroscope effect going and use your hips to keep the bike under you... that's about all you can do.
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Old 01-23-12, 09:51 AM
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Yes, that's what we call "car snot", tough to pedal in.
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Old 01-23-12, 10:36 AM
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Yeah, car snot is very unpredictable and variable. Speed helps, but getting up there and the "excitement" of not quite being in control is.....interesting.

It's quite common to take the heavy option and ride through the deep snow because the tire tracks can be so challenging. If it's only a short bit that causes problems, you can always walk for a couple of minutes, and still get in a commute.
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Old 01-23-12, 11:47 AM
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I'm glad you posted this. This is my first winter commuting also and find the same problems as you've described and wondered if it was just me and how I'm riding. The rutted car tracks is by far the hardest to ride in I've found too and try to seek out untraveled bits but sometimes that's just not possible. In fact I was telling someone the other day that I much prefer riding on ice instead. This morning I we had some freezing rain and small amounts of snow over top and it was so much easier to ride in. Other than the 25+mph headwind for 90% of the way it was actually quite fun making the first tracks on the bike trails.

The tip of more speed sounds like good advice as I think about it. Now if I can just find it and I'm not too proud to say I've got off and walked when it got real hairy.

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Old 01-23-12, 09:25 PM
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Low pressure wide tires are suppose to be good, but I don't believe anything beyond these 4" wide tire fatbikes would work well for that kind of snow. On the upside you get a nice upper body workout.

Here's a video comparing the two.
https://youtu.be/_OtPoDOkgJo
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Old 01-23-12, 10:49 PM
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The video above doesn't lie. A fatbike is the best solution for off road snow riding as well as the type of conditions you describe. They are a blast to ride, and not just in snow. OK I admit I don't have one yet but I live in the heart of fatbike country and I've demo'd them and have friends that own them. Those bikes just put a smile on your face. A fatbike is my next bike purchase, I adhere closely to the N+1 rule.
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Old 01-24-12, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
Lower gear, and ride a bit faster than you think you should.
Lower gear, I understand. Why faster? Momentum?
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Old 01-24-12, 08:31 AM
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dscheidt
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Originally Posted by longhaulblue View Post
Lower gear, I understand. Why faster? Momentum?
bikes are more stable as speed increases. I'm not suggesting 20 mph, or even 12, but the difference between 5 and and 8 or 10 is pretty big. You're still likely to be able to get your feet out when the rear end decides to slide out from under you.
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Old 01-24-12, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by youthcom View Post
Low pressure wide tires are suppose to be good, but I don't believe anything beyond these 4" wide tire fatbikes would work well for that kind of snow. On the upside you get a nice upper body workout.

Here's a video comparing the two.
https://youtu.be/_OtPoDOkgJo
Well, thanks for that, now I have a justification for the expense of a moonlander.
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