As many ski resorts are closed and lifts stay out of operation, cycling remains an enjoyable winter alternative. The other advantage is that unlike cross-country skiing, MTB cycling does not require groomed tracks. Especially e-bikes offer perfect fun for the whole family as they are capable of towing up to 4 kids on a sledge or bobsleigh (as seen in the photo). Professional biker Richard Gasperotti tells you how to enjoy a winter ride at its best.
To those who decided to try out cycling on snow, I’d recommend replacing regular pedals with platforms that comfortably accommodate even the oversized winter shoes. Following the experiences of off-road drivers, slightly lessening the pressure in the tyres helps to gain better traction. Some bikers even choose tyres fitted with metal spikes that bite into the ice to prevent skidding. On a continuous layer of snow in Scandinavia, I would put them on too but the spikes can turn into a disadvantage on a mixed surface. Take extra care to lubricate the chain, which is exposed to the moisture from the snow and the aggressive salt from the road grit.
Also, pay attention to brakes. The rotors get covered in snow, which thaws and turns into ice after a short time of not braking, resulting in dwindled efficiency through the very first moments of your braking efforts. Therefore, remove the thin ice layer by hitting the brake lever lightly from time to time during the ride. If you travel by car, a small broom comes in handy to sweep the bike off snow after the ride to keep the boot dry.
The tour planning
If you are used to riding on a favourite trail, arrange the very first snowy ride so that you can return home on a normal road in case of fatigue, which is far better than an exhausting ride through snowdrifts.
Battery capacity limited
Cold and frost are no good for batteries as you might have already learned due to your mobile phone. If you expect to travel by car, transport a fully-charged battery separately inside the vehicle. According to my experience, I’ve estimated that a low temperature under zero °C can reduce the battery capacity by roughly 20%. Given that, the average length of your trip should be cut by a fifth to prevent being left in the middle of snowed-under nowhere without motor assistance.
Appropriate clothing for cycling on snow should be considered even more seriously than in any other part of the year. It is necessary to protect the front part of the body, especially the chest. The combination of technical/thermal underwear or a woollen T-shirt with a wind-stopper layer and jacket is advisable. Don’t forget to put on a helmet as you never know what obstacle has been left under the snow cover. You can also crash unexpectedly on ice.
While the integral helmet offers comfort by covering the entire head, regular helmet users are recommended to put a cap or a balaclava underneath to stay away from cold. Because the human body draws its warmth to internal organs in winter, fingertips freeze quickly. Therefore, before you embark on your cycling on snow session, put on winter shoes, cosy socks and insulated gloves. I take one extra top layer in my backpack, which I fish out whenever I stop to prevent the low outside temperature from cooling down the sweat covering my body.
Even if the sensation of thirst is not as urgent as in summer, you’ll sweat a lot and lose lots of water. To stay hydrated, insulated bottles to fit in the bike cage are available, yet I’d personally fill a vacuum flask with tea and carry it in my backpack. Even though Camel Bags are great in summer, the tube might get frozen and thus obstructed after a while of riding in temperatures below zero.