If you love to ride fat bikes (mountain bikes with oversized wheels) and want to be able to go mountain biking in the snow, there are several things to keep in mind. While mountain bikes are designed for rough terrain and to be ridden in many different places and during different seasons, you still need to make sure you are prepared for winter riding.
If you are wondering if you can ride your mountain bike in the snow and ice, read these points below to find out.
What to Consider When Riding Your Mountain Bike in the Snow
Riding a mountain bike in the snow may not be the best option, but it’s not impossible. If you plan to ride your mountain bike in the snow, you should think about how you can do so while still staying safe and enjoying yourself.
Here are some things to keep in mind when mountain biking in the snow and ice:
The Firmness of the Snow
One thing you should consider is whether or not the snow you will be going on is firm enough. Sometimes, the snow is steady and firm enough to ride on without the bike sinking down into it.
If the surface area of the deep snow is large enough, you may be able to pedal on it and travel across the packed surface of the frozen ground easily. Only ride on firm ground and avoid creating ruts that you could ride over later.
Crusty snow (when old, melted snow hardens into a crust at night), when it’s thick, is ideal to ride on.
The Deepness of the Snow
In freezing weather, the snow can come down quickly, and it can get very deep without you even noticing. The deeper the snow, the deeper you will sink.
The deep stuff can look like packed snow but can actually be really loose and have a fairly tacky surface that makes it hard to ride on. Riding early before the snow gets too deep and when you’ll still find firm snow, or packed snow, is a good idea.
The later you go out, the more likely you are to encounter soft snow or slushy snow, as well as deeper snow. Fresh snow won’t allow for a smooth ride and will most likely make your winter adventure less safe.
The Nature of the Landscape
If you have never gone on a summer ride, it might not be a good idea to go on your first ride in the middle of winter when the ground is covered in deep snow. Only hit trails you know or typically ride in other seasons.
Mountain biking in the winter can be fun, but you need to be aware of the conditions in the areas you’re going to come across on your mountain bike. Make sure you are familiar with the layout of the landscape and know where there are hazards and obstacles.
Mountain bikes are made for all types of terrain but, sometimes, snowy terrain can be too much in the winter months. Knowing the landscape will make for a safer and smoother ride.
Although, there is such a thing called hike-a-bike, which is when you hoist your bike onto your back and hike with it. This is usually done when the terrain is too steep or difficult to ride on, but it’s not for everyone.
When you ride, you need to be aware of the speed you’re going, especially in the snow. You can’t go as fast as you would normally go, and you aren’t likely to gain traction in the snow.
Riding in the snow can be like crossing wet cement. The snow gets wet and sloppy, which means it’s difficult to stop and steer, so it’s best to avoid riding fast in the snow.
What Supplies Are Needed When Riding a Mountain Bike in the Snow?
When you are planning on going on a winter ride, you need to make sure you are wearing all the necessary gear and have all the right supplies. You will definitely need warm clothing and safety gear.
You will want to be able to move but also stay warm. It’s best to wear a down jacket, ski goggles, a snowboard helmet or normal bike helmet, snow boots, hiking boots or specific winter riding boots, and even a face mask.
You can wear padded bike shorts under your pants and wear hiking boots instead of riding boots if you choose. A snowboard helmet basically protects you the same as a regular bike helmet and is ideal for wearing in the snow.
Also make sure your ski goggles fit perfectly so you can see out of them while riding. Your upper body should be able to move easily in order to steer properly. It’s a good idea to invest in a GoreTex ski shell jacket.
What Are Some Common Issues When Using a Mountain Bike in the Snow?
Riding in the snow can be a lot of fun, but the snow and dirt create some different, and sometimes difficult, conditions. You could lose traction and get in an accident if you aren’t aware of the common problems.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for your next ride in the snow:
You already know that snow can be slippery when driving a car, but did you know it can also be slippery while on a bike? Plus, the wide tires of a car provide more traction than the skinny wheels on bikes.
The flat pedals also make it hard to keep your feet on the pedals, meaning you could be losing traction while trying to get in the right pedal position too. Studded tires can help you gain more track or a fat-tire bike may be a good option.
A typical skinny mtb won’t be heavy enough to handle wet or slick surfaces, and a skinny bike is more likely to slip and slide on the road. Even fat bike tracks are sometimes hard to control.
A rear-wheel drive bike will help you drive fat bikes on slippery surfaces more easily.
If you are riding a fat bike in the winter, you need to be prepared for how cold it will be. In the cold, adjust tire pressure and use gloves and other cold-weather clothing to help keep you warm.
Keep in mind that it’s not just about being cold while riding fat bikes, but about how cold you might be if you happen to get stranded or if your fat bike gets damaged in an accident and you have to walk back home.
In the winter there could be a lot of hidden obstacles. The snow and ice can hide them and fat bikes can easily crash into them.
Riding skinny bikes also means it’s more difficult to stop and you can easily slide into obstacles.
If you’re riding one in powdery snow, it tends to leave deep paths. And if you turn around to retrace your route, the rut your bike made turns into almost an obstacle.
Keep in mind that you may not be the only one out riding in the winter. If you are going to go on public trails, watch out for other bikers.
Always look and listen to make sure you are following the rules and aren’t putting anyone else in harm’s way while riding.
Safety Tips for Winter Activities
If you plan to ride fat bikes in the winter, you need to think about what you need to do to stay safe while outdoors. This applies when riding bikes and for other general winter activities.
Tell Someone Where You Are Going
No matter what time of year it is, it’s a good idea to tell someone where you are going. That way, if you happen to get stranded or lost, someone will know where to look for you.
This is especially important in the winter as the longer you are exposed to the cold, the worse your situation can become.
When you are planning to head outdoors in the winter, you should always be dressed properly. Make sure you are wearing warm weather-proof clothing that is also safe for riding.
Know the area where you are going and be aware of winter hazards. If you are planning to spend time on a trail or road, make sure you watch out for traffic.
If you are going to be hiking in the mountains or riding bikes in mountainous areas, be aware of avalanches and snow drifts.
Watch the Weather
The weather can change quickly in the winter, so be sure to watch the forecast and pay attention to the weather around you. If you see bad weather rolling in, be sure to seek shelter immediately.
Bring a Pack
If you are going to be outside for long periods of time in the winter, be sure to bring a pack that has everything you need.
This should include bottled water, snacks, and even a change of clothes. Flashlights, first aid kits, and matches also come in handy in an emergency outdoor situation.
Safety Tips for Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is fun most seasons but you need to be aware of the common safety precautions you should take to ensure your mountain bikes are ready for the road and your fat bike trips are fun.
Here are some mountain bike safety tips to keep in mind.
Always check to make sure your mountain bike tires have the proper tire pressure and are gaining traction. You may even want to use fatter tires so your bike can handle the road better; fat bike tires have tire pressures of less than 10 PSI.
You always need to check the tire pressure before you go riding.
Always wear protective gear when bike tracking so you have some protection if you’re injured in an accident. There are many different types of gear to wear, but make sure you at least have a helmet and knee and elbow pads.
You can also get specially designed gloves that leave a couple fingers out so you can squeeze the hand brakes more easily. You can easily order the gear you need online, or find it at a local sporting goods store or any other place that carries biking supplies.
Avoid riding mountain bikes in areas where you have never been or where it is not safe. Be aware of the landscape and the weather so you can plan for your trip properly and reduce your chances of being in an accident or having a bad bike experience.
You need to make sure your bike is in good condition before you take it out riding in the winter. Check the tires, handlebars, chains, pedals, and brakes to ensure they are ready for winter riding.
If you do notice any problems, be sure to repair the bike straight away, and never take your bike out on the trails if there is an issue. You don’t want your bike to break down and to land up stranded in the cold.
When you are thinking about riding a mountain bike in the winter or on the snow, you can’t just get up and go, there are a lot of things that need to be done beforehand. And while mountain biking in the winter may be a lot of fun, if you aren’t careful, it can also be dangerous.
So, be sure to implement the safety measures above before you set off on your winter biking adventure.