Well, it’s finally here. Winter Bicycling is back in Carson City! Just because it’s snowing doesn’t mean you have to garage the bike or get out the living room trainer. There is still much fun to be had outdoors, and it’s probably much more pleasant than most riders would imagine.
Days like Monday, overcast, cold, and snowy, usually make for great winter cycling conditions. As long as it’s not too deep, cold fresh powder has plenty of traction for your knobby mountain bike tires. Snow can transform your everyday trails into something new altogether. While the contour of the land is the same, the scenery, traction, and bike handling are completely different.
On the Monday lunch ride, Scott R, Jon, Jesse, and I climbed the Ash Canyon road up to Deer Run. I had to walk a couple times, but some of the guys pedaled the snow the whole way. A pick-up truck passed us and made a few comments. They couldn’t believe we were up in the canyon on bikes! We thought the same thing about them. One slip, and their truck would be at the bottom of the canyon. If we slipped, we’d just fall over!
We were pretty winded by Deer Run, so we began our descent there. I got squirrelly on a few of the bermed turns, trying to take them like I normally do. You could almost hit full speed in the straights though! I could hear Scott R whooping and hollering up ahead, and I noticed I had a smile on my face the whole way down. The fresh powder provided a whole new experience. You really didn’t know what to expect from the terrain, keeping you on your toes the whole way down.
Pretty much any mountain bike will work for snow biking, but I recommend using a single speed or one of your spare bikes. A simple single speed will collect a lot less snow, and you don’t have to worry about contaminating expensive suspension parts with crud. The single speed’s higher chain line keeps the drive train cleaner too. Some of the more elaborate full suspension designs can collect a lot of snow in all the nooks and crannies. Don’t concern yourself with rotating mass. Big fat knobby tires are your friend in the snow. Leave the semi-slick race tires at home.
Later in the week, I’ll discuss bicycle commuting in the snow. Urban snow riding is quite a bit different than trail riding in the snow. Additionally, the conditions can be quite a bit different early in the morning, but especially after the sun goes down. I hit the ground on an icy patch on the way home last night!