Today I finally had a go at snow cycling, as there’s a thaw on its way. It had to be done, and I set off across the snow-covered fields behind my garden.
Now I know why snow cycling isn’t popular as an extreme sport. It’s boring. If you peddle hard enough you can get a bit of wheel spin, but you have to try. Normal knobbly mountain bike tyres gave me a surprising amount of traction, even on sheet ice. Once moving you’re as stable as anything – no sliding sideways at all. I wasn’t expecting that. Deviating from a straight line when on sheet ice probably wasn’t going to be easy, but I though I’d leave the laws of physics unchallenged.
However, cycling in snow is too much like hard work; like trying to cycle through dry sand. I had thought the wheels would squash the snow flat with no trouble at all in much the same way as a heavy boot punches through the powder, but it really slows you down. It’s probably twice as fast as walking if you can cope with the looks you get that say “What’s that idiot doing riding a bike in these conditions?”. Luckily this doesn’t bother me.
The highest speed attained was 8mph, down hill with the wind behind me. I dare say I could have got more speed on a hard surface, but I was cycling through several inches of snow.
Apparently you can get special studded tyres and even snow chains for riding mountain bikes above the snow line – at least in the USA. I don’t see studs being much use on snow, but they’re bound to make difference on sheet ice.
So, while there’s still some snow around, get out there. I can’t guarantee you won’t hurt yourself but it’ll be a lot more stable than you might think.