Once upon a time, folks parked their bikes whereas hibernating in the course of the snowy months and dreamed unhappy goals of the fun of using. Those days are historical past, thanks to two trendy improvements: studded tires that may be swapped onto most bicycles for snowy treks, and fat-tired bikes that permit us to scoff at winter’s supposed hazards.
The outdated “off-season” is now top-of-the-line seasons to journey.
Just ask Alexandera Houchin, all-round excessive bicyclist. Among different races, she’s gained the 2,745-mile Tour Divide from Canada to Mexico over the Continental Divide — twice, that’s, in 2018 and 2019 — and been labeled a “force of nature” in ultra-endurance racing. A citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Minnesota, she’s additionally a devotee of winter biking.
“I appreciate winter cycling as a means of transportation, for sure,” Houchin says. She’s a confirmed year-round commuter and exerciser, and a former bike messenger.
But together with snowshoeing and cross-country snowboarding, she loves simply getting out within the winter wonderland and ripping. “The solitude of biking on a snowy single-track trail is magical.”
Many snow-laden cities now boast miles of well-kept bike paths and separated bike lanes; groomed off-road trails are carved by way of parks and forests. And winter bikers know these routes are sometimes plowed earlier than automotive lanes — they usually keep clearer, as a result of they’re not encumbered by salt or chunks of snow.
Best of all, a lot of the time you’ll have these routes to your self — or take pleasure in a way of camaraderie among the many different winter riders you do meet.
Those two improvements talked about earlier? They provide other ways to get by way of the snow.
Winter tires characteristic knobby treads (for coping with the white stuff) and metal studs (to get a grip on ice and different slippery terrain). You can match studded tires onto your summer season journey or purchase a cheapo second bike to use solely within the winter.
Single-speed, cyclocross, and mountain bikes are excellent. These skinnier-tired bikes knife by way of snow — however they’ll get slowed down in snow deeper than the underside bracket.
Fat-tired bikes include or with out studded tires. They compress and journey atop the snow . . . more often than not. They can also get caught in deep drifts, after which they’re a exercise simply to push.
“Winters make us all a little tougher,” says Houchin. “One way to get through the season is to really get outside and appreciate it. Cold weather isn’t bad, it’s invigorating. If we can thrive — and not simply endure — in the wintry bliss, we come out stronger.”
Winter-Biking Tips & Drills
Sort Your Ride
Certain bikes work higher in sure situations, says Houchin. “Fat biking on trails can be utterly mystical. It’s almost like you’re flying in the clouds. The trees rush past faster than if you were on snowshoes or skis. But having a fat bike doesn’t mean you can ride through any type of snow: Trails need to be groomed or plowed.”
For commuting, many riders go for single-speed bikes, as a result of they’ve much less drivetrain to get clogged or rusted with snow and salt. Houchin prefers the Jedi method — a fixed-gear bicycle (together with her legs offering the braking energy by way of backpedaling, permitting her extra management).
And she swears by studded tires. “Studded tires are wondrous — ice hides in the sneakiest places, and fat-bike tires are slippery when not studded. Also, slushy, soggy days call for a fully fendered bike, which is easier to do on a regular ol’ steel junker.”
If you could have to cope with ice, studs are as important as mittens. Less-expensive tires characteristic metal studs, which put on out — and rust — extra rapidly. Better tires use carbide tips. And with studs, you possibly can even really feel protected using throughout a frozen lake.
Either means, eschew clip-in pedals; hold your ft free for while you start to slide out.
Traction vs. Stability
With studded tires, bicycles typically boast higher traction than even all-wheel-drive automobiles, vans, or SUVs. But as a result of you could have solely two wheels, you could have solely half the soundness — and narrower tires most likely subtract much more.
The key to countering that is stability. Ride along with your derrière positioned effectively again over your bike’s weight-center to hold each your wheels planted. And don’t lean too far over the handlebars: Going uphill, your rear wheel will lose traction and spin out. And when you strike deep snow, you possibly can find yourself chickening out over the bars.
If you possibly can afford just one studded tire (they’re dearer than common tires), match it to your entrance wheel: You need the safety of fine grip, whereas your rear wheel, with all the facility going to it, is sure to slide a bit regardless of how balanced you might be.
Finally, journey relaxed. “Let the bike find its path forward and do little micro-corrections as you go,” advises professional mountain-bike racer Selene Yeager, writer of quite a few biking books.
Winter biking isn’t about muscle: It’s about that balanced, relaxed stance, and an adventurous way of thinking.
Like operating in sand, using in snow requires extra power — gobs extra. Houchin prepares by cross-country snowboarding and snowshoeing, in addition to bike using and racing all through the balmy months.
Conversely, she makes use of winter biking to prepared herself for summertime jaunts just like the Tour Divide.
“I am a huge fan of HIIT [high-intensity interval training],” she says. “I write a list of 10 exercises — burpees or jumping jacks, for example — and set a timer with one minute ‘on’ and 40 seconds rest. I do as much of the first exercise on the list as I can in the minute, then repeat with the next exercise.” (For a HIIT exercise, see “The 6-Minute Sweat Workout”.)
Dress for Success
As the smart outdated saying goes, there’s no such factor as unhealthy climate, simply unhealthy gear.
“If you’re going trail riding, dress in layers: You get hot real quick while pushing hard to climb on your snow bike,” says Houchin. “Do a five-minute warm-up near your car or house and if you feel warm enough, ditch a layer before you hit the trail. Even better, bring a backpack to stuff layers into.”
When you gown, consider the outside being 20 levels hotter than it’s; start out using feeling ever-so-slightly chilly.
And there’s no proper or mistaken means: Many winter bikers make their very own hacks for gear, from custom-building winter bikes to assembling the weatherproof clothes that fits them.
“You don’t need fancy gear to ride your bike in the winter,” says Houchin. “Get some flat pedals [without clips], wear your snow boots, and ride!”
This article initially appeared in Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness journal.