Remember what it was like to be a kid and just go out and play? That’s what I think of when I get the chance to ride in the snow. It’s not exactly steady and it takes some effort, but it’s a lot of fun. I’ve had several memorable rides in the snow, but one sticks out a little more than the others.
It was Thanksgiving Day several years back. Overnight, the skies had opened up and put a thick blanket of snow on the ground. I headed out with a few friends on the Des Plaines River trail. It’s a flat, pea gravel trail with plenty of twists and turns, which we usually ride at speed. This day the ride slowed significantly as we pedaled through the thick snow. The reduced speed allowed us to take in the breathtaking sights as the branches of the trees bent down over the trail with the weight of the snow, creating an archway to ride through – absolutely beautiful!Photo Credit: http://animaliaproject.org/
We rode two-by-two and mostly in a straight line. Sometimes, as the snow tugged at our front wheels we slid towards each other. No one overreacted, but instead just gently guided ourselves back on track.We didn’t make it too far that day, in comparison to other days on the trails, but we had so much fun and certainly earned our holiday dinner.
If you haven’t tried riding in the snow because you’re afraid, don’t be. As long as you’re prepared, you’ll have fun, stay safe and build new skills that will be of value in whatever kind of riding you do. Here are some things to consider if you’re going to head out on your first ride in the snow.
Equipment – I would recommend riding a bike that will give you plenty of confidence. A mountain or cyclo-cross bike with adequate tread on the tires would be my pick. There are also specialty fat bikes with tires a good three or four inches wide, like a Surley Pugsley. They’re a little like a bulldozer and will get you through just about anything, but unless you’re always going to ride in snow or sand, a more versatile bike will be just fine.
Clothing – You’ll want to dress to accommodate the cold, but since you’ll be working hard as you push through the snow, you’ll want to layer a little lighter so you don’t end up melting. Overdressing and the overheating that comes along with it may not seem like a problem, but if you find yourself having to stop for any period of time, any sweat you’ve built up can turn cold and make it very hard to get warm again.
Route – If this is your first time riding in the snow, you’ll want to select a course that’s right for you to begin. I would recommend a flat, pea gravel trail. Paved trails have the potential to be slick and if you fall, it’s probably going to hurt. The best conditions are just after or during a light powdery snowfall. A wet snow is more work, but equally fun. Anything more than an inch or two and the effort required can go up significantly, unless you’re on a fat bike. If the snow has been around for a couple of days, chances are others have ridden on it and have left a trail. Often, that snow can freeze overnight and the trails left by others can turn into frozen ruts. On a fat bike, the ruts probably won’t be an issue, but on most other bikes, the ride will become significantly more technical.
So pick your bike, your clothing and your route and set your next goal to take on an adventure and ride in the snow. It’s fun!Francine Haas is an accomplished athlete in both triathlon and cycling disciplines. She began her cycling career in 1983 as a triathlete and turned her focus to cycling in 1999. She has earned numerous accolades, including state championships on the road, track and cyclo-cross. In 2002, Francine began a campaign to empower women in cycling by hosting clinics, group rides and promoting bike racing. Francine has encouraged many women to go far beyond their expectations.