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10 Worst Mistakes to Make Winter Riding

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Jan. 6, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM EDT
It's never too cold to ride if you dress right. Photo: Eszter Horanyi

Common Sense

6. Letting hands go non-functional

There’s only one thing worse than a flat tire: A flat tire when your hands are too numb to use tire irons and a pump. There’s always a bit of a temptation to let numbness take away the pain of coldness especially on a road or cross bike where shifting and braking can be done using whole-hand movement rather than thumb movements needed for trigger shifters on a mountain bike. It’s always easier to bring cold hands back to life than it is frozen hands (and it hurts a lot less, too) so when you start to feel the functionality draining from your fingers, stop and employ one of the many hand-warming techniques developed by skiers: the arm flap, the bear hugs, the clenching and unclenching fists, etc.

The same goes for feet. Don’t be ashamed of running for 100 steps next to your bike will immediately return circulation to cold feet.

7. Riding on closed Nordic trails

One of the most ideal locations to ride a snow bike is on groomed Nordic trails. Currently, the majority of Nordic centers do not allow snow bikes on their trails but the general attitude towards fat-bikes is changing. There are many groups working to open Nordic trails around the country to bikes so avoid placing a black mark on cyclists by riding trails illegally. Instead, if there’s a Nordic center in your neighborhood, find out if there’s an organization pushing for fat-bike consideration and join their efforts. If there isn’t a group, start one.

8. Running high tire pressure

Coming from a road racing background, I did my first mountain bike race with 55 psi in my tires. It did not end well. Since tubeless tires, tire pressures have continued to drop, and even with tubes, tires on a snow bike can be run at ridiculously low pressures. While fat bikes will run in the single digits to the low teens, even normal tires can be run in the high teens. Lower tire pressure will greatly increase the contact area with the snow, improving traction and steering control. It will also help soften out bumps left by hikers on packed singletrack trails.

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