by Chris Dugan
I was a slow convert to Snow biking. When I came downstairs at Christmas and saw the new Surly Pugsley “Black Ops” snow bike next to the tree, I thought “oh crap-another bike-where the hell are we going to put it?”. (We have bikes everywhere-we can barely park in our garage). So when Trish, my wife (and bike addict) suggested we bring our snow bikes to Rochester the day after Christmas, I was neutral on the idea. When we got to Rochester, and found a half foot of fresh snow on the ground, I immediately thought “this is gym weather. It’s indoor cycling weather. Pool weather. It’s not riding or running outside weather”.
When we got on our bikes and rode across my in-laws’ vast, snowy lawn, I thought “this isn’t so bad…” Then we crossed into some nearby woods, and got onto some mild single track. I was impressed at the way the big knobby tires gripped the snow. And at the way they absorbed shock. If you like your 29er, you’ll love snow bikes. The tires are massive, so it doesn’t matter much what’s underneath the snow. At one point, we cracked through some thin ice and were suddenly up to the hubs in water. My pug churned through it, crunching through the crust, gripping the mud and shooting out a rooster tail of water behind me. Suddenly, I was smiling.
Trish stopped to take a photo of the trail we had made through the otherwise undisturbed blanket of snow. If you’ve ever gotten up early to leave your tracks on a ski slope, you know how satisfying it is to break trail. If you love to ski out of bounds, through the glades, you’ll feel the same sensation as you inevitably lose the trail, and freewheel through the thin brush.
We broke out of the woods onto an old grass landing strip. I downshifted and picked up my RPMs, leaning forward into the wind as my big wheels rolled through the drifting snow. It was twilight, and the field had that quiet peaceful sensation, as the snow absorbs all the ambient sound. We popped out onto the canal trail, and upshifted. You can really open it up on a flat trail-we were cranking through the packed powder at about 15MPH, laughing at the absurdity of being on our bikes in Central New York on December 26th.
But that’s the beauty of the snow bike for people in the Northern latitudes. It enables us to recast winter. There doesn’t have to be an indoor season anymore. The same conditions that forced you to go to spin class last year are now a good catalyst to get your gore-tex on and get outside.
Today, as I was riding through the woods near my house, I saw an archway of trees, bent over & heavy with freshly fallen snow. I put my head down and blasted through them, sending snow flying everywhere, and emerging from the grove looking like a Yeti. I looked up and saw a snowshoer, who was laughing at me. “Look at you-you are a nut! “ As I hopped over a log and pulled alongside him, he stopped to admire the bike. “Wow, look at those tires. That thing really handles the snow well. That’s really an awesome bike, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it really is an awesome bike” , I said. Then I looked downhill, couldn’t detect where the trail went anymore, so I just aimed my bike down the hill, figuring I’d find it eventually. Or not.