Riding in snow and ice with your e-bike: A thrilling winter experience
Do you store your e-bike in the garage as temperatures drop and snowflakes start to fall? You may believe that it’s dangerous or even impossible to ride in harsh winter conditions. However, we are here to show you that e-bikes can actually be the perfect tool for navigating snow and ice. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself eagerly grabbing your e-bike and embarking on magical winter rides…
Awe-Inspiring Snow Riding
The Best eBike for Winter
The suitability of an e-bike for winter riding depends on the type of weather you experience. For instance, I have personally ridden an electric powered Brompton with a front hub motor and thin road tires through snowy terrain. This setup possesses all the characteristics that you would least desire in an e-bike for snowy or icy conditions. Nevertheless, it serves as proof of what is achievable. When it comes to e-biking in snow and ice, the size and design of the wheels and tires (or “tyres” in the UK) are crucial. Ideally, e-bikes for winter riding should have:
- Large wheels that provide a wider contact patch, resulting in increased grip
- Tires with a larger volume and aggressive tread, further expanding the contact patch and enhancing grip
- In extremely icy conditions or on heavily compacted snow, studded tires offer the ultimate level of traction. If you reside in an area with a consistently wintry climate, investing in studded ice tires could give you the confidence to venture out in any conditions.
Surprising Grip with Narrow Tires
While it may surprise you, even narrow road tires with some tread can offer reliable traction on fresh snow, as demonstrated here. However, it is important to note that electric road bikes and other frame designs with narrow fork drop-outs cannot accommodate wider tires. Therefore, they are at a disadvantage when faced with heavier snow and ice. Nonetheless, I have frequently ventured out during winter on my e-powered Brompton, equipped with regular Schwalbe Marathon commuting tires, even with patchy or thin layers of snow and ice on the ground. Many road and e-road bike riders find that switching from “skinny” summer tires to winter tires with slightly more width and tread can make a significant difference when encountering moderate amounts of snow and ice.
Various Snow Conditions Call for Different eBikes
On one end of the spectrum, you may prefer riding on heavily compacted snow and ice-covered roads before transitioning to lightly used bike paths that require navigating deeper, uncompacted snow. In such scenarios, a trekking style e-bike equipped with the widest possible tires will truly shine. Even more capable would be an e-mtb with plus width tires, typically ranging from 2.8 to 3.25 inches in width (although there is no fixed definition). Finally, the ultimate option would be fat bike tires, exceeding 3.25 inches in width, specially designed to effortlessly glide over loose surfaces such as sand, deep mud, and powdery snow. So, choose the appropriate e-bike that suits your desired winter riding conditions and witness the wonders it can bring to your cycling adventures.
Why 20-Inch Wheels Might Not Be Ideal for Snow Riding, But The Kalkhoff E-Bike Proves Otherwise
When it comes to riding in snowy conditions, the choice of wheels becomes crucial. While 20-inch wheels may not be the obvious choice for snow riding, the Kalkhoff compact style e-bike defies expectations with its wide-profile tires that offer excellent grip on fresh snow. This innovation, which is copyrighted by Richard Peace, ensures that riders can confidently navigate through snowy terrains.
The Advantages of Wide Tires in Modern E-Bikes for Snow Riding
It is worth mentioning that many modern e-bikes are equipped with wide tires, even on the heavier models that weigh 20kg or more. This feature serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it provides a suspension effect, adding some level of comfort while riding. Secondly, it plays a crucial role when riding on snowy surfaces. In the Riding Technique section below, you will find further information on optimizing tire pressure for snow riding.
The Retro Charm of the Rear Wheel Vintage IZIP Kit Drive
Surprisingly, even a vintage IZIP e-bike with a rear wheel kit drive can handle a few inches of snow, as long as it is equipped with standard mountain bike tires and the throttle control is used with precision. Richard Peace, the copyright holder, confirms the successful performance of this retro e-bike.
Mid-Drives and Rear Hubs: Optimal Choices for Winter Riding
For riders seeking optimal performance in trickier winter riding conditions, mid-drives are highly recommended. These motor setups ensure weight is well-balanced and positioned low, allowing for improved stability. Rear wheel hubs can also be a reliable choice, although some dedicated winter e-bikers express concerns about possible wheel spin and loss of traction with front wheel hubs. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that factors such as wheel size, bike weight distribution, riding technique, and the ability to judge conditions all contribute to the overall performance of an e-bike in snowy and icy conditions. In fact, with a simple tire swap, most e-bikes can handle moderately snowy and icy terrains. However, for those tackling extremely thick snow, a powerful mid-drive is the ultimate choice.
The Role of Large Batteries in Winter Riding
During winter riding, large batteries prove their worth. However, it is important to note that their performance might be slightly impacted by the cold weather, resulting in reduced range. Additionally, pushing through snow, especially on e-fat bikes, requires significantly more effort, leading to increased power consumption. Therefore, compared to riding in benign summer conditions, riders should expect to at least double their power consumption when riding in the winter.
The Versatility of Class 2 Bikes for Off-Roading in Snow
Class 2 bikes equipped with throttle-only control offer great advantages when venturing off-road in thicker snow conditions. Navigating through uncertain terrains hidden beneath the snow becomes easier when relying solely on throttle control. This eliminates the need to pedal simultaneously, providing better balance and control.
Discover the Thrill of Winter E-Triking on a Babboe Tilting E-Trike with Mid-Drive
For a unique and exhilarating winter riding experience, consider the Babboe tilting e-trike with a mid-drive system. This innovative e-trike, featured on thismomsbikes, promises to deliver a thrilling and unforgettable winter adventure.
Exploring the Benefits of Babboe’s E-Trike for Carrying Heavier Loads and Children on Snow
What if you could navigate through snowy terrain with ease while carrying heavier loads and your precious little ones? Thismomsbikes believes they have discovered the perfect solution in the form of Babboe’s innovative e-trike. Designed to provide extra stability, this tricycle promises to revolutionize your winter biking experience. Let me introduce you to the insightful words of Sara Hastings-Simon, the author of the article:
“I must admit, I am quite a cautious (or rather, anxious) biker during winter, whether my children are with me or not. However, this trike has truly solved all my worries. It exudes a sense of solidity that is simply unmatched. I can ride it effortlessly with no hands, steer using my elbows, or simply lean back and relax at red lights. Occasionally, I’ve even managed to skid the back wheel a bit when I pushed its limits on icy surfaces, but I have never experienced any significant instability. Gone are the days of constantly checking the frost bike report or anxiously navigating icy patches. While it is not essential to own a trike for transporting kids or riding in snow and ice—I know many happy individuals who do it without difficulty—if you find yourself hesitant and tense while riding, this trike is the perfect answer. It offers an unparalleled feeling of freedom and stability that releases all the stress from your shoulders, leaving you and your body grateful for this remarkable purchase. Even when I don’t have the kids, I continue to use it confidently on snow and ice.”
Mastering the Art of Riding on Snow and Ice
When venturing into the wintery landscape, it is crucial to adapt your typical e-bike behavior. Luckily, most of these adjustments simply require common sense and do not demand any advanced riding skills beyond what most e-bikers possess.
First and foremost, slow down and adopt a gentler approach to pedaling, steering, and braking. Abrupt movements, quick starts, and sudden stops exert more pressure on your tire’s contact patch, leading to a higher risk of skidding. This caution is especially vital if you do not own an e-mountain bike or an e-fat bike, or if you lack studded tires. If your e-bike is equipped with a throttle control option, apply it gradually and with great care.
Having a wide range of gears at your disposal can significantly aid in this endeavor. Pedal pressure can be adjusted gently at different speeds, which is obviously impossible with a single-speed bike.
“For effortless progress on the firm, compacted trail of ‘dry’ snow, look for bikes with large wheels, broad treaded commuting tires, and a delicate balance of power, gears, and steering” – Richard Peace (All rights reserved).
Additionally, decreasing tire pressures could enhance traction on snow and ice. As a general rule of thumb, reducing the recommended tire pressure by approximately 50% can grant you around 50% better grip in soft conditions. However, if you are navigating very hard-packed areas or transitioning to asphalt, this reduction may be excessive. It’s worth noting that fat bike tires can operate at pressures of fewer than 5 psi in extremely soft conditions. If you anticipate encountering substantial ice on a regular basis, investing in a spare pair of studded tires designed for winter use is undeniably the wise choice. Check out Schwalbe’s Ice Spiker Pro for excellent reviews. And to witness the impressive level of grip these tires can provide, take a moment to watch the following video (though not specifically about e-mountain biking, these tires perform equally well on e-bikes):[Click here to watch the video showcasing the gripping power of Schwalbe’s Ice Spiker Pro](https://www.bikemag.com/blog/schwalbe_ice_spiker_pro/)
Once you gain expertise, you never know, you might just discover yourself venturing out in the snowy terrain just for the sheer pleasure of experimenting with the capabilities of the Surly Big Easy e-bike…
Understanding the Weather Conditions
Experienced e-bikers in winter possess the ability to identify the ideal type of snow for riding! (Photo: Surly)
Experienced riders comprehend the fact that snow can actually become your ally and offer traction – particularly if it is fresh and powdery, before it begins to melt and turn slushy. Conversely, ice is generally considered an adversary. Deeply grooved tires provide some assistance, while metal studded tires are superior. The most effective strategy for riding on ice is to cautiously navigate at a slow pace without pedaling, if possible. In situations where pedaling is necessary, it is advised to choose the lowest power level and pedal gently, utilizing a low gear and maintaining a high cadence.
Ultimately, it all boils down to acknowledging the reality that winter riding is not limited to a single type of condition – the circumstances beneath your wheels can vary significantly. Therefore, it is essential to equip your e-bike according to the prevailing conditions you are likely to encounter during the winter season. The key is to ride carefully yet frequently, gaining familiarity with the local conditions – knowing which roads are regularly cleared, identifying those that tend to remain perilously icy for extended periods, and discovering the most enjoyable trails!
Personally, I have a strong preference for off-road terrains in parks, bike paths, and trails after a fresh snowfall. One advantage is the absence of motor vehicles, which pose additional risks following snowy weather. If I require a swift journey on the road, I often opt for main roads, which I would typically avoid. In most cases, unless the conditions are abysmal, these roads are cleared of snow and the heat emitted by car exhausts aids in melting the remaining snow, allowing me to ride on the smooth tarmac. Nevertheless, I intentionally seek out less frequented trails, especially when fresh snow is present.
Either way, you may discover a profound attachment to winter riding and realize its practical advantages as well. As highlighted in this compelling article on e-biking during winter, “Another benefit is commuting on the Big Easy during a Minnesota winter. Riding to work in very cold and snowy weather is taxing and requires a bigger time commitment. Having electric assist allows me to maintain similar commute times and keeps me fresh on days I want to ride my other bikes for fun. On heavy snow days, I often get to work faster than driving. It is a great feeling passing long lines of cars stuck in traffic due to snowy roads.”
Ensuring the Well-being of Your eBike in Winter
Of course, cycling in snow is not solely about the actual riding. You must also ensure that your e-bike is well-maintained to withstand the harsh environment, and take necessary precautions for your own safety while riding. Here are my top tips:
Tips for Winter Battery Care
- Ensure your battery stays warm – not just by storing it indoors, but also consider purchasing a neoprene cover or a similar accessory recommended by experts. These protective covers are known to effectively extend your winter range.
- Prevent chain corrosion on salty roads by carrying a small bottle of wet chain lube. Regularly applying this lube to your bike’s chain will help keep it rust-free.
- Combat the chills during winter rides by investing in suitable warm clothing. However, don’t overlook the importance of keeping your hands toasty. For the coldest winters, try using pogies or mitt bar attachments. These handy accessories shield your hands from biting winds while allowing you to wear thinner gloves underneath. This way, you can easily operate control buttons without the hassle of bulkier gloves.
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