Exploring the wide world of winter biking
February 18, 2017
BRECKENRIDGE — It's February and the sun is shining. Do you miss mountain biking already?
As winter rolls on, a tear might roll down your face every time you pass by your bike collecting dust in the garage. Of course you love your skis or snowboard, but that feeling of ripping around banked turns and gliding through the trees on a mountain bike lingers while the snow is 3 feet deep.
Don't fret — I've found three winter solutions to your biking blues with ski biking, snow biking and fat biking.
What are snow bikes?
I am sure you have seen someone riding a bike on snow at one point and said to yourself, "I'd really like to try that one day."
In the U.S. and Colorado, we tend to refer to "snow bikes" as a type of bike with fat tires that you can ride on snow. A few of these names are interchangeable, however, and Austrian manufacturer Brenter has even trademarked the name SnowBike.
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The original Brenter SnowBike was designed for sitting down. Steering and braking are controlled by small skis you attach to your ski or snowboard boots. These bikes are allowed on chairlifts, have two skis mounted to a frame and are perfect for beginners.
If you are brand new to the sport of snow biking and want to quickly advance into tree riding, I suggest renting a snow bike. If you're looking for a safe, fun way to go biking on the slopes at any age and ability, they're an entry-level introduction and perfect for the family. The learning curve is gentle, even if you've never been skiing or snowboarding before.
What are ski bikes?
Similar to the Brenter SnowBike, a ski bike comes with two skis and can be taken on resort ski runs. Riders use the chairlift to reach the top and descend as you would on a downhill mountain bike.
But the two are far from the same thing. Unlike a snow bike, ski bikes are ridden by standing upright on fixed pedals, or pegs. Devon Lenz, a Colorado local and engineer by trade, followed his passion and started manufacturing ski bikes. He specifically engineered his models to fit comfortably on a chairlift without a cumbersome hook system. Lenz Sport Bicycles are similar to downhill mountain bikes and come equipped with both front and rear shocks. They're handmade from the ground up and mountain tested here in Colorado.
Get out and ride
Whether you've never been on a ski run, lived in the mountains for years or have simply given up skiing due to wear and tear, I almost guarantee you will fall in love with ski biking or snow biking. They're perfect for people with knee replacements, aging joints and even adaptive riders.
The best way to get started is with a rental and a lesson or tour. I had the pleasure of going out with professional ski-bike guide (as well as downhill mountain-bike instructor) Lindsay Tralene Yost.
For our first lesson, we learned about the mechanics of how the ski bike works. I picked up the basics on "red terrain," otherwise known as the bunny slope, making J-turns and learning how to stop. Remember: ski bikes don't have brakes, and instead rely on edging to stop, just like skiing or riding.
Beyond the basics
Ski biking and snow bikes are made for people who love downhill and cross-country mountain biking. You get a similar sensation riding down the slopes, and once you master the basics there are plenty of ways to push your skills: in the trees, on the steeps, over cliffs — just about anywhere else.
If you are interested in getting into the sport of ski biking, the Purgatory SkiBike Festival comes to Durango Mountain Resort from Feb. 24-26. For more information, contact Randy Kimball at (505) 350-9835 or email@example.com.
Touring Main on fat bikes
Not quite ready to go downhilling on snow? A few local bike shops rent fat bikes and offer fat-bike tours. There are plenty of bike models now made for groomed Nordic trails and singletrack. At Ridden in Breckenridge, I had a chance to get on a high-quality carbon fiber frame from Colorado bike manufacturer Borealis. These bikes retail between $3,000 and $5,000 — the tour might as well be a demo for top-of-the-line bikes. The Ridden models also come with Surly bud tires, hydraulic disc brakes and bells from Australia that are so low profile, you'll hardly notice them until they ring.
Ridden launched the fat-bike tours to bring a bit of magic to Breckenridge. Winter biking isn't just for hardcore cyclists — it's for anyone and everyone.