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-   -   anyone had experience with snow chains? (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/tech/anyone-had-experience-snow-chains-60138)

mavis cruet 10 Nov 2011 13:51

anyone had experience with snow chains?
right, as it looks like my trip to balmy timbuktu is on hold for i year i thought i might set my sight on the elephant rally instead (!). ive googled snow chains for bikes and seen whats available, but wondered if anyone has had any experience with the different types, or made their own? if im going to use them on my gs then i think clearence between swing arm and wheel will be a concern. also what tyres work best with them, smooth road biased tyres or knobbly trail tyres? its just the begining of an idea thats all....... karl

backofbeyond 12 Nov 2011 08:40

Ha! I'm in much the same boat - No West Africa trip this winter (for financial reasons) but I might consider doing the Elephant (again - I've been four times in the past).

The trouble with the Elephant is that you really need two bikes - something big that's fast enough to get you down the autobahn before the snow melts in the spring and then once you arrive, something small and light that you can manhandle on snow / ice. With the exception of the first time I went I chose the small and light option and lived with the slow cruising speed. I've used knobblies and road tyres and not noticed much difference in the snow fields. I suppose being really honest the knobblies were a bit better on/ in snow and a bit worse in rain. They were both useless on ice. What (kind of) worked was being able to get both feet down flat with the bike still upright - so a low seat height is my mod of choice. That's why I've not gone recently on either of my overlanding bikes as the seat heights are way too high for ice use.

I've never tried anything like snow chains on two wheels but I do use them a lot on my Land Rover in the alps in winter. Generally they are a pain in the a*se. Ok if you're off road and going to be on snow etc for a substantial period but on road you arrive at an icy hill so you spend 15 mins getting covered in crap fitting them, drive a mile with them clanking and banging because you didn't quite tighten them correctly till you get to the end of the icy bit and then spend the next hour worrying whether you should leave them on and wreck them on the now perfectly dry tarmac or whether there's another ice field just around the corner. They do work however but you wouldn't want to be doing much more than 20mph with them on.
On two wheels I have seen many chain look-alikes / substitutes / things lashed up at the side of the road. Some of the German stuff available to buy looks very well engineered but how effective it is I've no idea. My approach has been to choose a bike for the conditions rather than try to mod the problem away. I'm only considering 2012 as someone recently offered me an old 100cc Suzuki for nothing and I though it might work for the Elephant.

dajg 18 Aug 2012 07:23

this guy made his own chains, with straps to clear the swing-arm.


Threewheelbonnie 18 Aug 2012 12:10

Infamy Infamy they've all got it...... :rofl:

Old thread, but in case anyone is thinking of it:

As B of B said the chains are a PITA. I've done one Elefant solo and two on an outfit. Tips would be:

1. You need a bike you can ride in sand, it's pretty similar to snow in that it varies and you fall off a lot. For me this would be something light like a DR350 while my mate Simon could probably get away with a full dress Harley. Anything will actually make it most years but on a bad one you don't want to be the bloke 1500 miles from home on a 2 month old 1200RT with a pillion.

2. Tyres really are key. My trip on road tyres was a disaster, while a pair of Heidenaus make a Triumph Bonneville usable. M&S markings really do make the difference, the compound works when cold.

3. The chains work, but are only any use up to 30 mph tops. The year we used them we arrived about 2 minutes ahead of a bloke on a Guzzi who'd simply used a kiddies beach shovel when his back end dug in, pick it up when he'd fallen off and pootled along in first gear. We'd spent so long chaining up, our second gear run was hardly any better. Any sort of strap on chain will fail, I lost one out of 8, a lad on the bought claw things lost one out of 6. Of welded up, fitted chains I've seen two home made break while bought ones fitted to outfits with car tyres live and live. IMHO don't bother for the elefant, just buy K60's. For events where you'll ride for days on ice you'd use studded tyres.

4. Plan the run. The Elefant site is open from the Wednesday, so arrive early and you've got 25 miles of actual uncleared road but get to pick your camping spot. On the Saturday they clear the road so unless it's snowing you've nothing really to worry about. Stay the night in say Regensburg then have the whole day to do the last 50 miles and pitch up in daylight and you'll have a way easier run than coming in through the ice at 9 pm.

5. Be prepared to turn back or wait it out. If it really does snow a solo bike, snaking and kicking with the rider unable to see ten yards at 25 mph is *****y dangerous on the autobahn when the trucks are doing 60. Don't try to be macho, riders who stay in cheap hotels on the way down enjoy it more than those that try to bivvy on the services.

6. The elefant will find any minor electrical defects and the salt will trash your bike. Strip, clean, WD40, grease, tighten, ACF50 and make sure everything is 100% before you go. When you get back you'll have it all to repeat. Your battery needs to be close to perfect and WD40 should be on the packing list.

7. Don't go mad for gimicks. You don't need charcoal handwarmers, army ration packs and titanium pee bottles. You want M&S tyres, an arctic rated sleeping bag and a stove that'll light from freezing. Lighter is better.

8. Don't get ****ed, it is cold enough to really make a difference to how you sleep. A Cocoa at bedtime and getting your sleeping bag zips right means days of fun, waking up shivering with a hangover at 3 am starts to get silly.

9. Stay warm because once cold it's a lot harder to warm up again. You'll need to layer up so will probably need to buy an oversize jacket and rain suit. Three Norgies, a one piece thermal bought from the Everest expedition shop and the cardie your auntie gives you at chrismas will be really warm until you cram your summer jacket over the top and squash all the air out. Don't rely on heated kit, would you really want your comfort to depend one something with a dangling wire?

10. Things take longer in the cold. All those minutes getting inner gloves sat right in the outer after you've had to take one off to muck about with the GPS add up. Allow for it when you plan.

Go enjoy it, if you've never done a rally like this it really is worth seeing.


2499 19 Sep 2012 20:04

I had skies on one of my bikes in Denmark. It works really well. They are mounted on the side of the bike and you stand on them when things gets difficult.

The link shows bike with similar setup, it is not my one.

Motorcykel med Ski

backofbeyond 20 Sep 2012 11:55

I like the skis pic, it looks like the sort of thing that ought to work well for something like the Elephant or on any other snow blown wasteland in winter. A couple of years ago I was talking with a friend of mine who's also an Elephant veteran about the possibility of putting outrigger skis on an old Gold Wing he had sitting around doing nothing. The idea was to mount them on modified engine crashbars with a kind of mini swinging arm so they could pivot upwards / downwards. The degree of movement would be controlled by a set of old air shocks he also had lying around so they would pivot up out of the way for normal roads but then hinge down in snow. The air shocks would allow an adjustable amount of give / feel etc so you could make touchdown soft or hard depending on how much pressure was in the shocks. I'm not quite sure exactly how far he got with it but the concept seemed right in keeping with the silk purse out of sows ear contraptions you see turning up at the Elephant.

Updating my previous post from Nov last year the promised old wreck didn't turn up so I didn't make it to Germany but completely out of the blue it was dumped on our doorstep a few months ago. Those of you with long memories may remember the Suzuki "bloop", a 60's / 70's commuter 100cc smoker intended to get you from home to station (although this is the "upgraded" 120cc student version intended to get you from hall of residence to lecture theatre a bit faster on the days when you slept in). An investment of £20 got it running so it looks like the 2013 Elephant is on. This is it after a little tlc and a bit of effort with a mig welder to knock up some pannier frames -


I'm pretty sure it'll get me there although with 10bhp it might take a while. Biggest problem is the rudimentary electrics - a 6v 25w headlight illuminates the front mudguard and that's about it. With the prospect of three or four days on the autobahn, much of it in the dark (and wet, probably) I need to improve that aspect of things. Upgrading to 12v isn't really possible without a complete rework that I don't have time for so I'm currently looking at LED technology to see if it can take over the main lighting role. I really do need to make sure the HGVs can see me as there's no way I can outrun them. Any advice, experience or circuit diagrams welcomed.

I'm not planning any other snowdrift mods as at 85kg (prob a few more with all the waxoyl, grease, ACF50 etc that it'll be getting soon) two people could pick it up and carry it. Maybe just studs on my boots to make sure I don't slip while I am carrying it.

2499 21 Sep 2012 23:40

Rrrrrrrrrrrr that's a a bad boy. :eek3: :thumbup1:

backofbeyond 24 Sep 2012 11:47


Originally Posted by 2499 (Post 393412)
Rrrrrrrrrrrr that's a a bad boy. :eek3: :thumbup1:

Yebut wait till it's finished. Panniers, screen, legshields, plastic can handlebar muffs - I'll be surprised if it actually moves under its own power. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl::stormy::scooter::freezing:

BlackDogZulu 25 Sep 2012 21:41


Originally Posted by backofbeyond (Post 393212)
Those of you with long memories may remember the Suzuki "bloop", a 60's / 70's commuter 100cc smoker intended to get you from home to station (although this is the "upgraded" 120cc student version intended to get you from hall of residence to lecture theatre a bit faster on the days when you slept in.

Suzuki B100P - the Bloop. You have the B120P, AKA 'Superbloop'. :scooter:

A mate had one, back in 1976 or so. It wouldn't die. I reckon you'll be fine.

backofbeyond 26 Sep 2012 12:17


Originally Posted by BlackDogZulu (Post 393931)
Suzuki B100P - the Bloop. You have the B120P, AKA 'Superbloop'. :scooter:

A mate had one, back in 1976 or so. It wouldn't die. I reckon you'll be fine.

Yeah, I'm pretty confident that it'll get me down the autobahn. My main worry is whether it'll be as a grill ornament on the front of some 38t Germanic Eddie Stobart truck. :thumbdown: Last time I did this (on a 100cc Suzuki - the superbloop is an upgrade!) I remember getting boxed in by four of them on a cold wet night where two autobahns join near Frankfurt airport. The bike was flat out at 60mph and I doubt three of the drivers knew I was there. At one point a 747 came over the top only a few hundred feet up so even the route to heaven was blocked. Never have I been more glad that Japanese oil injection technology works.

Maybe I should paint it in police colours, they'd see it then :rofl:

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