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I live in Ireland where we see occaisional snow most winters. 5-10 cm would be typical; 15 cm would be 'a lot'. It lasts up to a week, and is then gone. Other than that, we get a good deal of frosty mornings throughout the winter months.
On one occaision I unexpectedly had to cover about 100 km on small rural roads, where there had been no snow ploughing but some gritting; the snow had been compacted by passing traffic and was quite hard and very smooth. It had thawed somewhat, and re-frozen, so it was quite glasslike in many places. I couldn't manage any thing more than about 30-35 km/h, and had two wipeouts where the wheels went from under me, before I realised what was happening. In the end, it just didn't seem feasible, but it was my first attempt at snow/ice, so maybe there's some learning I need to do.
So, can anyone answer, or comment on any of the following (I'm less interested in situations on your "big trip" where you have no alternative but to get over that snowed-in pass high in Bolivia; in such circumstances, you do whatever it takes to keep going. I'm more interested in when you've decided to do a weekend's tour from your own home, and at the last minute there's a dump of snow; or what about commuting, or doing more day-to-day biking, no matter what the winter weather?):
1. Do you ride in similar frozen/slippery conditions (including frost all the way to half a metre of snow)?
2. Do you use specific tyres when it's slippery on the ground? Are there 'winter tyres' for bikes in the same manner that there are 'winter tyres' for cars? Anyone use metal-studded tyres in the winter? What do you do if you're caught out on the wrong tyres?
3. Do you manage to maintain any sort of reasonable speed, let's say 80 km/h? Or is that just a crazy notion in such conditions? Do you allow double or triple the amount of time for your journey?
4. Any observations on how the bike handles (bar the obvious slipping all over the place!), or tips on how to handle it?
5. Are you of the opinion that two wheels and icy conditions just aren't meant to be wedded together, and garage your bike while there's snow on the ground?
Let's hear all your comments and see where this thread goes!
> 1. Do you ride in similar frozen/slippery conditions
>(including frost all the way to half a metre of snow)?
If I can avoid it, I don't.
If I have to go, I choose a bike with a sidecar. Driving a sidecarrig in the snow is much more fun then on two wheels !
> 2. Do you use specific tyres when it's slippery on the
> ground? Are there 'winter tyres' for bikes in the same
> manner that there are 'winter tyres' for cars?
In the Netherlands, metal-studded tyres are not allowed on public roads.
For wintertyres, I guess you could use knoby motocross tyres. I never tried.
> 3. Do you manage to maintain any sort of reasonable
> speed, let's say 80 km/h?
80 km/h with a two wheeler in the snow is NOT a reasonable spreed in my opinion.
> 4. Any observations on how the bike handles (bar the
> obvious slipping all over the place!), or tips on how to
> handle it?
Don't do anything quick. Brake very gentle, accelerate very gentle, keep your feet on the pegs as long as possible. Watch out for cars and other obstacles far ahead because you need a lot of room to stop your bike or to avoid them.
Snow is ridable, ice is not. When there is black ice on the road, I leave the bike in the garage.
> 5. Are you of the opinion that two wheels and icy conditions
> just aren't meant to be wedded together, and garage your
> bike while there's snow on the ground?
When there is snow on the roads, they put salt on the road. Salt mud on your bike causes corrosion so IF you riode your bike in those conditions, clean it carefully after each trip or you ruin your bike.
Snow, ice and bikes are not made for eachother but riding in snow is possible.
Riding on snow can be good fun ,riding on ice is less so .
I don't think any tyres are suitable ,although I have just bought a set of Cheng Shin trials tyres for my daughters dirt bike and the tread blocks have sipes in them [ N American car winter tyres have sipes to help grip on ice ] ,so they may be a little better ,but I doubt it .
Maybe a trials pattern tyre would be the best type to go for if you KNEW that you were going to encounter snowy roads .
I think if you can maintain 80 kph [about 50 mph ] on the roads in snow you are bloody superman .
I had a Royal Enfield Bullet that was very good in snowy conditions, the smooth power delivery [ power ?] and good engine braking helped a lot , because it pays to leave the brakes well alone in ice and snow ,unless that is ,you want to slide the back round a bit .
A third wheel [sidecar] is the best strategy IMHO .
i would say riding in snow or ice on public roads is to be avoided if possible.
more because of possible 'contact' with another vehicle. as to riding speeds, i will tell you a true story.
Back in the sixties I was in the forces, and was stationed at RAF Watton in Norfolk for two years, this included teh winter of 62/63. Coming bact one weekend to my home in Cornwall I found I had clutch slip going up hills at about 80 mph coming across Salisbury plain on teh old A303. I persevered for a while until I came to a layby opposite which was an all night road cafe with a fire. It was a bitter cold night. I pulled in to the layby and put the bike on teh centrestand intending to adjust the clutch. It was not easy to do that because of the ice in the lay by. I then looked at the road. It gradually dawned on me that the surface was black ice, and my clutch slip was in fact wheel spin. It took me ages to cross the road as due to the incline i could barely stand on the ice. The Triumph had been getting wheelspin going up the north east facing hills, going down there was no ice. I drove a lot slower the rest of the way.
I used to cross Salisbury Plain at night on my way back to work in Wiltshire after a weekend at home . I was admiring the stars one night as I blasted up an incline and my in my cold and vibration induced stupor [ I rode a Norton Atlas in those days ] I realised that the sky was now devoid of stars , or to be more exact ,just one bit of it was !
I swung over to the right hand side of the road and narrowly missed a tank .
[Salisbury Plain is a military exercise ground criss crossed with public roads ]
I woke up rather suddenly and had to buy another pair of Belstaff trousers .
Later in the year I was driving a Triumph [car] at night again across the Plain when once again the sky was blacked out .This time it was smoke ,inside the car ,the wiring loom had caught fire !
I ride all winter here in Norway. I have an Ural sidecar outfit, and use only standard russian tyres with metal studs (which is allowed in Norway). No problem neither on snow nor ice. It's a lot of fun! And I can keep up a reasonable speed (whatever that is - it's an Ural, remember...). I plan on adding a somewhat more powerful alternator to the bike to be able to use heated liners under my riding gear. Tip: If you ride a lot in sub-zero conditions, buy yourself a snowmobile helmet. Much more comfortable and warmer than a cross helmet with goggles. And you have full face protection without having the visor freezing up due to your breath inside the helmet. Or buy a double visor to your full face helmet.
I have lived in Western Canada all my life. In my younger days I did ride to school and back every day no matter what the conditions including icey roads and heavy snow. I also ice-raced for several years (oval tracks on the lakes).
Avoiding icey roads is the best advice. Your experience of having the wheels slip out from under you will repeat itself often on glare ice without some type of studs.
For racing we used sheet metal screws that were screwed into the tire from the outside - the hex head of the screw providing the grip. The traction as good as or better than dry pavement depending on the tire & pattern of the studs. This method is impractical for street use. They would wear down or tear out on dry pavement very quickly. I do believe you would have better luck with car tire type studs if they are legal where you are riding. (A couple of strategicly placed sheet metal screws in the bottom of your boots is also a good idea)
Snow is a different story. Temperature plays a big role. If it is near or just above freezing it will be like riding in sloppy mud. As the temperature drops the snow becomes firmer and traction actully gets a little beter. In any conditions involving snow the more agressive the tread the better in my opinion. I run with Continental TKC-80 which is basically a street rated knobby. Also, like riding in the dirt, tire pressure is very important. By lowering the pressure you get more tire surface contact. You can run as low as about 12 PSI in my experience but try about 20-25 PSI to start.
As for speed, the first thing I do in my car as I leave the house on a snowy or icey morning is hit the brakes. Do the same on your bike. You will quicky get a feel for how quickly you can stop a various speeds. This of course is much more important than how fast you can cruise along the road.
So while the best advice is "don't ride in snow", I have to consider it and it is possible.. as I find myself snowed in in northeast Estonia and not quite sure if the snow is here for the rest of the winter or just a few days.. but I'm assuming it will thaw at some stage because I'm trying to be optimistic.
If I could get a couple of hundred miles south I'd be out of this snow and free to travel even further south towards some decent weather.
Unless anyone knows for sure that a bizarre heatwave is heading this way?
1) yep, maximum depth approx 6" or 300mm, After that the leg/foot guards lift the tyres off the ground, making things awkward.
2) trelleborg make winter spec tyres, using a softer compound rubber, giving a nadge more grip. they also to the spiky type, but watch for road legality.
3)forget using the front brake. I converted the 90 to rear brake cable control to a lever on the left bar. so you can have both feet down on the ice.
4)garage anything valuable or with more power than neccesary. use something unbreakable, and learn to rear wheel steer!!!!!
the best tyres have lots of sipes, or lots of small knobbles. eg catspaw. big knobblies may work in deep snow, but new road tyres are far superior on ice. http://www.trelleborgtyres.co.uk/
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