Bikes designed for snow, ice and weather have really become all the rage over the past few years. A new Colorado-based outfit thinks it has a solution for snow biking that's considerably better than fat tires. The BikeBoard puts a ski underneath the front tire, providing float in deep snow and metal-edged traction on hardpack. Bikes have officially gone skiin'.
When we took a look at Maria Leijerstam's Antarctic fat trike, several readers suggested that a ski system might be more effective up front. In fact, according to reports we read later, Leijerstam did carry front skis for negotiating deep snow. And she achieved her goal of becoming the first person to bike to the South Pole.
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BikeBoards agrees that a front ski makes more sense than a tire for biking in snow. Its front bike ski is designed to convert a bike into a more capable snow tourer. In place of a sinking, sputtering front tire, the rider enjoys the float and glide of a short ski.
"[In deep snow] even a five-inch tire is bogging down," BikeBoard's Brian Hannon tells us. "This [BikeBoard] is gliding up and over the top – you're spending less energy, you're going faster. We've got video of going through 16 in (41 cm) of snow."
The BikeBoard uses a simple pin and strap system to adjust to and secure around the front tire. It is designed to fit tires with widths between 2 and 5 in (5 to 13 cm). The ski can be mounted in three positions based on snow and riding conditions – mounting it farther back will keep the tip out of the snow and deliver better float. Like a ski, it has a full steel edge, a bit of sidecut and curved tips, providing float in deep snow and grip and carving on harder, slicker snow and ice.
Unlike other full-blown ski bikes that entail removing the wheels entirely to replace them with skis, the BikeBoard offers the advantage of maintaining the bike's fully geared drivetrain, allowing the rider to bike on flat and uphill terrain, as well as downhill. Also, since the front wheel stays on, the BikeBoard can be removed on the go should the snow give way to dry ground. It can then be strapped to a backpack or thrown on a bike rack until it's needed again.
We assume that the BikeBoard will work smoothest with a fat tire in back, but the company also says that the board can be used on other bike styles, including BMX and regular 26- and 29-in mountain bikes. If you need more traction than a bike tire can provide, we could see rigging a KTRAK in back and BikeBoard up front.
Another interesting possibility Hannon mentions is using a BikeBoard with a motorized dirt bike, as a sort of snowmobile bike. He says Pedego is offering a BikeBoard-powered "electric snowmobile" version of its Trail Tracker fat bike in Europe. You can see that e-bike in action in the first video at the bottom of the page.
A variety of bikes means a variety of riding styles. BikeBoards envisions using the boards for everything from flat commutes in deep snow to adrenaline-spiking downhill riding.
Hannon compares snowy downhilling on a regular bike with a BikeBoard-equipped bike: "Imagine yourself going downhill, two wheels are sliding sideways, you got a leg out, you're trying to tripod it. With this, you put your weight up a little bit forward, now you've got weight on a metal edge and you're carving downhill."
BikeBoards haven't earned their South Pole chops just yet, but the company has discussed its idea with Eric Larsen, who abandoned a South Pole bike attempt last year after being slowed to a crawl by deep snow. We reached out to Larsen to pick his brain, and he tells us he likes the idea on paper but would have to put the boards to the test to really say whether or not they're an improvement over the regular fat bike he used.
BikeBoards debuted at this week's Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show. They're available for order now, starting at US$375 for a complete kit.
The second video below shows some general BikeBoard action, including both front- and dual-tire configurations.