Electric Bikes in the Snow

December 31, 2013
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In the interests of full disclosure, I grew up in Southern California, which is famous for it’s mild weather. I now live in Kansas (Central USA), where there are only several light snow days per winter. So the information here is advice from friends and also what I’ve read (I read a lot). So, that being said…here goes!

I’ve thought about collecting some helpful tips and writing an article on winter riding, and I recently found a Russian E-bike forum that was full of pictures from enthusiastic builders who are forced to ride in the snow often.

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If you want to skip to the Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) version…here it is:

Use fat tires or stay home,

2WD is king, and front wheel drive is acceptable (front-wheel-drive + pedaling = 2WD),

Fenders are your friend

A low seat puts both your feet flat on the ground, and finally

Extra water-proofing over the battery enclosure is required. (see pic above…pic courtesy of “snoag” from the Russian website electrotransport.ru)

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Here’s a pic below of a fat-tire E-bike that has 2WD from a builder in Russia, a place that is famous for their long winters. In Teklektiks 2WD Mundo build, he told us that when you have 2WD, then each motor doesn’t have to be as big as compared to a single motor system, in order for the bike to have very good power capability.

He also mentioned that since geared hubs freewheel whenever they are not powered. this makes them perfect for 2WD E-bikes (because sometimes you only use one motor, or you are just pedaling). He also made sure to mention that…if both motors are identical, it will simplify any power-imbalance handling issues, compared to using a large motor paired with a smaller one.

 

Here's a fat-tire snow-bike from a Russian builder, username: bigolen, from electrotransport.ru

Here’s a 2WD fat-tire snow-bike from a Russian builder, username: bigolen, from electrotransport.ru

 

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Below is a pic from Louis in Sweden. He has used many different types of gloves when riding in extra-cold weather. Thick gloves are warmer, but they make feeling the controls and buttons difficult. Thin gloves are cold, especially with the wind blowing on them. His clever solution was to cut off the insulated legs of some old snow-skiing pants and tie-wrap them to the handlebars, to cover over thin gloves. This idea works fantastic!

edit: thanks to ES member YoSamES for the link to “Snow Paws” and also “Bar Mitts” for Snow E-Bikers who would rather buy than DIY.

 

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A warm-hands tip from ES member “Racer_X”

 

Here’s a similar suggestion from an “instructables.com” tip, where two one-gallon (3.7-liter) tea jugs are cut. and fitted over the handlebar grips. A screw through the outer end (the flat bottom of the jug) into the ends of the grips will hold the jugs in the proper place. You can buy professional ones that are ready to mount. called motocross “brush guards”.

 

I don't ride often in the snow, but when I did, I immediately noticed how much worse my hands got cold compared to my bundle-up body.

I don’t ride in the snow very often, but when I did, I immediately noticed how much worse my hands quickly got cold, compared to my bundled-up body.

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There’s a couple of ideas to give tires better traction that keep popping up in forums. Here’s a pic of a cheap and fast method to add a little extra traction:

 

Cheap plastie "tie wraps", sometimes called "zip ties" can add a little extra traction, and they are easy to install.

Cheap plastic “tie wraps”, sometimes called “zip ties” can add a little extra traction, and they are fast and easy to install.

 

Also, you can keep a set of fat tires with metal studs in them to help when you pass over a patch of hard ice.

 

The Scwalbe Marathon Winter is probably the most well-known studded bicycle tire.

The Scwalbe Marathon Winter is probably the most well-known studded bicycle tire.

 

If you want more studs than this (or you just want to save a few bucks), consider experimenting with adding screws to an extra tire. ES builder DrkAngel posted this. Made sure to include the suggestion to add some construction-grade adhesive to the screw before screwing it in to the holes you have drilled. He lives in New York, where snow and ice on the roads are very common every winter.

 

This is the view of the INSIDE of a knobby off-road tire.

This is a view of the INSIDE of a knobby off-road tire.

The builder mentioned that they worked better after they were worn down a little, so longer screws are not better. Try several sizes before buying a lot of screws.

The builder mentioned that they worked better after they were worn down a little, so longer screws are not always better. Try several sizes before buying a lot of screws.

xxx

ES member myzter attached a used snowboard to the front wheel to keep his E-bike from sinking into the deep snow that he passed through on occasion.

 

Here’s an awesome video of an electric “ski bike” in action…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtjCSqBFjSU

Send me your SNOW E-bike pics and tips, and I just might add them to this article. You must join endless-sphere.com, and then as a member, you can send me a “Private Message” (PM). My username is “spinningmagnets”

 

xxx

A rear hub is not ideal for snow, but sometimes…that’s all you have!

 

edit: Only one intrepid E-biker who lives in snow has responded so far. From new ES member “ripmobile” who lives in St Louis: “…I use motorcycle gloves…they work most of the trip, though I usually get a bit cold at the very end. My jacket is the famous [military surplus] Alpha N-3B flight parka…never found a better winter biking coat. The hood is awesome, and a stretchy face hood or balaclava keeps the head warm…”

In retrospect, I promoted FWD in this article, but I did not emphasize an important aspect of using a front hub: use TWO torque-arms on the front hub. Steel fork drop-outs (Cromoly is the most desired steel for fork drop-outs) are the best materials for a front hub, but regardless of material, use TWO torque arms. Its not like they wear out, you can own them forever. Steel drop-outs might spread-out and allow the axle to spin, but the worst thing to happen is to be traveling at a decent speed and have aluminum drop-outs experience a “catastrophic failure” (see pic below)…use two torque-arms on the front, period.

steel will bend when it is overstressed,

Steel will bend when it is over-stressed, but aluminum (which is common on suspension forks) will break, and snap clean off. USE TORQUE ARMS!! Your teeth will thank you when you DON’T smash your face into the ground.

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Written by Ron/Spinningmagnets, December 2013

Grew up in Los Angeles California, US Navy submarine mechanic from 1977-81/SanDiego. Hydraulic mechanic in the 1980's/Los Angeles. Heavy equipment operator in the 1990's/traveled to various locations. Dump truck driver in the 2000's/SW Utah. Currently a water plant operator since 2010/NW Kansas

3 Comments

  1. The Schwalbe Marathon Winter is not a good tyre in deep snow because it is not very knobby. Some off-road spiked tyres are better but they have more rolling resistance.

  2. Hi Ron, Where in Kansas do you live? I live in Wichita, and when I used to live in Geneva, Switzerland, I rode in the snow often. Fresh snow allows pretty good traction, even for 700x35C tires… Bernhard

    I am near Manhattan/Ft Riley. Yes I have noticed more traction driving on fresh snow, so I always leave early to work, before other cars create packed-down show. -Ron

  3. With electricity on tap (compare to normal bike) there is grip heaters, heated vests and heated insoles (with integrated battery and remote control) available…
    All can be made at home or are readily available at motorcycle stores.

  4. I ride in northwestern Ontario , an old 1986 chrome molly bike! old style brakes , regular tires . back brake is weak due to long old cables, but front braking while it seems dangerous seems actually better, more weight transfer to the front tires. last winter riding was impossible due to deep snows but in winters where there is less snow and more ice I find my commute tolerable. With regular tires I do quite well on ice and have only ever fallen twice!

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