Snow Bike: A Winter Dirt Bike Update

We’ll talk about snow bikes in a minute, but first we’re excited to tell you about something you’re gonna love that’s happening this Saturday, February 9 at the Eagle Leather store. (Online shoppers, you’re out of luck this time.)

Here’s the scoop:

You come to the Eagle Leather store in Lakewood and buy whatever you want. After we’ve rung up your purchases, you’ll draw for a percentage discount on the whole transaction. If you bought sale items, you’ll get either the percentage you draw off the pre-sale price or the sale price, whichever is less. Discounts cannot be combined with any other offer or sale price. Once you’ve drawn a discount, you can’t add any more items, and the discount applies to just that one transaction—not anything in the past or the future. You can buy more, but you’ll have to go to the end of the line and draw another discount. And we put the discount you drew back into the pot for the next person to draw. The biggest discount is fifty percent and you have one in five hundred odds of getting that.

So come on in Saturday and take a chance with us!

Now, about the snow bikes. First, what it’s not. It’s not using a bicycle-type frame but replacing wheels with skis. That is skibobbing. Skibobbing was first patented in 1892 and was long used to allow people without knee strength to ski in the Alps. A skibobber can go really fast, and the Fédération Internationále de Skibob has held annual world championship races since 1967. And it’s not snowmobiling, which you probably already know enough about.

A snow bike is a modified dirt bike. Like a snowmobile, it has a ski-type runner in the front and a caterpillar-type track in the rear. But where a snowmobile has two skis in front and two rear tracks, a snow bike has just one ski and just one track.

That means a snow bike is lighter, skinnier, and more maneuverable than a snowmobile. They can make a way through trees and let you cut across steep slopes without sliding down. They don’t exhaust smaller riders the way snowmobiles can, because they are lighter and easier to steer. And they let you carve down steep hills the way you can on a snowboard.

People have been trying to invent something like a snow bike for almost a hundred years. Both Germany and France had research going on during World War II, seeking a vehicle useful in Alpine warfare. But it was an American company, J. E. Love, and its Shrew snow cycle, that first put a ski on shocks at the front of the machine. They didn’t make many Shrews, because the vehicle was hard to turn and easy to tip over. Attempts continued, including the Snow Job kit and Chrysler’s Sno-Runner, but both were expensive and never got off the ground.

Technology keeps on improving, though, and nowadays the Idaho company Timbersled seems to lead its competitors, such as Moto Trax, Sno Ripper, Yeti Snow MX, and CMX. It was Timbersled that figured out that just using a snowmobile ski to replace the front wheel of a dirt bike didn’t work very well. The problem is the ski’s flat bottom. Timbersled engineered a ski with keels that have well-defined edges. When you go straight on hard-packed snow, the center keel carries the weight. A shorter keel on each side get you across the side of the mountain. And the grooves between the keels give you a lot of flotation.

Fans say that riding a snow bike is like riding a motorized snowboard. It is said to be very easy to learn to use—even if you have no experience on a motorcycle or dirt bike.

Snow bikes are mostly a do-it-yourself project. You buy a conversion kit (for a few hundred dollars) and turn your dirt bike into a snow bike. And that means you use one machine all year long, which is a big savings.

Check with the Motor Vehicles folks about licensing. There’s a law moving through the legislature that will simplify it, and they will be up to date about what you need to do.