The Ski Bike Experience
by Don Seifert and Wesley Garven (SingleTracks #84)
What do you get when you cross a mountain bike with a snowboard? A whole lot of fun! If you're into riding and like the snow, I highly suggest you check out ski-biking.
Before you start thinking that this is some crazy new fringe sport, keep in mind that ski-bikes have been around for many years, going as far back as the 19th century.
Since then, many designs and manufacturers have come and gone ranging from ski specific designs to basic bicycle conversions.
Being a mountain biker, I chose to convert one my full suspension bikes using a ski kit designed by Hanson, formerly known as WinterXbike. This kit consists of skis, brackets (to mount the skis) with torsion springs (to keep the skis level) and pegs (to stand on). They also provide a kit without skis so you can use your own (kid skis, cut adult skis, shaped skis, or ski-boards). I started with 105cm kid skis last year, but since upgraded to 90cm ski-boards. The ski-boards seem to provide more control and stability. Once you decide on the skis you simply mount them where the wheels would normally mount and the pegs where the bottom bracket and cranks mount. No wheels, gears, cables, or brakes are needed. Now the fun begins!
My ski-bike experience started one morning on my backyard hill. Not knowing what to expect, I kicked off and down the hill I went, smiling from ear to ear of course. To my surprise it was relatively easy, well…for a little hill anyway. I know this wasn't a black diamond, but I was just thrilled I could actually ski on my beloved mountain bike and control it! So now it was time to hit the mountains. Check out www.ski-bike.org to find local local resorts that allow ski-biking.
Though not as popular as in Europe, the US has lots of resorts that allow ski-bikes, and more may come around as the sport gains future exposure. Some resorts in New England allow full access while other resorts have restricted access. In Massachusetts, Mt Wachusett has restricted access, allowing ski-bikes only on weekdays on the lower lift. This is where I mostly go since I can see the mountain from my front door, so I'm hopeful ski-bikers will eventually get permanent access to one of the higher lifts in the future. This would greatly improve the ski bike experience in Massachusetts. Thus far it's been nothing but positive experiences and I can honestly say I enjoy ski biking the most of all my winter activities.
New England has thousands of passionate mountain bikers and based on my experiences so far I'm confident most bikers would absolutely love ski-biking. I will go so far to say if you own a mountain bike you should also own some sort of ski conversion kit. It's that much fun! You'll get the same winter experience as a skier or snow boarder plus the familiar feeling of ripping down your favorite downhill trail in August. Now that's an awesome combination!
For a sport with less than a mainstream history, I believe its time will come and foresee a future in New England for the ski-bike experience!
Skibiking for Life!
By Wesley Garven
The first skibike, known then as the 'Ice Velocopide', was first patented in 1892 by a man named J. C. Stevens. Upon further investigation, I also discovered that 'skibobbing' has been popular in Europe since the 1960's. "Why then", I thought, "is it not more, or at least as, popular as snowboarding?"
Well, until a couple of years ago, 'skibobs' or 'skibikes' were prohibitively expensive. We're talking '4-digits in front of the decimal' kind of expensive. And with the exception of cheaply-made kids toys that were made to look like a real skibike, you could only buy them in Europe.
Then I discovered a company that has a product that fits your mountain bike with a bracket-mounted ski and it bolts right onto your dropouts. But not just your mountain bike. ANY bike! Your beachcruiser, BMX, single speed, downhill rig, freeride bike, ANY bike! The name of the company is Hanson High Performance Downhill Ski Bikes and their web address is www.hansonbikes.com. I ordered their full kit and had it delivered to my house, including shipping, for the sum of $315.00.
It took me about 10 minutes to mount the brackets/skis to the bike. Basically, all you do is put the axle in the dropouts and tighten the provided hex nuts. I mounted the rig to my full-suspension cross-country bike. The bike has 3" of travel, front and rear.
But where would I ride my newfound joy? I'd never seen anything like it on any of the mountains that I'd skied. After some more Internet research, I discovered the American Ski-Bike Association website www.ski-bike.org. On their website they have a list of all of the known resorts in the U.S. that permit the use of skibikes.
My first day on the mountain with the skibike drew an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone that I shared the mountain with. Customers and staff alike. Throughout the day, no less than fifty people approached me and told me it was 'one of the coolest things they'd ever seen'. They also asked how to steer it, stop it and if I could do tricks on it.
I can say without reservation that skibiking is by far the most fun that I've ever had on snow, bar none. I've been skiing for twenty-six years and I can also say that it's the easiest snow-sport that I have ever learned. If you've never tried skibiking; find a mountain that has unrestricted access or restricted access to the intermediate runs and 'go for it'. You'll be carving graceful turns in a matter of runs…not days, weeks, years. It really is that easy. But consider yourself warned: Skibiking is highly addictive!