It has been two years since we had the first opportunity to test snow bikes. At the time, it was such a fantastic experience that I just had to tell everyone I knew about this emerging sport. I was not alone in that sentiment. Mike Metzger and Derrick Mahoney were so impressed from that first trip to McCall, Idaho that they both went out and bought kits for themselves.
In many ways, it is a sport without a home. It is neither a snowmobile nor a motorcycle, but a combination of each. Many would argue that it is the best of each. As a motorcycle converted to accept a ski on the front and track on the back, it opens up many new ways to exploit the snow.
While the sport is not exactly a household word yet, that does not mean that nothing has been going on. In fact, there has been a real spurt of development and attention given to the design of these machines. We were recently invited back to Idaho to attend the second snow bike race held in the town of McCall. As part of the trip, I spent two days riding around the local mountains testing some of the newest bike designs.
Riding the Snow Bikes
Snow bikes are still a new form of powersports, but there are new players coming up with unique designs.
With two years since my last snow bike ride, I wanted to take it easy at first so I could get back in the swing of things. The idea was that we were going to start on an easy route. That plan lasted about 30 seconds, as one of the riders in the group, eager to show his skills, blasted straight up the side of the mountain; not to be outdone, the rest of us followed along. Amazingly, I instantly climbed a couple of sections on the 2Moto Suzuki that were far more difficult than anything I had tackled previously.
Of course, it was not long before I finally got stuck in the soft snow. Nevertheless, this demonstrates one of the great aspects of snow bike riding. While it is possible to get stuck, the chances of doing something to get hurt are very small. Typically you just fall off into the snow.
I continually find it difficult to describe to motorcyclists how liberating the snow bike is to ride. It is something like a cross between riding sand dunes and a Jet Ski. Once out into the virgin snow, you can literally ride anywhere. Open fields or lakebeds are great areas for carving incredible turns and hillclimbs provide endless entertainment. Personally, I just like riding off through the trees best. I love the sense of trekking from one area to the next without any specific trail to follow. There is nothing like laying down the first tracks in some fresh snow.
Even trying a particularly daunting hillclimb is not a big deal. Getting stuck merely requires pulling the ski downhill and getting back on, that is as long as you are careful not to bury the track in the snow.
Of course, many other aspects of backcountry snow travel provide their own dangers. Our test rider David Kamo found this out when he rode over a seemingly innocent looking hole. Flowing water under the snow had melted everything away, yet it left only a tiny hole on the surface. As he rode over, the entire base collapsed, swallowing him and the bike. He found himself down nearly 10 feet once the bike stopped.
David needed a little assistance to climb out. Fortunately, there were other riders there to lend a hand. It took nearly an hour of digging and five of us to finally lift his Husky back to the surface.