Dirt Bikes + Snowmobiles = Snow-Biking

© Cecile Gambin Photography

The geniuses at The Hershey Company figured out that if you put peanut butter and chocolate together you get something good. Now I’m not quite sure who created the snow-bike but the same concept holds true: take a dirt bike, remove the wheels, slap on a single ski up front and a track similar to that of a snowmobile behind and you get a snow-bike all of which doesn’t melt in your hands and makes you just as giddy as scarfing down a Peanut Butter cup.

Food aside, my good friend Jon Mutiger called up fellow snow-bikers to meet at Britton Creek Rest Area, just off the Coquihalla Highway this past Saturday. We met up with Kevin, Euc, and Dave all eager beaver to hit the snow but kinda spooked by the weather. They weren’t the only ones…according to everybody in the lower mainland, BC just hit record lows and the complaints I heard about the cold were hilarious. But before all you Vancouverites and other fine BC folks get all bent out of shape and call me an ‘Onterrible’ I need to let you know that I hate the cold. I don’t do well in it. My feet and hands have been frostbitten before and really dislike temps below 5C. So, it seemed fitting to try snow-biking for the first time under blue bird skies and morning temps hovering around -25C. The thought of trying my hand at riding in the deep, fluffy snow and photographing riders where a backdrop of crisp, clean whites and deep blues was too alluring to be bothered by the cold. To view all photos please click HERE.

Jon finished working on his bike installing a long track ‘Timbersled’ late Friday night. The plan was to ride 2-UP and I cannot thank Jon enough for agreeing to take me onboard. He smartly adapted BMX foot pegs to the rear of the bike so that I would have somewhere to place my feet. Because of the track the left peg was displaced further back when compared to the right peg which made for an interesting riding position. I couldn’t see myself travelling far distances with one leg stretched out well behind me while the other was in a more normal 90 degree bent position. As it was, Jon’s GPS recorded a 47 km trip. From time to time I did need to stretch and extend my left leg. This however wasn’t a big concern and I adapted quickly. The hardest part was trying to stay on the seat as my snowboard pants slipped on the rock (frozen) solid KTM seat. The steep verticals were a challenge as Jon needed to punch the throttle a few times to get us up and over. Funny enough while I was gripping the seat with my legs…my thoughts wandered back to when I was 15 and at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto where I rode a mechanical bull. I used my legs to hold on and allowed my upper body to relax and go with the flow. I’m a day dreamer – thinking of weird things while I should be concentrating – I’m odd like that!

Far from being on a mechanical bull though the ride on the snow-bike was relatively smooth. Until we hit a stump. Jon gasped and squawked milliseconds before we hit and I automatically braced myself gripping tighter with the legs and arms tightening around Jon’s waist. No worries…Jon’s a great rider and he expertly handled the stump – just a bump in the snow.

We did fall a few times though and the landing was soft. Actually, they weren’t ‘true’ falls but more of a slow-motion tip over. Please don’t think that these bikes tip easily. They don’t and are in fact very stable…I think. Alas, I can’t really write about how to ride them, or how they handle as I don’t have the experience and I failed miserably attempting to pilot Jon’s machine later in the day. Apparently, the trick is to give the bike lots of gas off the start. On my first two attempts I barely got the bike in motion and fell over. By the third time I realised how much more gas I needed to give it and happily rode about 10 metres before I had to turn (there were trees in front of me). I made it partially through my turn before I fell over. Jon looked at me patiently as I tried with all my might to lift the 350lb + machine in knee deep snow. I batted my eye lids and reduced myself to a princess by throwing up my hands in the air and yelled ‘I can’t lift it…it’s TOO heavy’.

© Cecile Gambin Photography

© Cecile Gambin Photography

I’m determined to learn how to ride one of these machines and will rent one in the future. There are several outfits that rent snow-bikes around the BC area. Geoff Kyle of Geoff Kyle’s Freeriding offer both rentals and guiding in the Whistler area. After spending a day as a passenger soaking in unreal sites I am ready to learn. Snow-bikes have the ability to go where sleds cannot – easily traversing slopes and riding steep verticals. The allure of fresh powder, and (wo)man-handling a bike through un-touched, rarely travelled terrain is appealing. Plus, I love the feeling of the bikes power when climbing and cutting through deep snow on tight turns. The feeling of floating across the powder is unmatched by dirt … not to mention there is no cleaning afterwards. No mud and always squeaky clean!


PS…you can laugh at me as this recent Ontario transplant may not have been afraid of the cold but I did manage to get frostbite on the end of my fingers. Serves me right for holding my camera and lens sans gloves. At least I got some killer photos!