Ice Biking with Mountain Bikes


photo by Nicole Goodhue Boyd,

I feel like this is something we’ve written about before but a recent article about ice biking got us thinking about this extreme form of MTB once again. Last week the Ipswich (MA) Chronicle wrote about members of the New England Mountain Bike Patrol who are into “ice biking” and the article goes into a good amount of detail about the studded bike tires the guys use to ride on slippery ice. Unfortunately the article didn’t shed much light on why mountain bikers would want to go ice biking – it is, after all, just riding on a flat, frozen pond – so we decided to do some research of our own.

Our friend Steven Regenold (the GearJunkie) wrote a great piece back in 2007 describing the competitive side of ice biking. An oval course is marked out on a frozen surface and riders race hard through the straights while slowing to hold their line through the turns. With the Olympics in full swing, the whole thing sorta reminds me of short track speed skating where the ability to stay upright is just as important as being fast. Now that I think about it, why isn’t ice biking part of the Winter Olympics? 🙂

While ice biking is mostly akin to short track MTB racing, we’re thinking there should be room for an icy dirt-jump equivalent as well. Just think: jumps and banked turns built from compacted snow, tabletops glazed with an icy crust, and landing zones filled with soft, fluffy snow. The Kona White Style event is basically an icy/snowy DH/DJ course built using snow cats and bulldozers but a fun course could just as easily be constructed using friends and a few shovels.

Riding on frozen trails is yet another form of ice biking but in our experience, it’s mostly just an exercise in frustration (plus in some cases it can be bad for the trails). The great thing about ice biking on ponds is there’s a consistent surface for studded tires to bite into and riders get to create their own courses. Safety is key when biking on frozen ponds and it really only makes sense in the far northern US and Canada. Just this year two teenagers in our area died after walking out onto a frozen pond and falling through the ice so don’t try this at home unless you’re absolutely certain the surface is safe.

Mountain bikers are an industrious bunch and cold/freezing weather can’t stop us from riding our bikes. Give us extreme conditions and we’ll always find a new way to ride!

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