When the ground freezes and the snow falls, do you find a place in the corner of the garage to store your favorite dirt bike? If so, you are like the majority of off-road riders that live in the frozen climates. Unfortunately most people haven’t had the opportunity to ride in the snow. Thankfully, there is plenty of riding gear and accessories that make winter the most memorable time to ride a “dirt” bike. Much like anything outdoors, preparation is the key to enjoymentMatching your tire choice to the conditions is critical to enjoying winter riding. Yes, it’s possible to ride with sharp-edged mud/sand tires in moderate soft snow when the ground beneath is not frozen and there is no ice crust on top. However, If the ground is frozen or the snow is crusted with ice, winter tires are a must. But there’s more you should know. Here’s a quick checklist that will help with your next snow ride adventure.The best tire option for snow is one sold with carbide tipped spikes permanently installed in the knobs. In perfect snow conditions, these tires will get as much traction as if you were roosting your favorite summer tire in tacky conditions. Both Trelleborg and Michelin have excellent spike tires for about $550 a set. You can expect a pair of spike tires to last for years if you go easy on the clutch and stay away from rocks, logs and bare dirt.If spike tires are not in your budget, get hex-head sheet metal screws from a hardware store, and screw them into a current set of moto tires. Kold Kutter (www.koldkutter.com) sells a tire screw specifically made for motorcycle ice racing, and although they are a bit more expensive than sheet metal screws, Kold Kutters grip better and resist being flung off.
When purchasing either type of screws, the shorter the length of the threaded shank, typically the shorter the life of the screw will be in the tire. Ideally you should try to find screws that are at least a half inch long for the rear tire, but you can’t let the tip of the screw go through the inner casing. It is best to start with a new tire so the knobs are as tall as possible. You can get away with a slightly shorter screw for the front.
Snow conditions have a big impact on the winter riding fun factor. Spike tires work well in nearly all snow conditions, but they feel “sketchy” on bare, frozen dirt. In general; the fluffier the snow, the less traction you will have. Ideal conditions are those in which the snow is dense and less than 8-9 inches in depth. If the snow is dense, riding in much over 11-12 inches is going to be a struggle, especially with variable crust layers factored in.Although it happens about as often as a solar eclipse, the most memorable snow riding conditions are those in which the snow has melted down to less than 10-12″ and has a thick crust on top. The crust is hard and thick enough to allow the bike to ride “on top” of the snow. These conditions allow for you to ride a dirt bike nearly anywhere there is snow. The ride is super smooth and rocks, roots and stumps that are typical hazards are safely below the surface.It is essential to install a “carburetor protector” prior to riding in the snow. Without it, snow will build up, freeze the internals of the carburetor, and your bike will spit and sputter. A quick and easy fix is to wedge a piece of rubber or plastic in front of and over the carburetor. It may be necessary to use zip-ties to hold the protector in place. This is a modified hand guard.Cold hands are one of the most common sources of misery when snow riding. I highly recommend electric grip heaters if your bike’s electrical system will power them. Enduro Engineering’s grip heaters are 12 volt-powered and fit underneath your normal grips. They work off of a hi/lo switch and are easy to install. It also helps to put some electrical tape around your clutch and front brake lever as insulation to keep the lever’s cold from leeching into your fingers.Keep an eye on your air box, because it’s common for snow thrown by the rear wheel to find its way in and cover your filter. Ultimately this results in a bike that is choking from lack of air.