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Winter Riding


This topic contains 7 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  micah356 2 years, 7 months ago.

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    Does anyone have experience riding 27.5 + tires in the snow? I have ridden the hard pack in the Don on 29x 2.3 many times. I’m thinking of getting a set of 27.5+ and want to know if it will help me get out more in the winter. I have heard others say that switching between 29/27.5+ makes for a more versatile bike depending on where you are riding. I was going to wait until spring to explore new wheels but thought I would ask if it helps at all in the winter.



    2.3’s? Like a road bike? 😉 No experience on 27.5+ but I’ve got a little-used fatbike (26×4.6) that I recently built up some 29×3.00 wheels to double as a hardtail bikepacking rig. Both wheelsets track better in the snow than yours, but are not necessary as they won’t change the number of rideable days (the hardpack you’ve already ridden). Only studded tires can get you out on the inevitable (and typical) icy and rutted freeze-thaw-freeze trails, but are no guarantee you won’t go down (HARD!). I switch to snowshoes with crampons.

    I noticed Sweet Pete’s has fatbike rental + group rides for a reasonable price. I’d suggest going on one and test-riding a few different rigs to see if + or fat is appealing or just a novelty. The Don is a hoot to explore in the winter and fatbikes can get you there but it’s not everyone’s reason to ride.



    45Nrth Wrathchild 27.5×3.0 or Nicotine 29×2.35 are the solution to riding non-fat on the hard packed in the Don.

    Two stipulations to that though.
    – Don’t expect it to work/be fun after fresh snow, in fact expect it to be a “soul sucking liquid crap factory”™
    – Your frame needs to have clearance for 3.0’s, and your rims need to be 35mm or wider to properly support the tire in the case of the 27.5’s

    Coming from a guy who’s “smallest” tire is a 29×3.0, I’d be inclined to say the Wrathchilds would be fun, on “hero days” but if you’re looking to ride when you feel like it nothing is going to hold up to a studded 3.8-4.0 in the Don.



    Agreed on rentals from Sweet Pete’s as a great way to suss out what works and what doesn’t. Everyone should try a fat bike at some point I think. Winter is in many ways much more about tire size and thread pattern than summer. Where you ride and on what tires can make or break the winter riding experience.

    There is no question you can ride in the winter sans fat bike but the Don is maybe not the best place for that due to its numerous off-camber sections. The amount of traffic it sees can help in many other ways however if you have the right setup. Likely more than one to make the most of it all winter.

    After a few decades of riding off-road in the winter on nothing bigger than a 2″ tire, I certainly appreciate the advantages 4-5″ tires provide. Even they are of little use after our frequent freeze/thaw cycles however. Studs are a must then and the larger tire, with it’s ability to run low pressure, greatly improves it’s performance on ice. I ride a lot on my gravel bike with 38-40mm studded tires in the winter and it’s great on anything but the really steep stuff. But the same truth applies no matter the tire width, you need to run them quite low to maximize their performance. I also think tubeless is a must.

    Winter fun on the skinny tires. No studs.

    I think a 4″ tire with studs is the sweet spot and I usually leave that configuration on my fat bike for most of the winter. Sure it’s a bit heavier in the snow but there isn’t really a downside otherwise and it’s nice having it on for those occasional surprise patches of ice. If I could only have one set of tires, it would be my Studded Dillinger 4s. When it’s fresh, deep or your blazing trail, you really need to step up to a 5″ tire. Check the winter conditions thread for some good examples of what to expect out there.

    I have a few plus bikes and will be adding some studded Wrathchild 3.0″ tires to the mix. My feeling is that if we get a stretch or ice and hard pack I’ll really enjoy getting out on my trail bike vs the fat bike. Many fat bike trails that get packed down in the winter are slow to completely thaw. The plus setup will be nice for that time of year as well, where the trail remains a sheet of ice while the rest of the forest is clear. I start on this dirt/ice mix as early as march so this will be great for that.

    On the gravel bike with 700x40mm studded tires.

    I own and enjoy 29+ wheels but don’t think this is the right tool for the job in the winter as you often need to rev up the already heavy wheel to power thru snow. Being able to spin up the wheel while keeping it squished against the ground is a winter riding technique you must learn. If you get up on the nose of your saddle like you would in the summer, you’ll spin out in a hurry. I suppose if the trail was pretty flat and the snow wasn’t too deep, you would be ok but 29″ wheels tend to knife vs carve in the sand and on snow that’s even worst. Would make for a very upright, overly cautious ride. A lot of the fun in winter is steering with the back and getting loose.

    I’ve been on rides with guys on both 27.5+/29+ and, unless it’s hard pack, they cut through the snow like a hot knife in butter. The slightly wider tire offers little over a 2.3″ tire but performs noticeably worst than a 4″ tire.

    Honestly though, ride what ya brung. Find trails that suit your setup and get after it!



    Agreed on Dillinger 4’s being a choice tire. They’d be on the top of my list if I wasn’t a 27.5 fat convert. Expecting to see Gnarwhal 4.5’s in the new year and will report back on the results there.

    On the 27.5+ topic maybe @alegs will chime in, I know she rode a shitload in the Don last winter on the 27.5+ Minions. If we get some snow I’ll give the 29+ a spin and let you know how it goes.



    Honestly though, ride what ya brung.


    Generic Disclaimer: People were riding through Don winters long before there were fatbikes, 27.5ers or 29ers.

    IMO, this riding was neither substantially slower nor substantially less enjoyable than it is today.

    That said, there’s certainly no question that studded tires and low pressure have often been key ingredients of the winter setup, and modern large-volume tubeless tires make these things much easier to achieve.

    As for the specific question about smaller wheel size being more desirable for handling in winter, I would say definitely. But then, I’d say the same thing in summer, so take my ranting with a grain of (road) salt.



    From today on 29×2.35″, no studs. Not the Don, but goes to illustrate that winter rides are whatever you want to make them. Big tires with studs would have been great and surely saved me from hitting the deck a few times but I wanted to ride my trail bike, so I did. For those sections where there was dirt and grip it was unreal. Pretty stoked to bag this one at the end of December.



    My main issue with winter riding is that studs are pretty much a no go since I have to ride close 10km (or 20km if I’m going to work) on my way to the trails. Riding studs on bare pavement sucks. Having said that, there is still plenty of rideable weather uring winter, even if sometimes it means staying off the real trails. I did buy a winter mountain bike this year. Riding on the road through grime and salt is not something I’m willing to do with my full suspension bike.

    The key for winter riding, IMO, beyond the bike, or tires, or whatever, is having pogies, and riding flat pedals with -40 winter boots. Some of my favourite rides have been just cruising around the abandoned ravines on the coldest days of the year.

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