You’re cruising on your electric bike in the cold, but do you think you can ride it in the snow? A nice cruise on your e-bike on fantastic spring weather is great, but it can easily get tricky in the winter. Don’t lose hope though! People in upper states, and countries like Russia, (with long winters and a lot of snow), tend to have tricks that can help you out bike all year long.
So, can you ride an e-bike in the snow? Riding an e-bike in the snow is not the safest activity, but yes you can do it. It is dangerous to ride any bike in the snow, but it is possible with full caution and with some precautions to protect yourself and your e-bike.
If you want some thorough tips to get started and to keep you safe on the snowy road, read on! Keep in mind this is mainly for e-bike riders that may be commuting on a lightly snow-covered road and not someone mountain biking through inches of snow on an unpaved path.
Riding an E-bike in the Snow
The main tip to ride an electric bike in the snow is prepping your bike and yourself! This means prepping the tires, the motors, and also protecting your hands and body (and making sure you won’t end up frozen and miserable). Let’s start by prepping your electric bike.
Preparing your E-Bike for Winter Riding
Part of riding an e-bike in the snow is making sure it is ready to do so. It sounds silly, but they need protection too! The better prepared they are, you will be safer while pedaling around. There are two main things to keep in mind: Traction and Battery!
Properly Maintaining Battery for Winter
It’s always smart to maintain a healthy charge of battery for your bike! This is especially important in the cold weather. The battery is already an important and sensitive component of your e-bike, but it loses capacity at a faster rate in low temperatures. Make sure it is at full-charge and always expect less mileage than what you get on warmer days.
One great tip is water-proofing your battery enclosure. You want to avoid melted snow dripping into your battery! This also means that the battery should only be put back in when everything is dry. This could also help with insulation against the cold wind and a great way to increase your battery capacity.
Some bikers recommend taking your battery off when you head inside. In general, if the temperature is dropping below zero outside, take off your batteries and take it inside. Store it indoors at room temperature in the meanwhile. Charge your battery when it’s a bit warmed up, and not when it is extremely cold from outside.
Just remember to put it back on the bike a few minutes before getting back on.
Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) for Extra Traction
Most electric bikes are not two-wheel drive. You can purchase 2WD eBikes, but they are not very common. You could also rig up your own two-wheel drive electric bike if you’re handy. A two-wheel drive eBike by nature will provide extra traction while riding on snowy or wet ground.
Two-wheel drives, which can also be achieved by front-wheel-drive and pedaling, is beneficial in many ways. If you have a 2WD, then your motors don’t have to be big as the one motor of a single motor system. It will still maintain good power through the snow.
On a side note, the twin motors also eliminate any imbalances in power-handling, which often occurs with one big motor paired with a small one.
Tires: Think of Traction and Buying Fat Tires
Now let’s get into the tires! In the winter, your rubber’s elasticity becomes rigid and leads to less traction. As some bikers recommend, you can add some DIY traction to your bike tires. This will help you go over some patches of ice if you need to.
DIY Ways to enhance traction:
- Using zip-ties around the tires (only for disc brakes): Zip ties will not last very long, but they are an easy and cheap way to temporarily add traction to your tires. They will definitely give your bike a “special” look, but they will get the job done.
- Screwing a few studs or screws into the tires (Carbide studs are recommended). Studded tires are great and very useful for icy pavements, but keep in mind that there will be days when the snow is melted, and the roads are dry. This will eventually wear the metal studs pretty fast. Unfortunately, this will slow down your e-bike capability and reduce the already-lower battery range. You can purchase studs (Amazon here), and install yourself.
As mentioned previously, it’s always smart to be safe when messing with unpredictable patches of icy road conditions. Hopefully these tips will help the tires last longer and avoid any disasters in the snow.
Get Fat Tires on your E-bike
While not for everyone, fat tires can be crucial to staying safe out in the snow. The extra width will give you more traction while riding on the snow. You’ll want to make sure that you buy winter tires and not the rain tires. The rain tires are noted not to work well for snowy pavements.
These tires can get pricey, but it is well worth it. Winter tires are widely available, and you will be able to find different options. Generally they come with studs attached and extra tread.
To protect your wheel and keep a clean e-bike, get some fenders. This is an ideal option for commuters or people that will need to use the e-bike frequently. Slush, snow, and salt from the road will chunks up in your wheels and other parts of your bike!
Protecting your Body for a Ride in the Winter
Now that you know the main personal protective equipment to buy let’s make sure your electric bike is safe as well.
It’s important to protect yourself through a cold ride, from protective gear to warm clothing. The extremities: head, fingers, and toes are what will get cold first.
1. Protect your Hands
The last thing you want to do is suffer blisters with the cold wind blowing against your hands. Thin mittens will not stand against the brisk cold and especially brutal if not protected against the wind. Make sure you have a solid pair of snow gloves to keep your hands nice and warm.
Thick gloves or mittens will keep your hands from freezing up, and allowing you to make sure you can use them to steer, shift gears, and use the brakes. There are some neat ones on Amazon (see here) that also provide heat to the fingertips, which are the extremities that will suffer the most.
Handguards can also do a great job of blocking the wind and cold from freezing your hands. While normally handguards are only seen on motorcycles, you could also look into creating handguards for your electric bike.
Two nifty ideas to make your own DIY handguards:
- Cutting out plastic bottles to block the wind and attaching them to the handles
- Cutting out the lower part of the snow-skiing pants to attach to the handles
2. Face and Head Protection
For your head, always wear a helmet and possibly a woolen hat or headband underneath. Some recommend wearing a balaclava to cover your ears and face under the helmet. The wind will make your face miserable if not protected.
Remember that helmets don’t last forever and do expire. Get a helmet that fits with a beanie underneath. Make sure it is snug and doesn’t get in any way of your vision. This will keep not only your head, but the rest of your body warmer.
3. Warm Clothes and Reflectors
Wearing warm clothes and a windproof jacket is important, but it is also advised to wear reflectors on the outer jacket! Keep in mind, this is during the winter, so the days are darker and shorter. Protect yourself and help the drivers around you! They need to easily spot you out on the road on the darker days.
Socks and Shoes
For your toes, wear wool socks to keep your toes warm and dry. Much like hiking, the last thing you want is cold and wet toes! Find ideal socks that are not too thick but give you warmth and wick sweat away! For more tips on keeping your feet warm while cycling see this article.
That being said, try to find footwear that is waterproof. Even if you have a wool sock that whisks away your sweat, one splash of water into the shoes and your toes will be ice cold!
Also, consider that you will be putting your foot down various times, and if there’s snow on the ground, you don’t want that entering your shoes.
This might be already on your list of gears from the summer but remember to wear sunglasses or goggles. Protect your eyes.
Especially in the winter, when the snowy road ahead is reflecting the sun directly to your eyes, it’s crucial to protect your eyes and vision. Don’t forget the added debris on the roads in the winter.
More Tips for E-Biking in the Snow
First and foremost, avoid potential ice, and be sure you can see clearly and ride safely. As always, wear protective gear before getting on your e-bike. Some other important tips include:
Begin by Pedaling
Start off riding without motor support. This will help getting used to the drive and will prevent spinning and sliding. If you hit the motor right from the start it can cause your tire to spin out if you’re on ice.
Lowering the Seat can Help
You may want to think about lowering your site before going for a ride in the winter. This will allow you to quickly plant your feet if you find yourself losing control, and will also put you in a position with a lower center of gravity. If you’re worried about safety, this can definitely help!
Keep it Slow!
Don’t set off to make any speed records while cruising on your electric bike in the snow. Even if you get comfortably pedaling in the ice and snow, you don’t want to risk getting a crash. The faster you go, the harder it will hurt if you fall. Keep in control and keep it slow.
Again, start cautiously and always keep safety a priority. Here’s an awesome video of riding an electric fat bike in the snow.
Hopefully, this could be you in the future. Enjoy your ride in the cold winter!