DIY Skibike - The Build

Posted: Sunday, 20 December 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

With just a week to go before Christmas, the post man dropped off a note to inform me that a package was due for collection at the sorting office. After paying the import duties and taxes due, the box was home and eagerly unwrapped. I was impressed by the quality of the components, there was nothing cheap or flimsy about them; comprehensive conversion instructions were provided.

Adapter Kit from
My temporary job ended on the 23rd December and I spent Christmas with an old school friend and his family. Returning home a couple of days later and with slim chances of any more work on the horizon, now would be my ideal opportunity to make the conversion.

I started by stripping down the Marin to a bare frame. From prior bike experiences I was expecting this to be a lengthy process, but luckily it wasn't. Even the parts that are normally seized in place; such as the seat post and bottom bracket all came apart with no fuss.

Having got ahead of schedule I was able to test fit the adapters, which dropped in well at the rear, the front was a little too tight, but some fine adjustments using a pair of cramps to act as spreaders sorted it.

Following these excellent DIY instructions I cut down my old pair of 1980's Fischer Sunrise skis from 190cm to 99cm. The bases and edges were still in fine working order but I had to shave the bases slightly where the mounting screws had caused a few unwanted bumps in the base. A hacksaw was the ideal tool for the job and necessary to get through the hardened steel edges. Each ski took around 10 minutes to cut, followed by some smoothing off with a power sander and finally a few coats of car spray paint to seal off the exposed wood core.

Following advice provided by Randy at SkiBikeFun I found the balance point of the now truncated skis by balancing it on a pencil. I marked this on the ski with a permanent pen and was then able to calculated an ideal mounting point to give a 60/40 front/rear (Alpine) weight distribution.

I used the skis original binding mounting screws to fix the new adapters to the skis and made test assembly. Everything lined up correctly, however the adapters are predrilled with a number of mounting holes so there is plenty of scope for fine adjustments fore and aft later.
I was concerned that the rear ski might dig in if I became airborne, so I rigged up a chain to fix the tip to the downtube.

I didn't think I would be using the pegs so installed a couple of large washers to act as blanking panels for the bottom bracket shell.

Skibike Mk.1 - New Year's Day 2010

UPDATE - Since writing this article, it has become one of the most popular on this blog. Look here to see how this skibike evolved 

Cold Weather Arrives

Posted: Tuesday, 1 December 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels:

By the start of December I found myself some temporary work for Royal Mail at their Gatwick sorting office. It was a minimum wage job but was fantastic when viewed as a paid workout. A stamina building bike commute of 30+ miles a day, followed by 8 hours shifting mail sacks, I lost weight and have never felt fitter.

The month started mild, wet and windy, typical British weather but as Christmas approached the winds swung to the East and the weather took on a distinctly chill quality.
The first snow arrived, with the sorting office cloaked in a mini blizzard. One of my co-workers had only arrived from Pakistan a few months previously and had never seen it before. I rode home through a couple of inches of fresh snow.
Heading home that evening, my hard wearing road tyres offered little purchase and I took a couple of nasty spills bending the crank on the second occasion. I was forced to ride home at a snail's pace with the crank knocking against the chainstay with every rotation.

Was this to be a portent of conditions to come?

DIY Skibike - Home Made Foot Skis

Posted: Tuesday, 10 November 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

To go with my ski bike I would need foot skis, those on offer from mainstream manufacturers were way over my budget. Furthermore I wanted my foot skis to have step in bindings and not the clip on bindings which I had found a pain to get on and off.

Gail & Mervyn Charlton aka SkiBikers on the Piste came to the rescue with their excellent DIY plans.
I set to work on an ancient pair of K2 skis and followed their instructions pretty much to the letter, this was the result:


DIY Skibike - Peggers vs. Bobbers

Posted: Sunday, 1 November 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

American readers may ponder why European skibikers mostly use foot skis and hard shell ski boots rather than riding on the pegs with soft walking/boarding boots.

I think the reasons may be that America has mostly chairlifts for mountain access, whereas a lot of Europe still runs on Poma and T-Bar drag lifts.
My testing ground was to be Scotland; Nevis range has a single chairlift, Aviemore likewise and Glenshee just a  few. Given these are quite small areas, to cut yourself off from all the terrain accessible by tow lift was out of the question.

Personally, I chose footskis because I had learned to skibike that way and didn't have the confidence to try it without them.

Build a Skibike - Finding The Right Frame

Posted: Wednesday, 16 September 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

I already owned a mountain bike, but designs had moved on since the 1990's and I knew nothing of the world of full suspension designs. Searching lead me to an excellent review by and following their recommendations I had a working short list of; Ellsworth, Marin, Santa Cruz or Specialized.

I am not a bike snob and for most of my bike riding life have chosen budget brands over the thoroughbred items, but I felt that this was one time where quality was going to matter. I was later to realise that much weight is to be saved by opting for the higher end of the market.

I intended to buy just a bare second hand frame for around £150, but after a month, few opportunities had presented themselves. Finally I found a complete Marin East Peak freshly listed on eBay for a "Buy It Now" price of £320. I sent the spec to my biker guru who gave it his stamp of approval. I reasoned that I could sell off unused parts or keep them for summer riding, I hit the button and a few days later a courier dropped off a huge box containing the bike.

Marin East Peak circa 2000
Now the task of bringing all the components together could begin.....

Build a Skibike - Time To Do Some Research

Posted: Sunday, 16 August 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Unable to take time out to do more ski biking and determined to be ready for the next winter season I spent a lot of free time searching the net for my skibike solution.
I had wrongly assumed that a Brenter, just like the one that I trained on, would be freely available during the summer end of season clearouts. Yet despite some months of searching nothing came up on any of the European eBay websites and I baulked at the amount some of the dealers were asking for ex rental skibikes.

I couldn't justify the price of a brand new skibike for something that might not have worked out for me, or just get used a couple of weeks a year at most. I certainly wanted my own skibike so as to have the freedom and autonomy that ownership provides.

There were some interesting "backyard engineering" designs such as This one!

But my main concerns were:
  1. The risk of a homemade device failing whilst on the most difficult run on the mountain, leaving you stranded, injured and ruining your holiday.
  2. The risk that the piste patrol would refuse permission to use the bike based on an amateurish finish
I happened across the conversion kit but wasn't sure whether they were still in business as the content seemed a little out of date. The principle seemed so alluring, take a readily available mountain bike, strip off most of the parts and bolt on some short skis.
I joined the skibike forum and read that a new batch of kits would soon be available on a first come first served basis. I took a leap of faith in September and ordered the adapter kit from skibikefun
on the understanding that it wouldn't arrive before Thanksgiving. Being a Brit, I had to look up when that was.

My next task would be to locate a suitable frame.

Looking for parts to build a skibike? Or perhaps one ready to ride away? See our Parts For Sale page here.

Before and After - source Alpineskibikes

A Long Weekend In Innsbruck

Posted: Friday, 13 March 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Another lucky invite moved matters on; my cousin Paul had the option to take sabbatical leave from work and wanted to improve his German. His plan was to base himself in Innsbruck for a month, speak a lot of German  and get in some skiing on the quiet. A reconnaissance trip was to be arranged for the 13th-15th March.
At a pre trip meeting in the pub we discussed our choice of activities. I mentioned that Austria was supposed to be the home of skibiking and that it was something I would like to try "one day".... "J.F.D.I." was the swift retort thrown at me by Marilyn, my cousin's wife, the gauntlet had truly been thrown down.
A web search found the details for the Brenter agent in Innsbruck, emails were exchanged and the deal was done. I was to have two 2 hour sessions with a private instructor and the option to keep the Brenter for open practice.

On arrival in Innsbruck I made my way to the Ski&Snowboardschule to check that this wasn't some elaborate scam, paid the fees and was told exactly which bus to take to get myself to the base station at Nordpark/ Seegrube. Innsbruck is a proper working city, complete with airport and train station and has a integrated bus service or funicular railway to get you to the ski areas. From the centre of town you can be on the Nordpark slopes within the hour.

I checked in with the office and met Rudi my instructor then hit the hire shop for a pair of ski boots. Once suitably equipped he showed me the footskis I would wear, made some fine binding adjustments, got me clipped in and we were ready to go.
We walked up the hill a short way and practised slow speed stops. He then briefed me on how to mount the chairlift and before I had a chance to get nervous with a waive of his instructor's pass he had got me through the barrier and away.
As we slowly descended the mountain he showed me how to control speed by turning. On the steeper sections it was difficult not to let the bike run away and there were a couple of times I ended up on my side. It was nothing like the awful twisting falls I used to remember from skiing, just a loss of composure, a quick dusting off, then back on the bike for more.
One happy chap - back on the piste after a 10 year hiatus
By the end of the 2 hours I felt impossibly confident, confirmed a start time for the next day and went off for open practice. The sheer joy of being back on the piste, in control and at speed defies mere words.

The next day the conditions were not so favourable, there was less visibility and the snow was harder and more icy. It was good practice for the conditions I was to experience later in Scotland and boosted my confidence to survive the day completely unscathed. We tried some off piste, carving turns, 180 degree and 360 degree turns. The 360 eluded me and I still look forward to the day I can pull this manoeuvre off.

By the end of the day I knew I wanted to do this again. How would I manage to wait till the next season?...

Skibike - Pre-History

Posted: Thursday, 1 January 2009 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Every story has to begin somewhere and mine can be traced back to the 1990's......Life was good, I had found a job I liked doing and I was in demand for my services, but work was stressful, the hours irregular and often sedentary.

Having witnessed my Dad die of a massive heart attack far too young and his younger brother just surviving one made me realise that I would have to do something sporty to save myself from the same grisly fate.
I had been forced to play rugby at school and had no wish to return to the pitch; golf seemed too cliquey, swimming would be good but public pools in London are gross. The turning point came when my work buddy Alastair asked if I would join a group heading off to the Alps for a chalet holiday.

Dutifully I did my preparation on the Bromley dry ski slope, learned how to snowplough and side slip; was donated a horrendous pair of electric blue salopettes, bought a jacket, a beanie hat and some sunglasses. I was ready.

That first trip was awesome, I was spoiled, Meribel had far too much to offer a novice, the weather was perfect, the snow conditions ideal. 7 days were too short, I could have stayed for ever, I was eager for more.

I realised that I needed to improve my fitness and stamina to get the most out of skiing. So I began to hill walk, climb and jog more.

Over the next four years I managed to fit in a week or two on the slopes per year, unfortunately my injury level was high. A twisting fall left me with a knee that locked and clicked, eventually I went into hospital and had it cleaned out.

The real disaster was yet to come in Val d'Isere.

Val d'Isere, makes my knees hurt to think about it
On the first run of the first day of a holiday I came off the chairlift, crossed my tips and fell, a foolish novice error, no pain or drama involved but when I tried to pick myself up, my left leg buckled under me.
I went back down the hill on a stretcher and straight to the doctors, I had snapped the anterior cruciate ligament on my left leg.

Back in the UK, physiotherapy was to follow, the therapist said that jogging was out but using an exercise bike would be good for recovery. I have never liked gymnasiums and the prospect of sitting in my garage on a static machine wouldn't work for me.

An abandoned Bernard D'Anger 70's road racer got me on the road to recovery, it had Mavic alloy rims and centre pull brakes, a high tech novelty for someone who's last bike was a Raleigh Arena. I learned how to maintain a bike, replacing transmission parts, broken spokes and worn tyres. I even took it on a short tour from London to Amiens, France to watch the Solar Eclipse of 1999.

Trusty DiamondBack in the snow
An inexpensive but sturdy DiamondBack mountain bike was to follow, I took it to Gran Canaria in winter time and rode/carried it for 5 hours to the top of the island, then rode back in 45 minutes
The same bike later evolved into my hack commuter hybrid and thus far refuses to die.

Watching downhill mountain bikers on YouTube lead me to videos of skibikers on the piste in the USA, but very little from Europe; still the seed had been sown in my head....