Back to the SnoZone with the London SkiBikers

Posted: Monday, 31 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

A few days back I had an e-mail from Wayne Richards to let me know that the next London SkiBiker meet had been arranged. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to use the facilities at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead but did get permission to return to SNO!zone at Xscape in Milton Keynes.
We were warned that it is still half-term holidays for some schools and were told to arrive as early as possible. For me this meant a horrible journey through London's rush hour to make it to the SNO!zone for just after 10am. On the previous visit I had really struggled with getting the skibike up the drag lift pegger style, so I cheated and donned traditional footskis and hard boots.
I met Wayne, Paul and Barry on the slope and we set about having a couple of very enjoyable hours getting in plenty of turns. Barry, who has more than a passing resemblance to Sir Elton John looked very confident, balanced and smooth, within just a few runs. Special commendations go to Paul, who had to face down his worst fears having broken a wrist on the last London SkiBikers outing to Austria. I couldn't help be notice that, like me, he favours the "throw a leg out" skibiker turn over other methods.
It gave me a great feeling to be riding the lift and to see, for the very first time, a slope full of weaving skibikers here in England!

SNO!zone - Caution snow may contain SkiBikers

Mountain Bike - L'Eroica Influenced Ride

Posted: Sunday, 30 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

A few days ago I spotted this interesting post on the splendid RetroBike forum. Pete aka Longrider1, suggested a Sunday ride with this curious itinerary:
Like l'Eroica its very hilly, with lots of ups and downs, and some narrow roads. However its all on tarmac, but will be hilly and pretty, e.g. Ranmore Common, Leith Hill, Holmbury Hill, Whitedown, etc, on minor roads, some potholes/gravel to beware in places. Route is similar to the CTC Hilly 50km route. Pub lunch stop, maybe in Holmbury St Mary. Around 60km (Effingham to Effingham) but pace will be pace of slowest rider i.e. re-group at tops of climbs.
I have to confess I didn't know what L'Eroica was, I thought it was an opera, but I was wrong, Eroica is the name of Symphony No.3 by Beethoven. Of more relevance, it is a serious "Heroic" race across the hilly landscapes of Tuscany in the North of Italy, you can get a flavour of this event at the Brooks England Blog

I let Pete know I would be coming and managed to bring my mate Caspar along, who I know has a bit of a cycling fetish. This morning when we met, he admitted that he had been up the whole night getting the bike ready and had only managed to snatch a 40 minute nap.
His steed was to be a blue Motobecane 10 speed racer, all very original right down to the steel rims. It was an item he had rescued via Freegle and treated to a thorough clean, some new brake pads and a front tyre.
He thought that it would be a better bike for the hills, but as it turned out that was not to be the case and his trusty old Saracen mountain bike may have been a safer bet.

Like L'Eroica the route had its ups and downs

The weather was exceptionally mild for the time of year and at one point I was just wearing a polo shirt and its November next week. Five of us set off and made our way along some beautiful country roads, the trees all in shades of gold and brown. All too soon the hillier sections arrived and we settled in to a rhythm of steady climbs followed by some exhilarating descents. Poor Caspar found himself having to walk up some of the ascents, but stoically he carried on.
After a much needed lunch break, I suggested to Caspar we swap bikes, my Marin Stinson only has 7 gears but they are much more widely spaced, with a handy "winch gear" for the tough bits.
It took me a little while to get used to Motobecane's narrow drop handle bars, toe straps and gear levers on the front tube, but I felt much more at home after 10 minutes or so. Sadly the weather began to close in and set into a steady drizzle. This made the faster descents all the more exhilarating with the combination of steel rims, wet roads and skinny tyres.
Arriving back at our starting point some 6 hours after we had departed I felt that curious merging of time, where you could have been gone a lifetime or just 5 minutes.

DIY Skibike - Servicing Alpine Skibikes Adapters

Posted: Tuesday, 25 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Alpine Skibikes conversion kits have been around for a decade now, they are robustly made, some people may even say "over engineered".
The body is made from a sturdy extruded aluminium section, whilst the axle and cones are made from hardened steel. Where these two dissimilar metal surfaces meet there will be wear and sooner or later you will need to adjust them to reduce free play.

How do you know when this needs doing? I find it is most noticeable when the front adapter needs adjustment as the ski tends to clunk abruptly from one edge to the other and won't glide smoothly on gentle gradients and hunts around. As a double check, turn the skibike upside down put your foot lightly on the handlebars to prevent them from turning. Now check whether you can waggle the skis left or right of centre, if there is any movement, it is time for a service.

Luckily adjustment is very straightforward, if you have ever adjusted the bearings on a bike wheel, you find the method familiar. I have used the rear ski adapter for this example as it has more parts than the front adapter.

First remove the wheel nuts and washers from both sides of the adapter.

First remove the wheel nuts and washers

Next, pull the springs off the axle, they are an interference fit; firm hand pressure should be enough, if they are stuck fast use penetrating oil, WD40 etc. rather than forcing them off with tools.

Pull the springs off the axle - firm hand pressure should be enough

Using two spanners in opposition, free off the slim lock nuts from both sides; then with a pair of bike cone spanners free off the cones and spacers, then completely remove them from the axle.

Using two spanners in opposition, free off the locking nuts

Layout the parts and thoroughly clean out any old grease or other debris with a suitable cleaner, such as; methylated spirits, brake cleaner, etc. using a lint free cloth. If the adapters have seen considerable use, the threads on the axle can become worn and damaged, should this be the case, replace the axle.

Reassembly is the reverse of removal, apply grease generously to all mating surfaces, clean away any excess as you go.

Reassembly is the reverse of removal

Tighten the cones so that the axle can only just move without binding, don't be tempted to set them so they spin freely like a bike hub.
Clean away any excess grease, then tighten the locking rings and spacers. Finally install the springs, washers and mounting nuts.

It is worthwhile checking the adapters after every three weeks of use or annually, if you use your skibike less than this per year.
Remember 50% of servicing is visual inspection, so look closely at all components for any signs of potential failure, such as cracks or other damage.

If you want to make your Alpine Skibikes conversion perform even better, you really need to read the following article about modifying the Alpine Skibikes conversion kit.

Make your Alpine Skibikes conversion kit better with this modification

You can also take better care of your skibike by brushing all snow and ice off your skibike before putting it away after use. Never leave a skibike outside overnight, the freeze/thaw cycle and corresponding expansion of ice can have a detrimental impact on the all working parts.
Applying some light machine oil to all moving parts periodically will benefit the function and appearance of your skibike.

Ski-Biking Steven's Pass

Posted: Monday, 24 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

I found this neat video from YouTube user "capecodinsomniac" who has the following comments to make:

Beating the Pineapple Express @ Steven's with my Ski-Bike. A few runs to start my season and play with camera positions.
I usually drive to a local mtn in Washington state in the Pacific Northwest. Its about an 1.5 hr drive, so it is convenient. Most other resorts didn't give permission for ski-bike too, so my options were limited. I first considered Ski-Biking becasue I have flat feet and ski/snowboard boots always gave me blisters/hotspots and made my feet and knees hurt in general. With the bike I can wear comfortable hiking boots. I also already had the bike parts so it was a lot cheaper than buying boarding gear.
....not too many stories to tell...I had someone run into me and take themselves out on my rear ski. they raced down mtn to cuss me out for riding recklessly (I wasn't...he just needed someone to blame and 'THE SKIBIKER' was a good target).
I had another person decide to not turn when coming cross slope... I was on far right of slope and some older guy started coming across from left. He just kept coming closer and closer and before I knew what to do he pointed right at me and we both flew off the right side of the trail into a messy crash...luckily we missed the trees and got plugged into some deep powder. I face-planted and somersaulted a few times while still on bike. I dont' let go for safety reasons - especially since I'm leashed to it :P thankfully not much else has gone awry on the slopes. Just good times :)

The Stevens Pass Ski Area is a ski area located at the crest of Stevens Pass in the Cascade Range of Washington, United States. The base elevation is at 4061 feet (1238 m) with the peak at 5,845 feet (1,782 m). The Mill Valley "backside" of the resort drops to a minimum elevation of 3821 feet (1165 m). Total skiable terrain includes 37 major runs covering 1,125 acres.

Some more about the ShroomBob™

Posted: Saturday, 22 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Robert Kolesar had a few additional comments about the recent post on the subject of the ShroomBob™
skibobs and skibikes.

The lift loading and unloading feature is the first unique feature of the Shroombob I  like to emphasize, as it greatly enhances ease of ski bike use, even for advanced riders who can carry the skibike in their lap or hooked onto the lift.  Not having to lift and carry the skibike while lift riding is really pretty cool and Our design completely compensates for the variability of lift seat height.

The second most important unique feature is the 4-bar suspension (a lever arm hinge mechanism - instead of direct connection - of the suspension arm and component to the frame of the skibike).  Have you ever ridden one of those really expensive bicycles at a local shop with this type of suspension?  Kona is the brand I use; it has 6 inches of seat travel through its suspension range, and can be ridden at speed directly into a curb from a street to a side walk (usually 6 - 8 inches) and make the transition feel smooth - like the curb is almost not there.  

The Shroombob has 8 inches of seat travel, and the 4-bar suspension is progressive, i.e. the more the suspension is deflected, the stiffer it becomes.  With this design bottoming out the suspension is impossible.  As the rider sits on the Shroombob, their weight alone depresses the suspension about 2-3 inches, and the sensation is like sitting on a soft lounge chair.  Using a suspension component with rebound control, the rider stays on the Shroombob almost automatically as the suspension smoothes out the ski terrain.  When riding at skibiking speeds into bumps, etc, the suspension does all the work of compensating (pre-jumping) the hazard.  The advantage of this suspension design, over traditional designs has to be ridden to be fully appreciated.  

The third most important unique feature of the Shroombob is a relative inability of the ski mount to rotate relative to the frame of the skibike.  This design allows the Shroombob suspension to drive the skis into the snow for turning and control, and allows the rider to use either the front or rear ski to carve turns. Also, the front ski does not dive into soft snow or powder, and tends to ride up out of these difficult snow conditions, instead of getting sucked in.

The Ski Bike Experience - New England Mountain Bike Association

Posted: Friday, 21 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Here's one from the archives of NEMBA, the New England Mountain Bike Association, written by Don Seifert and Wesley Garven in 2006:

My ski-bike experience started one morning on my backyard hill. Not knowing what to expect, I kicked off and down the hill I went, smiling from ear to ear of course. To my surprise it was relatively easy, well…for a little hill anyway. I know this wasn't a black diamond, but I was just thrilled I could actually ski on my beloved mountain bike and control it! So now it was time to hit the mountains. Check out to find local local resorts that allow ski-biking.

Though not as popular as in Europe, the US has lots of resorts that allow ski-bikes, and more may come around as the sport gains future exposure. Some resorts in New England allow full access while other resorts have restricted access. In Massachusetts, Mt Wachusett has restricted access, allowing ski-bikes only on weekdays on the lower lift. This is where I mostly go since I can see the mountain from my front door, so I'm hopeful ski-bikers will eventually get permanent access to one of the higher lifts in the future. This would greatly improve the ski bike experience in Massachusetts. Thus far it's been nothing but positive experiences and I can honestly say I enjoy ski biking the most of all my winter activities.

New England has thousands of passionate mountain bikers and based on my experiences so far I'm confident most bikers would absolutely love ski-biking. I will go so far to say if you own a mountain bike you should also own some sort of ski conversion kit. It's that much fun! You'll get the same winter experience as a skier or snow boarder plus the familiar feeling of ripping down your favorite downhill trail in August. Now that's an awesome combination!
For a sport with less than a mainstream history, I believe its time will come and foresee a future in New England for the ski-bike experience!... Read the full article here

Skibiking - New England Style

Salle de Fartage - Jon's Ski Tuning Lessons on DVD

Posted: Thursday, 20 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Based in Nottingham UK, Jon's Ski Tuning was launched to provide discerning skiers and snowboarders with a quality hand tuning & servicing facility for skis & snowboards.
The DIY skibiker may be interested to find out that it is possible to take ski tuning lessons at the workshop in Nottingham (England), if you are too far away you can always buy the DVD. There is also an on-line shop with a plentiful stock of ski service tools and consumables and plenty of free information about edge angles, etc.

iSkibike™ You Could Too! - Accesories for SkiBikes and SkiBikers

Posted: Wednesday, 19 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

iSkibike™ is the brainchild of Robert Kolesar inventor of the ShroomBob™ and it is an on-line shop offering some interesting kits and accessories, especially for the diy skibike builder.

For anyone looking to make their own footskis for use with a skibob, iSkibike™ offer footski component kits under the name "Heel Edge".
Assuming you have a suitable donor ski to cut down, the kit contains all the other parts needed. An ingenious metal heel binding, with a wire clip much like a SnowBlade binding and incorporating a heel grind block fits to the footski tail. A ski rear release binding as installed back to front for the front binding. Alternatively, non-release wire clip bindings or flexible SnowBoarder boot bindings can be installed.

Other items stocked are GoggleBrows, a handy goggles retaining device, which when attached to a ski helmet, allow you to "park" your goggles without the risk of them flying away at an inopportune moment.

Lastly there are a selection of T-Shirts and stickers, available including the highly desirable holographic iSkibike™ sticker with claimed mystical powers.

Heel Edge FootSki kits from iSkibike™

Robert Kolesar, The ShroomBob and the $100 Guarantee

Posted: Saturday, 15 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

I received an e-mail from Robert Kolesar recently, he wanted to know why the ShroomBob™ wasn't featured on the list of manufactures at To put matters right, it was time to see what ShroomBob™ have to offer the skibiker.

Robert designed the first ShroomBob™ with a very specific purpose; his wife, Ellyn, had suffered a head injury from a 35-foot fall in 1989 while hiking which left her weak on her right side. The ShroomBob was a tool to get her back on to the mountain and enabled her to enjoy skiing again, even before she was able to walk. You can read more about that story here
As a result of this experience, the ShroomBob™ has a heavy focus towards adaptive skiing programmes, alongside alternative products with an athletic bias, such as their Pegger XX 'Rad' SkiBike and Double Black Diamond Extreme Skibob models.

The design appears unusual compared to other skibobs and skibikes with a much longer trailing rear ski.
This would lead you to think that it is an unwieldy device to manhandle on and off a chairlift, however, a recently US patented design allows for easy spring assisted ski lift loading, even whilst seated.

Another innovation is ski boot mount technology between the frame and skis, enabling you to quickly change between any skis using standard bindings.
As with other small manufacturers a high degree of customisation is available; from the choice of suspension components all the way through to the colour and style of saddle.
Best of all you can test ride the ShroomBob at Moonlight Basin, Montana, where the unique "FREE First Run In Control $100.00 Guarantee" applies.

ShroomBob™ - Worth $100 if you can't ride one

First Snow has fallen in the Alpes - Confirmed

Posted: Sunday, 9 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Hot off the press from Absolutely Travel 

Wow – our MD woke up to a white Alpine world this morning while doing a pre season check of our Chalets in Morzine and Les Menuires. With over 6 inches of snow down to below 1500m falling last night the signs are looking good for this winter.

This was Avoriaz at 5 pm this evening (Sunday 9 October)

Danny Hart UCI Downhill World Champion - But how does he sit down?

Posted: Saturday, 8 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Following a post on the excellent Ski Bike Junkie Blog I wanted to share this gem with you. Descent World Racing colourfully illustrated the scene thus:

Oh my God! We have all just got a lesson in how to ride a pushbike. In conditions that could only be described as atrocious a small lad from the North of England schooled everyone else in the World and truly earned those Rainbow Stripes. Danny Hart, World-bloody-Champion!
Coming from a great season that has seen him twice lose out to a near-perfect Aaron Gwin, Danny lifted his game and threw down the kind of run of legends. If Danny is the Schoolteacher, then Champery must have proved itself to be the Classroom. Twice now it has caused the biking world to sit up and take notice, both in 2007 with Sam Hill and today with the diminutive Northerner.
We all knew there was something special about him since he first started racing in the Juveniles category at the SDA’s all those years ago, but still, oh my God!
Rider after rider came down, many having big problems with the ever-worsening track, and it was only when Brendon Fairclough crossed the line with a 3.55 that everyone stood up and took notice. Team-mate and danger-man Sam Hill came close with a 3.57 and Fabien Barel, in his last pro race, got a 4 minute dead. Then it was Fabien’s team-mate, Damien Spagnolo, who shocked us with an extremely fast and confident run beating the Bren-Dog by 2 seconds. Sam Blenkinsop managed to slot in behind this with a 3.54, but nothing could prepare us for what happened next. Looking like he was riding a different, grippier track, Hart-Attack attacked the course, nailing corners and keeping speed where others were losing front wheels and sliding out. He was up at the first split by four and a half seconds and nine seconds at the second. “Calm-down” we were all thinking, “don’t throw all this away at the end!”, but no, still a massive whip on the end jumps and he finished the run more than 11 (yes, ELEVEN) seconds up on the best (or rather second-best!) in the world. Wow!....You can read more about the Danny Hart here.
 And now ladies and gentlemen for your edification and amusement, I present the following example of some super human riding, matched by some of the funniest commentary ever and the best punch line in the world.

Early forecasts for a colder winter due to the influence of La Nina

Posted: by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

A week ago, here in the UK, the temperature was breaking records at nearly 30 degrees Centigrade that's 86 degrees on the Farenheit scale. Over the week the temperatures have plummeted and today it is struggling to make 12 degrees, which is equivalent to a paltry 54 degrees.
As I donned my lumberjack shirt and beanie hat this morning, I wondered whether recent reports of another colder than average winter to come will be proved correct. Recently David Eakin posted on the Facebook Snow Biking group:

Just got the latest La Nina report. "While it is not yet clear what the ultimate strength of this La Niña will be, La Niña conditions have returned and are expected to gradually strengthen and continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter 2011-12."
This blog is forecasting above average snow in Northern America:
The basis of the forecast is on the prediction that a weak La Nina will be forming this fall and continuing through the winter. Last year, we had a strong La Nina with blocking over Greenland that lead to a very snowy winter across the Midwest and Northeast. While the pattern will be similar to last year, there will be changes in the pattern that will lead to the heavy snow areas shown on the map.
I am not convinced that blocking will be prevalent across Greenland this winter, however, with the trough axis predicted to be in the Midwest, that will lead to storms developing along the East coast and racing northeast. The cold will be back in the Appalachians, and that will lead to heavy snow in that area. The major cities will probably be fighting many mix precip storms with the snow lovers along the I-95 corridor pulling their hair over heavy snow versus ice and rain.
A storm track coming out of the Rockies will lead to storms moving through the western Great Lakes and a band of above-normal snowfall across the Midwest and western Great Lakes.
I also went with an above-normal snow area along the Front Range of the Rockies due mainly to arctic air masses coming down from Alberta.
Bear Hilliard posted pictures on the Facebook Snow Biking group of "first snow of the season" at Leadville.

Closer to home the Cairngorm Mountain in Scotland have had their first snowfall in months. A quick check of the Tignes webcams, reveals a landscape very recently transformed by a dusting of snow right down to Tignes Le Lac which is something like 1800m above sea level or 5900 ft.

Will the forecast live up to its name?

Ski Bliss at Hemel Hempstead

Posted: Wednesday, 5 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Having a relationship with the snow is a curious thing, perhaps not that different to what most people would call sex.
If it goes well you are satiated, but all to soon the itch to do it again emerges, the better it was, the stronger the itch. Eunuchs must have a lot to be thankful for...

My last visit to Hemel had been so good I started looking for any excuse to go back. Finally I found one, packed my boots and trusty SnowBlades in the boot of the car and headed round the M25 in the late afternoon rush hour. My home is diametrically opposite Hemel Hempstead on the M25, luckily the journey was just early enough to avoid rush hour hell and took me just 1 hour and 15 minutes door to door to cover the 60+ miles.
As I had suspected we are now in the Snow Centre high season, which meant a hefty price hike to £38 for two hours open practice. I perceive this as poor value, that amount would buy you a whole day on the mountain in one of the Alpine Gran Domains.
But I guess the management know they have you over a barrel, you are an addict, you are there to be exploited.
In fairness to the Snow Centre, if you intend to be a regular user you can get membership and save a substantial amount on these rates. The website was a little coy and listed benefits but not the cost, so I asked at reception. For a single person this would be £130 per year with other rates for couples, families and concessions for the retired, unemployed, students, etc. I made a bit of mental arithmetic and it would appear that you would have to visit once a month for this to be cost effective.
One upside of the high prices is exclusivity. It was quiet during the 5:45 to 7:45 slot I had been allocated; there appeared to be one private lesson and one kids group lesson taking place at the same time.

So what did I do during my time slot?
I played around with very different skiing styles; when the piste was totally empty I practiced wide carving traverses trying my best to skim a glove over the snow, when busier I worked on narrow track fall line skiing, including what is my own crude and bastardised version of the Wedeln. Plus there is all the random fun of interacting with others and dynamically changing your lines to avoid a collision, then finding yourself heading for a hefty pile of snow, jump ramp, stanchion or other miscellaneous hazard.

I had a really good time and made my way home on a somewhat roundabout route to see a friend. The next day I had a 15 mile cycle commute into a headwind for a 6:50am start at work. I made it, I was exhausted but happy all day, it might not have been sex, but I'd scored.

This clip shows how the Wedeln should look!

Tignes now open for Winter 2011/12.

Posted: Monday, 3 October 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

La Grande Motte Glacier - source Mike Doyle

From the BBC Winter Sports Weather Forecast Web Site...
"Summer continues in Europe. It's been mild and sunny recently but there's great snow around, especially in Austria. Tignes in France opened its glacier for the winter too. The Grande Motte Glacier at Tignes (20cm) is now open until 8th May 2012. There isn't a lot of snow available at the moment and only four lifts are running.

Colder weather, with the chance of a dusting of snow, is expected later this week.
The 2011 ski season has now ended in Australia. All resorts were closed on Monday 3rd October.

The season is winding down in New Zealand too although five resorts were still open for skiing on Monday. Cardrona, Porter Heights and Rainbow were among the resorts that closed. However, the remaining open resorts have great snow for the time of year and plenty of terrain available.

It's still very warm in Chile and Argentina. Most resorts remain open but El Colorado and La Parva in Chile have closed for the ski season."
Read more here