DIY Skibike - Rear Ski Anti-Dive Link

Posted: Thursday, 29 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

When you ride on soft unprepared snow, the rear ski will have a tendency to tip down at the front. If nothing stops this from happening, it will eventually dig in even further stop and jack up the rear suspension. I like to call this diving or submarining, some Americans prefer to call it post-holing.
Certain commercial skibike manufacturers have a mechanical stop to restrict this excessive downward tipping movement, whilst others incorporate a link between the rear ski and the frame. DIY skibike builders often favour this approach too and link from the rear ski tip to a point on the frame somewhere near the bottom bracket. Bungee cord is a popular choice, in my case I used some galvanised chain, mainly because I already had plenty in stock.

DIY SkiBike - Anti-dive safety chain

Recently, I spotted this rigging steel designed to act as a secondary mechanical link for wall mounted plasma screens from CPC Farnell for under £5. It is certified to take a load of 100 Kg, which is more than the combined weight of both myself and the skibike. It should look a bit neater and more professional, than my original artisanal skibike solution.

DIY SkiBike - Rigging steel

DIY Skibike - Foot Ski Carry Bag

Posted: Tuesday, 27 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

I am always working on better ways to organise my skibike kit, exciting it might not be, but to have everything packed into modular kits is so very useful when the time comes to head out. For example, I have recently started to pack knee and wrist braces in the same bag that contains my ski boots.
Foot skis have been a pain as they end up sliding around the boot of the car on a mission to scratch or chip the paint off anything in their path. I dread to think of the injury these sorts of objects would do unrestrained, in the event of an accident.
There are some very well crafted bags by Salomon made for transporting their SnowBlades, but they are expensive and too long for shorter footskis.
In a rare moment of lucidity, I realised that I had some plumbing tools stored in just the right sized bag. 

Canvas tool bag - perfect size for footskis

You can find this sort of bag on-line from under £10 from a huge choice of suppliers, they are normally described as "Canvas tool bags". The ideal dimensions seem to be around 60cm x 16cm x 16cm which would be 24" x 6" x 6" in Imperial.

DIY Skibike - Carl's Super Cool Ride

Posted: Friday, 23 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Congratulations to Carl Day who has just completed his DaBomb based skibike conversion, last mentioned on the SkiBiker SkiBike Blog here

DIY SkiBike - Ready for testing

He has incorporated a very cheeky and cool Dirty Dog Reaper Stem, more are available from Chain Reaction Cycles if you fancy one for your skibike.

Dirty Dog Reaper Stem - cheeky

Lastly, if you didn't spot it, the title of this post is a quote from the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare and if you can bear a little high culture, here's a great clip with Kenneth Branagh:

DIY Skibike - Foot Skis Mk2 Version

Posted: by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

The first pair of footskis I made a couple of years ago have definitely seen better days. After roughly 8 weeks of use, the bases look like a grizzly bear has been chewing at them. Ric Platt commented on their excessive weight, which I blame on a very heavy turntable binding design at the rear.
In the early Autumn, whilst prices were lowest, I was able to source a pair of new old stock (NOS) Tyrolia 190D bindings from eBay. I don't know a huge amount about bindings, but the truth of the matter is that they were cheap and matched the colour of the skis they were to be mounted to.

Installation was remarkably straightforward. Both bindings required just 4 self tapping screws each. One nifty feature of the rear binding is that both it and the safety brake ride on a shared rail. This made the installation very straightforward, once the rail was secured you could slide the other components into place. A locking track allows for an inch of fore / aft adjustment for different boots.

New footskis - matching bindings, nice

The only disadvantage I failed to spot, is that it requires an inch or two of ski behind the heel mounting point. Most commercial footskis designs have very little ski behind the heel, this makes it easy to dig your heels in when stationery which works much like the handbrake on a car. It is about the coolest thing you can do on footskis.

The skis I used were my original skis from the 90s, cut down for my first DIY skibike outings and now cut down further still. Who would have thought skibiking could be so green?

Salle De Fartage - Repairing Dry Ski Slope Damage

Posted: Thursday, 22 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

On my last trip to a dry ski slope I managed to melt the bases of my SnowBlades. I had been warned about the potential for damage but had never experienced it before. It still shouldn't have happened, if the slope had been lubricated with water spray as intended, damage would have been much less likely.
Annoyingly, I had deliberately over waxed my SnowBlades as a precaution; for the first hour the ride was buttery. But the last few runs felt progressively stickier and more weird. The SnowBlade edges were hot to the touch when I removed them, the edges had melted the P-Tex layer, leaving narrow but deep, scores right down to the base.

Dry ski slope damage - see arrow

In the past such a repair would have been beyond the scope of home maintenance; the only tool available being a P-Tex repair candle. However nowadays you can buy P-Tex in strip form designed to be melted with a hot implement, such as a soldering iron, to fill deep gouges, etc. in one step.

Damage filled in ready for levelling

After removing all traces of wax, it was a relatively simple job to melt in the repair material. Next came some work with a rough and medium metal file to level off. For surface finishing I used my new favourite Sandivik tool with progressive grades of production sandpaper from 80 through to 180 grit.

The finished appearance was very good, you would struggle to see the repaired area as the colour match is perfect. The whole process must have taken me about 3 hours from start to finish. Only time will tell how well the repair lasts, but first impressions are good, the surface feeling as hard as the one it has replaced.

DIY Skibike Servicing - Ski Repairs

Posted: Wednesday, 21 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

It is too long and boring a story to explain how I got into this situation, rather than use screws to mount my skis to their adapters, I had installed recessed T-Nuts into the base. T-Nuts are used in pa speakers to hold the drivers to the baffle board. You can't fault their strength, they are immensely strong, but pretty they are not. I had previously used the last of my stock of repair candles to fill in the holes, but it didn't last well as the resulting surface was brittle and waxy.

I have been keen to try out a new type of repair strip sourced from JibTuning which melt into place with the heat from a soldering iron or similar hot implement. The main advantage is that the resulting repair is supposed to be as good as the original surface, plus you can fill deep gouges in a single pass, rather than having to build up layers.

T-Nuts installed in ski core

For someone who has made a lot of microphone leads over the last 20 years, the soldering iron is a familiar tool, but I would suggest you don't use your best one for this job, as it will spoil the tip. I used an old 25 Watt version and it worked well enough, they can be bought on-line for under $5 these days. Of course there are also purpose made tools for this job geared towards the professional user.

P-Tex repair strips - bases filled

Once the surface has been filled it needs to be left for an hour or so to cool, after which you can level off with a metal file. Fine finishing can be accomplished with production sandpaper, I have previously used a cork block with the sandpaper. On this occasion I tried out a Sandvik Sandplate recently donated when a neighbour cleared their garage. Unfortunately this product is now discontinued but the similar NT Cutter Plate is available in the USA from here. I found that sandpaper could be wrapped around the Sandplate and made for quick work levelling the repairs.

Sandvik sandplate - sadly now discontinued

Time will tell how long this fix will last against rocks and other obstacles I seem to have a knack for running over (usually sideways), but initial impressions are that the repair is much stronger than the old candle based system.

DIY Skibike - Building Some Skibike Stuff

Posted: Monday, 19 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Today has been great, having recently completed all my outstanding work chores, it's now time to start building stuff. I can't explain exactly how it works, it doesn't matter what I build or repair, it all makes me terrifically happy.

For a while now, I've been wanting to built a proper rig for servicing my skibike skis. It would need to have a couple of clamps to hold the ski securely in place, but also still have plenty of clearance for the adapters.
Attacking my scrap wood pile with a vengeance I came up with this arrangement.

SkiBike work bench - here we go

It will probably seem very heavy duty and you wouldn't be wrong. But the high inertia will help a lot when scraping or filing down; the vintage drawers it sits on may need a little extra bracing though. Whilst on a roll, I set up some strong overhead lighting, all the better to be able to spot damage and imperfections.

I can't wait to get started now.

Snowflex - The AstroTurf of Skiing

Posted: by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

I wanted to share this video with you about Snowflex an artificial snow surfacing product, invented and manufactured by Briton Engineering Developments Ltd of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire in the UK.

It is a pleasant novelty to see anything ski related produced the USA featuring the UK and the English pioneers of dry slope skiing technology.

Building LenzSport Custom Frames

Posted: Sunday, 18 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Reinhart Blasig recommended this excellent video showing the many processes involved in creating the frame for LenzSport skibikes and mountain bikes. When you see the level of craftsmanship and detail that goes into the creation of a LenzSport skibike it gives you a better appreciation of just why they cost so much.

The £100 Canadian DIY SkiBike Sale

Posted: Saturday, 17 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Andreas Moser is making the news in Calgary Canada with his ghetto style diy skibike conversions, which he is offering on PinkBike for 150 Canadian Dollars, the equivalent of just under £100 in the UK.
An avid cyclist, Andreas Moser says he was looking for a new way to get on a bike year-round when he stumbled on the idea of making a ski-bike.

“I’d seen it done before and didn’t want to spend any money on it, so I just took old parts and came up with a really good plan, and they work amazing,”
 Read more here

First run of the season on the new skibikes - source Andreas Moser

Winter Driving Techniques

Posted: Friday, 16 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Here in the UK, we've been having some proper winter weather this week. So I thought today I would share this handy primer on coping with driving in the snow. One thought I would add, is that when mixing screen wash solution for use in the mountains, you will often need a 50/50 mix of concentrate and water to prevent icing up. You should also carry some spare screen wash in a hand spray dispenser, that way if your resevoir freezes, you still have some liquid solution to apply by hand.

Useful tips for Cycling in the snow

Posted: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels:

Some sagely advice by

• The more tread on your tyres, the better. You can ride in snow on slicks, but I wouldn't choose to. If you have a mountain bike, with chunky off-road treads, this is the day for it.

• Let some air out of your tyres, whatever sort they are. Ride them soft: you'll get more grip.

• It's natural, when you're a bit anxious about conditions, to ride leaning forward and tense, with your hands on the brakes. But try to relax the hands and arms, and keep your weight back.

• As in any slippery conditions (such as very wet roads), do your braking early and as much as possible in a straight line. Definitely only use the front brake in this way; otherwise, use the back brake more. And you can also use the back brake to test the amount of adhesion you have.

• Try to steer "with your hips" rather than your hands: in other words, make directional changes progressively and with your whole mass on the bike, rather than by sudden sharp steering inputs at the handlebars.

• As snow gets grooved by car tyres and refreezes, you can encounter rutted tracks and momentary "tramlining" effects. Deal with this by allowing the front wheel of the bike to go where it wants; again, keep your weight back, stay relaxed and don't be too ambitious about your speed.

• Mostly, on British roads, the snow is cleared or turns to slush quickly, but beware of transitions from snowy side streets to clear roads: this is where you're most likely to encounter ice or tricky ruts.

• I generally ride around town with some sort of hat, rather than a helmet. But in the snow, I'll wear a helmet – there's just a little more likelihood of a slip. Most likely, it would be slow-speed and harmless, but I'd factor in the extra risk by wearing a helmet.

• Unless you have mudguards (with good clearance!), wear old clothes: that slimy black slush is perplexingly indelible and a dirty stripe up your arse is not a good look in the office.

• The most dangerous time, as with any analogous activity (skiing, skating, downhill mountainbiking etc), is when you get over-confident. The day I got a little cocky on the back roads in the Green Mountain State, I found myself sliding down the road on my butt. So hey, what do I know?

Read more here

New Firem VS model skibike for the 2011-12 season

Posted: Monday, 12 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

French skibike builder Firem VS have recently rationalised their offering and are producing only two models of skibike, namely the boutique VS 411 and the new VS 512 "all mountain" machine.

As a direct result of consumer feedback for a smaller, lighter skibike. Firem have evolved their original kid sized skibike chassis to become an adult design that is considerably lighter, more compact and manageable than the Evolution model it replaces.
But is the VS 512 skibike an overgrown child's toy, or a serious all mountain machine? I was able to view the prototype in July 2011, construction and finish were up to typical Firem standards and in a different league to certain traditional manufacturers products. But not only was it robust it had a number of unique, innovative and useful features.

The VS 512 skibike is designed to disassemble in two pieces for easy transportation in the boot of a car or to fit into the type of mini gondola lift found throughout Europe. This should keep the lifties happy that your skibike is not going to trash the cabin interior. Separating the two halves is a tool free operation requiring a few twists of 2 quick release handles, both halves of the frame can then be parted. When you travel, it can be safe and secure out of sight in the boot of the car, not sitting on the roof.

Another novel feature is a releasable ant-dive lock on the rear ski. In normal operation the travel of the rear ski is limited to prevent diving into soft snow. This feature can be unlocked, then the skibike can be tipped vertically on its rear ski for loading into a cable car and taking up little more space than a snowboard.

The skibike incorporates the Firem design of rear ski brake, which remains a subject of much heated discussion whenever skibikers get the chance. Much like Marmite it is something you will either love or hate.

The saddle features very simple up/down adjustment for riders of different heights.

The total weight of the VS 512 is approximately 11kg, which is probably still a couple of kilos over the ideal, but represents a 30% weight reduction on the outgoing model it replaces.

Firem vs512 skibike - smaller, lighter and more manageable
The price is listed at 1500 Euros which is equivalent (at the time of writing) to $2000 or £1280. The first production model hit the snow at Grand Bornand last Saturday for testing by ski tech Jef who also provided a lot of input into the new models design.
I should be heading out to the French Alps in the new year and look forward to testing it too.

What A Difference A Week Makes

Posted: Friday, 9 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Following on from a weekend of new snowfall, fresh snow continued to fall across the vast majority of Europe earlier this week. The snowfall was heaviest in the western Alps but even further east in the Dolomites fresh snow fell. The Pyrenees have unfortunately not received much fresh snow this week.

The amount of new snow that did fall in the Alps, and the duration exceeded many expectations with resorts such as Tignes and Val d'lsere on France reporting almost a metre of new snow in places. Lech and Zurs in Austria enjoyed a tremendous 40cm of snowfall on 7th December alone. The timing of this dump has been great news for snow-sports enthusiasts and will hopefully set a good foundation for things to come. The sunshine returned on Thursday 8th December, creating superb riding conditions across Europe. read more


Fr-X Bike - Dead or Alive?

Posted: Thursday, 8 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Fr-X Bike, is the Gallic outlet for Matt Hanson's Alpine SkiBikes conversion kits. Sadly the website seems to have grown a lot of weeds since 2008 and I thought that it was dead in the water.
I filled in a mail form expecting there to be no reply, but to my surprise one arrived about a week later.

Matthieu Hensinger has been working since 2005 trying to develop skibiking in France. Not only has he been selling diy conversion kits, but he has also taken to the road in a van equipped with demo skibikes; making videos, photos and interviews with more than 2000 people he met along the way.

As will be familiar to many, lots of French ski resorts are scared but such activities, many can't or don't want to give official authorisations, even when provided with the correct certifications and copies of agreements.

Unfortunately other work commitments have taken up progressively more of his time, but he promises some new items on offer for the 2011-12 season.

Matthieu Hensinger and Camille Lepley in their shop

Where to SkiBike - Avoriaz and Morzine, France

Posted: Tuesday, 6 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Avoriaz now hires out SnowScoots and as of the 2010-11 season have opened up the lift system to them, which seems to have opened up the area to skibikes as well. The main rule seems to be that you wear some form of leash between yourself and your skibike.
Access is limited to certain facilities, which in practice means chair lifts only (of which there are plenty).
Note: I recommend you contact the resort and check for the latest information and mark up a copy of the piste map, so as not to get stranded without suitable uplift.

Yours Truly in Avoriaz
 The skibike friendly atmosphere extends to neighboring Morzine, which is understandable given Morzine's popularity as a Mountain Bike venue during the summer season. it has some excellent begginer and intermediate terrain and is well worh a visit. Sadly, the atmosphere is decidedly chilly in Les Gets, the next link in the chain, where institutionalised bigotry bans the use of skibikes. Therefore it is best to steer clear of Les Gets and spend your money elsewhere.

Although there is plenty of ground to cover in Avoriaz and Morzine, experienced skibikers might feel a little hemmed in after a few days. I heartily recommend having access to a car, as there are a number of interesting skibike friendly areas within 30 minutes to an hours drive, such as; Flaine, Le Grand Bornand, La Clusaz and Les Contamines. Day trips to Geneva, for chocolate lovers or Chamonix to view the Mont Blanc and its Glaciers are non-skibiking alternatives.

Where to Skibike - Arlberg, Austria

Posted: Saturday, 3 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

SkiBike Pegging is definitely ( as of 2010 ) allowed in Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang, and St Anton and all its surrounding interconnected resorts. Some such as St Anton do not allow the skibikes on Poma lifts but most Austrian resorts are now almost entirely chairlift based apart from the very upper lifts on the edge of the resorts.

St. Anton - The Patron Saint of the SkiBiker

Like many Austrian resorts Saalbach-Hinterglemm has a pretty, traditional-style village and very lively nightlife, but unlike many it combines this with a very extensive circuit of slopes on both sides of a valley, and runs are linked by an efficient modern lift system. Its slopes resemble a French resort more than a traditional Austrian one - with the added advantage of excellent traditional mountain restaurants dotted around.
The main downside is the snow. Although it has impressive snowmaking, one side of the valley faces south and these slopes, especially the lower ones, deteriorate quickly in good weather.
Saalbach's apr├Ęs-ski is very lively - and can get rowdy - and is dominated by Scandinavian and German visitors. It rocks from 3pm until the early hours non-stop.

The Arlberg ski resort encompasses approx. 50 km² (including the off-run areas) and extends over 1,500 m of altitude up to the Valluga peak at 2,811 m.
More than 280 km of perfectly groomed slopes await you. In addition, skiers can choose between 180 km of powder stashes and corn snow slopes. The longest downhill run (8.5 km) with a vertical drop of 1,350 m leads from the Valluga mountain via the Ulmer mountain lodge to St. Anton am Arlberg.

Where to SkiBike - Vallnord, Andorra

Posted: Thursday, 1 December 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Andorra is divided into two domains; GrandValira and Vallnord. Luckily Vallnord is skibike friendly and includes the resorts of; Arinsal, Pal and nearby Arcalis. Brenter have an agent nearby and the lifties were generally unfussed about skibikes. In Arcalis, the head of operations had a fit about leashes and insisted they were worn at all times, he also had words with a local on a K-trax caterpillar type skibike conversion and told him to get off the mountain. His subordinates then apologised for his attitude once he had gone!

The snow was good mainly due to the altitude, there was a good mixed bag of runs, some tree lined and off-piste too. Prices were reasonable for lift passes and accommodation. The whole attitude was friendly, unpretencious and customer focussed, probably close to reports I've heard about Canada and the USA.

The Pyrenees can suffer due to their proximity to the warm Atlantic winds, so freeze/thaw cycles and wet snow are supposed to be common, but not in my experience.
It is a awkward area to reach, there is no airport in Andorra so you need to get up from Barcelona, Tarbes or Toulouse airports. I drove there from London, its a hell of a long drive on your own and not cheap on petrol or tolls, especially as a single traveller. At a push it can be done in a very long day.
Interestingly there are also some skibike friendly areas on the French side of the Pyrenees near Lourdes.