We're pretty excited up in the North that the lakes are frozen over. That means we can get the ice bikes out and start the winter riding season! We shot a short film over the holiday weekend detailing one of the two days we were out riding. I hope it makes you consider getting into the sport of ice riding or racing, because it's freaking awesome.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO GET STARTED:
Tires: Racing studs are classified into two categories, AMA screws which have a head height of 0.189" and Canadian screws which have a head height of 0.250". The difference between the two screws is that the Canadian screws with the taller heads grip better, especially when there is a layer of snow on top of the ice. Racing organizations in the US are starting to incorporate classes for Canadian screws, however racing classes mandating AMA screws are still predominant. For this reason I advise anyone just starting out and thinking about racing to start out on AMA screws so that more options are open later on if you decide to start racing.
Tires can be bought studded or you can stud the tires yourself. Ice tires typically consist of the tire itself, the studs, and an inner liner which protects the tube from the ends of the screws. There is some technique behind studding the tires. Screw head orientation and insertion angle are important for traction and tire longevity. Kold Kutter has a nice video detailing how to install ice screws, which you can view below.
For more detailed info on screws you can visit the Kold Cutter website.
For professional tires I recommend Jeff Fredette's tires as they are what I have been running the past two years and can attest to the quality and traction they deliver. There are plenty of other reputable businesses studding tires as well, but Jeff's tires are my favorite.
Jeff's tires can be found at: FPP Racing.
Fenders: Fender kits can be bought or you can design your own fender setup using minimal tools and supplies. In my opinion any time you're riding in close proximity to other bikes, fenders are mandatory because they protect yourself and others from accidental tire to tire contact. When ice tires from one bike bind into another the result is catastrophic and unpleasant for both rider and bike. I'm sure you can imagine. The fenders ensure any tire contact between bikes is eliminated and the worst that will happen is the grinding away of the fender.
Suspension: For the weekend rider and beginning racer, running stock suspension is pretty common. Shortening the shock and forks to lower the bike up to five inches is fairly common for serious racers because it lowers the center of gravity and makes the bike easier to handle. The suspension can also be softened slightly to help the bike adhere better to the ice when ruts and braking bumps form mid-race.
Two-Stroke vs. Four-Stroke: Either a two-stroke or four-stroke bike can be a formidable weapon on the ice, however there are some differences I have found between the two.
Due to the effects of four-stroke engine braking at times corner entry seems a little more difficult and entry must be assisted with modulation of the rear brake to help tip the bike in.
The free wheeling nature of the two-stroke allows for a little more natural corner entry.
Four-stroke bikes are a little more forgiving when entering a corner in the wrong gear and are more capable of tractoring out of the corner.
450cc size four-stroke and 500cc size two-strokes wear out tires faster than smaller displacement machines.
Two-stroke bikes have a lighter feel to them.
Four-strokes are a little more forgiving when tuning for cold weather than two-strokes.
Staying Warm: Ice riding provides a very good workout and staying warm isn't too hard if you use a little common sense. As with any cold weather activity layering up is essential. I like to wear thick socks, compression shorts, knee pads, and then a pair of sweat pants over the top for my first bottom layer. On top I wear a long sleeve compression shirt followed by my elbow and shoulder pads, then my chest and back protector. Next I wear snow pants, motocross boots, and my winter jacket. Around my face I wear a balaclava as well as a breath deflector inside my helmet to help keep my goggles from fogging. I equip my bike with handlebar mitts which allows me to wear a pair of regular motocross gloves. The handlebar mitts make or break the riding experience and with the mitts I've been able to get away with thin gloves down to around 5 degrees F.
Racing: Racing typically consists of GP style tracks with both right and left hand corners, or oval tracks. GP races are either short sprint races or long three hour endurance races. One of my favorite races is the 3 hour Steel Shoe Fund race held in Cambellsport, Wisconsin. Last year over 75 teams entered the endurance race and all the proceeds went to aid injured flat track racers. Whether racing or spectating, this is definitely an event worth checking out.
For finding races and riding spots local to your area I've found Google to be a powerful tool. Do a little digging and you are sure to turn up some quality riding or racing. Or if you are lucky enough to live on a lake, let the ice get up to 6 inches thick, plow a track, and have at it.
I hope you enjoyed my break down of ice riding and if you have more info to share, a race you want folks to know about, or want to show off your ice bike please leave a comment. Together we can help grow and bring awareness to this awesome sport!
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