By Harlan Price
Snow riding today is all that’s left of the version of the chaotic two-wheel drifting we regularly did before trail stewards were abundant. Fortunately, some time riding the white-capped seas will benefit you in ways that only the traction-less trail can.
A dirty little secret about this enlightened age of trail stewardship is that we lose out on opportunities to improve our handling skills. Riding in the rain gave us wet roots, some slick mud, climbs turned impossible, and every corner becomes a battle for traction. All from adding a little lubrication to the equation. But, this is an age when people actually do trail work and spend precious hours off the bike to sculpt some flow. It has become uncouth of you or I to enjoy the finer pleasures of playing in the mud and destroying our drivetrains. No longer are we allowed to finish a ride and post a pic to the latest social media with the kind of splatter that can implicate us in the biggest trail massacre of the decade. The fine line isn’t so fine anymore and who wants to try justifying in the comments section that a little blood goes a long way and “it was only soft in a couple spots.”
All of this is a shame because real life isn’t always as tidy as the mall. Only riding a dry predictable surface may make us dirt surfers boring and not so well rounded. As a matter of fact, it might become the cross racers with their penchant for snotty corners, trashed brakepads, and a barrier or two to hop who become the riders with the skills. Who’s the crossboss now?
Snow is that gift from the technique gods which will help you satisfy your need for excitement and getting loose without awakening the trail artisans and the internet trolls. The pow is slick, protects the surface beneath it, and might make you unstick your arse from the seat for once in order to maintain an upright position. If you thought it was hard to hold facial composure on your dirt sled in the actual dirt, try keeping it upright when shaved ice is your loam.
If you decide that it’s nice to actually ride on alternative surfaces and keep at it, your proprioceptive skills can’t help but improve. Choosing to ride in the snow is a declaration that the challenge of finding balance is still fun. An added bonus is that snow tends to be softer on your skin, and as if it’s thanking you for taking the risk, it’ll lay you down easier than summer’s hard dry fist.
So go out and ride in the snow. You’ll become a better rider because it’s good practice trying to balance on rough seas. You also won’t be digging perfect 3-inch ruts into your soft trails, no matter how fun they are to drop into when the next freeze hits, which goes without saying is another skill worth having.
About the author: Harlan Price is the owner and head coach at TakeAim Cycling, a Pennsylvania-based skills, coaching and instruction service. Learn more about how you can take your riding to new heights through its website, or join us at Dirt Rag Dirt Fest for free skills clinics.