Winter biking with e-trikes: my experience

Rudy Pekau

Member
Region
Canada
No need to postpone biking in the winter, some hardy people do it with studded tires on bikes on snowy and icy pathways,
some even go without studded tires and fat bikes which is okay when the pathways are dry, otherwise dangerous and scary, especially
on downhill sections on ice.
I have seen a bike with a kid trailer on a downhill section crashing on ice, rider and kid lucky to have no major injuries.

Some people like the challenge to stay upright on bikes on snow, it is a bit like skiing. The difference is when you crash on a bike
it is not as pleasant as wiping out with skis !

But there is an alternative to safe winter biking : an e-trike of the delta type, one wheel in the front, two wheels in the back;

If the most of the weight is on the rear axle, you are pretty safe and don't have to worry about crashing, even a little sliding in the curves
does not do any harm. But there are a few things to consider :

First, you have to dress warm as you are exposed to cold wind and you might not go for two hours but only for one hour unless you can warm up in between.

Second, you might warm up your bike in your garage or at home if you have that possibility. The battery at least should not be much below the freezing
temperature as the capacity and your range drops quite a bit in cold weather.The best thing is to take the battery indoors and keep it at room temperature.
I have been riding down to minus 10 deg. C, but usually I do not go when it is below minus 5 deg.C. it is more fun and you can ride longer.

Third, the amount of power you can transfer from you motorized wheel to the snowy or icy pathway depends on a number of factors:
Where the centre of gravity is, e.g. when you have front wheel drive trike and you go up a hill on snowy or icy pathways you will get very little traction
or propulsion, the wheel will spin out very fast and you do not make it up the hill, even with fat tires. Studded tires might help a bit here but not much !

Rear wheel drive is much better in this case as you have two wheels to drive if there is a differential or two motorized wheels on the rear axle !
I have been riding with rear wheel drive on my e-trikes several winters now and have only regular knobby bike tires, not fat tires, no problems on the hills.

Fourth, steering and negotiating curves, go slow, if you have front wheel drive applying power in a curve will make it worse, you will slide and not make
the curve, depending on where your center of gravity is, e.g. if you have semi recumbent trike where you sit further back with less weight on the front wheel
you will slide more, also it will spin out more on snowy hills.

Fifth,braking, I recommend braking mostly with the rear wheels as it straightens the trike especially on downhill sections. Do NOT brake much with the front
wheel when going downhill on snowy or icy pathways, it will turn you sideways pretty soon and you are in trouble ! Also, braking in a curve on snow with the front wheel
is a no-no, you will slide and go straight instead .

But I do not want to discourage you to go winter biking with an e-trike, it is lots of fun and after some time you will be able to push the limits and see what you can
do on snow and ice with an e-trike.

Anybody with winter riding experience using a tadpole type e-trike ( two wheels in the front , one wheel in the rear ) ?
 
I severe cold, 0F(-18C) I dress like a snowmobile rider. Snow board helmet, wind proof balaclava, and high quality ski goggles. A simple 5V battery pack and clothes warming panels keep the battery warm. But my rides in those conditions are short runs, typically errands and just a couple of miles.

I think the most dangerous aspect is riding any bike in coldest winter conditions. Cagers aren’t expecting cyclists. And their awareness is even less than in nice weather.
 
Hi Rudy,

I have been riding a British, racing, delta tricycle, year round in Denmark for years.
Including riding up hills on 2-3" [5-7cm] of snow and through drifts on the flat!
It has rear, two wheel drive on narrow high pressures. 25x700C Schwalbe Duron slicks.
It doesn't suffer from wheelspin provided I point it straight ahead. I have ridden down to -16C.
I was tempted to add a motor but went back to 2 wheels and a 28mph '45kmh' bike instead.
Not ideal for snow but I am no longer so breathless on those longer climbs. ;)
 

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Hi Rudy,

I have been riding a British, racing, delta tricycle, year round in Denmark for years.
Including riding up hills on 2-3" [5-7cm] of snow and through drifts on the flat!
It has rear, two wheel drive on narrow high pressures. 25x700C Schwalbe Duron slicks.
It doesn't suffer from wheelspin provided I point it straight ahead. I have ridden down to -16C.
I was tempted to add a motor but went back to 2 wheels and a 28mph '45kmh' bike instead.
Not ideal for snow but I am no longer so breathless on those longer climbs. ;)
Thank you for your mail, you trike looks great ! You might get better propulsion in the
winter with wider tires, my neighbour has put 29 inch tires on 700 C rims, seems to work.
I like the trike in the winter, I do not have to worry about crashing on snow or ice.
You can still add a motor front wheel, it is no big deal to install a kit. I have done it
many times.
I understand that you like the fast bike in the spring ,summer and autumn, I like
my fast bike with dual motors too for off -road riding, see my post on Electric
Bike Review "Dual motor off-road bike conversion", there is a picture of my bike.
Here in Canada we have
a speed limit of 32 km/h for street bikes and on pathways. Any thing faster
you have to get registration and insurance. But on off-roads (mostly gravel not
much traffic) they do not have these restrictions.There are many gravel roads
in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just half an hour away from Calgary where I live.
It helps to have more power on the hills and two batteries, you can go longer
and higher.
Rudy
 
Hi Rudy,
Wider tires tend to float on the snow. Narrow, high pressures cut through to the asphalt.
When the rider is supplying the power the extra rolling resistance is harder work.
My trikes have too little clearance at the front forks for wider or knobbly tires.
The trike's [marginal] stability is a huge advantage in slippery conditions.
I was often the only one still riding. Normal bikes were falling over on the corners.
I was deliberately riding on black ice!

Fortunately, in Denmark, they allow the '45kph' [28mph] bikes with some sensible restrictions.
The cycle paths must be used if they are available. Helmets and lights are compulsory.
Proof of 3rd party insurance must be carried at all times. Normal cycling rules apply.

So called Speed-Pedelecs still give the rider a serious workout. Pedaling is also compulsory.
There is no throttle. Just four assistance modes and 11-12 derailleur gears.
Having to pedal keeps the rider warm in winter. It's not like a scooter or motorbike.
Windproof cycling clothing is far more useful than heavy waterproofs.
A rainproof lightweight jacket keeps the rider comfortable. Winter layering as usual.
Full length thermal underwear. Cycling shorts/bibs. Cycling cardigan or jumper, outer shell.

Panniers leave plenty of room for the vital changes of clothing and high quality locks.
Unfortunately the thieves find electric bikes and '45s' [28s] in particular, very attractive.
Fortunately the motor can help with these extra loads. I have now fitted a dropper post.
The Brooks B17 saddle is vital for comfort on those longer rides. 75-90km so far in heavy rain.
My Moustache 'Friday' FS27 with full suspension and Bosch Speed motor:
 

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Hi Rudy,
Wider tires tend to float on the snow. Narrow, high pressures cut through to the asphalt.
When the rider is supplying the power the extra rolling resistance is harder work.
My trikes have too little clearance at the front forks for wider or knobbly tires.
The trike's [marginal] stability is a huge advantage in slippery conditions.
I was often the only one still riding. Normal bikes were falling over on the corners.
I was deliberately riding on black ice!

Fortunately, in Denmark, they allow the '45kph' [28mph] bikes with some sensible restrictions.
The cycle paths must be used if they are available. Helmets and lights are compulsory.
Proof of 3rd party insurance must be carried at all times. Normal cycling rules apply.

So called Speed-Pedelecs still give the rider a serious workout. Pedaling is also compulsory.
There is no throttle. Just four assistance modes and 11-12 derailleur gears.
Having to pedal keeps the rider warm in winter. It's not like a scooter or motorbike.
Windproof cycling clothing is far more useful than heavy waterproofs.
A rainproof lightweight jacket keeps the rider comfortable. Winter layering as usual.
Full length thermal underwear. Cycling shorts/bibs. Cycling cardigan or jumper, outer shell.

Panniers leave plenty of room for the vital changes of clothing and high quality locks.
Unfortunately the thieves find electric bikes and '45s' [28s] in particular, very attractive.
Fortunately the motor can help with these extra loads. I have now fitted a dropper post.
The Brooks B17 saddle is vital for comfort on those longer rides. 75-90km so far in heavy rain.
My Moustache 'Friday' FS27 with full suspension and Bosch Speed motor:
Very nice bike, but expensive, my dual motor conversion costs only half as much.
I go shopping with my e-trike, can transport much more groceries than on a bike.
With a large load in the panniers the bike gets too unbalanced and it is difficult
to ride and a bit dangerous.With the trike stability gets even better as more load
is on the two rear wheels and it does not matter if you go on snow or ice.

With a hybrid e-trike /scooter (see my post on EBR) there is no chain but
there are pedals which work like an exercise bike.That's why it is called a hybrid.
The resistance can be adjusted
so you can work up quite a sweat, but it won't help you in the propulsion.The
advantage is you do not have a chain and gear shifting mechanisms which
adds to the weight , complexity and requires maintenance. I used to have
a chain which drove the right rear wheel of the trike but I abandoned it for the
above reasons.Works great even after several thousand kilometers.
 
My Fat Tad came the day before a snow storm. The day after the storm I rode it up to the local school and started spinning donuts in the parking lot. Just as I was coming to a stop, my front left tire caught a ledge on a concrete repair and I was instantly on my side with the trike still under me. A very quick lesson about leaning my body on a 3 day old trike and center of gravity. I learned the lesson twice more since I bought it, one with me on my head in a ditch and the entire trike on top of me with my shoes still clipped in. Thankfully, none of the accidents were above 2mph. Off roading on a tadpole can get exciting really quickly.
 
Ready and riding but it's still pretty high daytime temps. No more 2 wheels on ice and snow for me. A nice pain of Norwegian 26" studded tire dyeing a slow death in a dark and 60F cellar. I will add a 24" studded drive wheel when it does snow and stick. It's more EV than eTrike.
 

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Ready and riding but it's still pretty high daytime temps. No more 2 wheels on ice and snow for me. A nice pain of Norwegian 26" studded tire dyeing a slow death in a dark and 60F cellar. I will add a 24" studded drive wheel when it does snow and stick. It's more EV than eTrike.
Looks very comfortable, we had already our first snow here in Alberta, Canada, but now it is melting away again. I am sure you will enjoy when it gets slippery, nice backrest for lumbar support. I am presently working on an independent rear wheel suspension, each wheel has its own suspension, got to keep my old brain active.
Had my semi enclosed etrike out when it was raining, worked well, did not get wet.
Rudy
 
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