Steamboat Springs Its members will say that being a part of the Bike Town USA task force requires a little explaining, with those local cycling enthusiasts having to point out to the occasional critic that they want simply to add the label “Bike Town USA,” not swap it out for the long-established and dearly beloved “Ski Town USA” moniker.
If one of the latest trends in mountain biking continues to catch on — and local custom frame manufacturer Moots is betting it will — Bike Town conspiracy theorists may be on the verge of their Roswell moment.
Snow bikes are not a crafty garage creation for riding the Yampa River Core Trail in January. They’re not a novelty to be wheeled out for a hair-brained event during Winter Carnival.
They are a specialized kind of bike for mountain bikers who just won’t quit, and they may be part of the cycling future.
In fact, the company is banking that the demand is great enough that it can move forward with its first available-to-the-public line of snow bikes.
Moots is starting with the FrosTi, a mountain bike designed to handle far more than your average stretch of singletrack.
Inspired by adventure
The FrosTi represents a new step for Moots, but snow bikes aren’t exactly new territory for the Steamboat Springs company. In fact, they’ve been modifying their titanium frames for years.
In the past, the mutated bikes have been for the most adventurous of employees or the most particular of customers.
Mike Curiak, for instance, had a custom frame built and has demonstrated exactly what snow bikes can accomplish.
Curiak, of Grand Junction, is a member of the mountain biking hall of fame and is one of the world’s premier endurance mountain bikers, tackling races and trails that define extreme, including the Iditasport Impossible, a 1,100-mile race down the Iditarod Trail in the dead of Alaska’s winter.
He’s still taking on equally mind-numbing challenges, and he needed a bike to match his ambition.
“There are some very specific needs for some winter trips that I had planned and have planned, and there’s obviously nothing else like Moots available,” he said. “If you want something done in titanium, there’s Moots, and there’s everybody else.”
Curiak’s ride is customized with an in-frame tank for storing cooking fuel and a special-built titanium rack for hauling supplies.
Those details won’t make the FrosTi, but other ideas will, primarily the engineering that went into attaching the two giant tires that define all snow bikes.
“You need the clearance for those big tires and the ability to run a full spread of gears and not have any interference,” Curiak said. “Believe it or not, in this day and age there’s another company that brought a bike to market that has decent tire clearance, but the gain rubs the tire right out of the box.”
Moots has displayed a snow bike at consumer shows for the past seven or eight years, and it always turns out to be a huge attraction.
Only this winter, however, will the concept for Moots go from conversation-starting novelty to full-on production.
Engineered to float
The FrosTi is defined by those tires and that battle to effectively incorporate them.
They’re huge, and they’re the key to riding on the snow. The Moots frame can support a 3.8-inch-wide tire on the back, which is massive compared to the more typical 2.1- to 2.4-inch mountain bike tires.
The tires are kept at low pressure to allow give and help them float.
“It’s not something you’d be able to take out on a powder day, but when it’s packed or semi-packed out, that’s when the bike really excels,” Cariveau said. “You really start to get into problems with how the chain stays and rear end is built to accommodate that tire.”
Moots isn’t the only — or even the first — bike company to enter the snow bike market, but it’s hoping it’s as or more successful solving those problems than its competitors.
Everything connected to or around the wheels, from gears to supports, has to be tailored especially for the FrosTi, which will retail for $3,950 for just the frame.
Cariveau said fenders, popular on commuter bikes used in winter, aren’t required.
“The prime time for snow biking, the weather is so cold you don’t run into that slushy problem,” he said. “With our powdery snow, the snow doesn’t stick on the tire.”
He said the bikes already have started to catch on in Steamboat. Often riding in the evenings to avoid user conflicts, riders tackle the same trails they do during the summer, on Emerald Mountain, and even at Steamboat Ski Area.
“Believe it or not, snow bikes have gotten to this point where they’re not this extremely weird thing,” Cariveau said. “It’s getting to be a little more mainstream.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com