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  1. #1
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    Smile Fat bike, snow, clipless

    I'm relatively new to fat biking. I have almost 30 years of bicycling experience and am 100% comfortable going clipless on the road and 95% comfortable on my mountain bike.

    My fat bike riding is 95% in the snow. Until this weekend, I was doing platform pedals and boots. They work fine, but I missed the efficiency of clipless. So I spent a fortune on Wolvhammer SPD boots and bought some Shimano PD-M785 Deore XT pedals. Rode about 3-4 hours this weekend with my clipless combo. Trails were pretty well packed. Did perfectly fine most of the time, but had several (8-10) slow speed "fall overs." It seems that by the time I knew I needed to be "out", it was often too late to get out. Additionally, since the need to be out is usually because you get off in some deep snow, and that can be on either side, it made the routine of always clipping out with my right foot not always the best solution.

    I had no injuries as I was simply falling over into soft snow, but there are things hiding under the snow that could cause injury and I am 62, so I don't like the idea of falling at all.

    Anyway, I'm just wondering if there are any pointers that people have who have ridden more clipless fat bike snow miles.
    Thanks.
    Rod

  2. #2
    Perpetual n00b
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    Flats FTW. The snow conditions change WAY too often to just clip in and motor along with ease on technical singletrack. There's going to be unexpected dabbing and sometimes you'll need an outrigger when it gets loose. Clipless may be more efficient when you can stay clipped in but is it worth the risk of falling into some gooseberry or on a fallen honey locust?
    The leg bone's connected to the Cash Bone!

  3. #3
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    Though I personally prefer and recommend flats for winter riding - I think the Shimano SPD mechanism is more prone to problems with ice/snow/muck than other systems. I recall the Times (and similar systems) being very good in the snow in comparison.

  4. #4
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    You sound like me. 62 , with 40 years road and off road experience , and first winter riding on snow. I used flats at first , but longed for the efficiency of clipping in. I got the Wolvhammers and spd's and really only fell over in the pedals twice while riding on very technical trails. I loosened the pedal retention spring to it's loosest setting , and have been fine since. I never had a problem with snow buildup in the spd's. They engaged even when full of snow. Having said all that , I still might go to flats for certain rides where snow conditions were uncertain , high risk of pushing bike for long periods , or perhaps extreme cold. PS OLD DUDES ROCK!!!!

  5. #5
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    I should also add , the retention setting on the spd's out of the box seemed way too tight for winter riding. Loosening them to the lightest setting made a world of difference. David

  6. #6
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    +1 on the different pedals. I'm not anti-Shimano but I really like the action of my Egg Beaters in snow and mud. I will also tell you I did some riding last weekend with flats and I also had a couple of slow speed fallovers also. I'm no spring chicken either and don't enjoy falling but it seems to be a fat bike thing!

  7. #7
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    Been riding clipless for 20 years my self all mtb only. I can get out quickly but have had some issues with fall overs and ice buildup. I went to flats and it took me a full ride to stop pulling up but after that I love them. Will I switch all my bikes to flats, hell no but the two bikes I must exit quickly, my fatty and my trials bike will stay with flats.

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  8. #8
    bigger than you.
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    I use Crank Brothers Eggbeaters: they're easier to get out of and don't get clogged with snow/ice like my spd's did.
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  9. #9
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    Sorry to respond to my own thread, but thanks for the responses already. David, I'll take your advice to decrease the tension on my SPDs. To those suggesting different pedals, I'll keep that in mind, but I had no mechanical issues getting in or out of my Shimanos, so right now I don't see that as the main issue.
    David, you are right on the "old guys rock." Not sure when I'll get rid of my intense excitement about cycling, but there has been no hint of it yet.
    I'll recount one of my falls yesterday for humor's sake. I'd seen a lady walking with her dog and she stood aside so I could ride on the packed part of the trail. About a half hour later, I had one of my slow speed falls. Was laying on my left side in about two feet of fluffy snow. Clipped in on both sides. Took me about 15 seconds to get my upper right foot unclipped. Then I'm trying to wriggle my left foot, lift my bike, whatever... so I can unclip on the left. Looked up and there's the same dog about two feet away looking at me quizically as I'm blocking the trail where it is going. The master is right behind and she asks me if I'm okay. When I finally dug myself out and disengaged and got rolling again I couldn't help but have a good laugh at my embarrassment and what I must have looked like sprawled in that snow.
    Rod

  10. #10
    MN/WI
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    I bop my boot on the SPDs before I clip in. Never used flats.
    Remember, nobody knows. So let's find out...

  11. #11
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    I've never had a problem with SPD and snow.. That being said there is another option for cleats:
    Amazon.com: Shimano SM-SH56 SPD Cleat Set: Sports & Outdoors

    Shimano multi-release cleat.. If you are looking for a little extra wiggle room, try these out, for $13, why not?
    “People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death." JM

  12. #12
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    I use Eggbeaters and have never had any trouble in snow or mud.

    Just remember to insulate your foot with a good felt insole. If your body heat melts snow on the cleat, it could freeze and cause trouble clipping in.

  13. #13
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    When I first started riding regular mountain bikes clipless if I fell over to the left side I never managed to unclip. So for the next week I unclipped on my left side only whenever I came to a stop. I was working a bike messenger at the time so my learning to unclip on the left was quick since you stop a lot, but I haven't had any more trouble on the left than the right since then.

    I have changed to platforms on the mountain bike for technique reasons, and would also go platform for snow riding.

  14. #14
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    Who says you have to chose one or the other? Keep them both handy and switch them up as conditions warrant.

  15. #15
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    I refuse to ride with platforms after all clipless pedals are so much more efficient, but I do need to admit my 636 are pretty useless when the cleats get pack up with snow and mud..
    Fat bike, snow, clipless-img_4002-m.jpg

  16. #16
    slower than you
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    ya might laugh

    but I'm on Onza HOs (yep, <i>those</i> Onza HOs) four seasons of the year

    Fat bike, snow, clipless-9069722599_a95676770b_b.jpg

    might seem crazy, but they've always worked for me

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  17. #17
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    I fail to see how the difference in efficiency is so important, since we're not racing these things. For normal pedalling the difference in efficiency is negligible as long as you have proper spinning technique. The most advantage you get is when seriously mashing to accelerate. I have both pedal types and I'm quite happy riding either. For races it's clipless, but if I'm just cruising, I use what I happen to prefer at the moment. Sometimes it's just flats.

    -----

    Something I've found riding clipless is that in one crank position it's very difficult to unclip: if the crank on the side where I want to unclip is pointing back and down a bit, it interferes with the front of the shoe and prevents it from turning. Unfortunately it's also a typical crank position for me, because if the bike stalls and I can't push it any further, I have my weight on the front foot and I naturally try to unclip with the foot at the rear.

    One thing that helped me a lot was practicing track stands on my singlespeed city bike. Improving balance on the bike means you're not immediately out of your comfort zone when the bike stops, but you can keep upright while deciding whether you are able to push and move on, or if you should unclip and put your foot down. Making this decision while falling already is usually too late.

  18. #18
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    Revised content
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  19. #19
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    I use a platform pedal ( wellgo) that has small Allen screws for studs.
    The vibram sloes of my hiking boots stick so well I can do close to a 3/4 pedal stroke under power.
    I might not be able to pull up but that provides so little of the power stroke who cares!

    Falling over is a PITA. The platform is so good and my feets so cozy with hiring boots I'm staying with this setup.

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  20. #20
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    Crank bros Mallets with traction pins + dropper post seems to be a pretty good combo if you like clipping in.

    If you are like me, half the time falling over is more a result of trying to get back up on the saddle as you're trying to build up some speed... it's great to be able to get the saddle down and out of the way a little or just tweak it down a bit to make it easy to climb back on or to get off the saddle and get a foot down...

    And the mallets are pretty awesome because they will grip your shoes whether you clip in or not.

    If I rode more "adventure" rides- off trail, etc, I might switch to flats. But most of my rides are on singletrack so clipless works pretty well for me.

  21. #21
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    I also use Mallets and have zero issues.
    A couple of my friends have had SPD's in the past. They get clogged with snow and become very difficult to use. I'm pretty sure most of my riding friends are one Crank Bros pedal or another.
    I like turtles

  22. #22
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    Fat bike, snow, clipless

    I just picked up a pair of flat pedals and 5.10 Impacts for winter riding. I'm 20 years clipless and on my fourth winter riding trails on a fatbike. Our winter singletrack can roll pretty fast once it's packed, and I was wanting to hit corners a bit looser, so I decided to give it a whirl. Mostly I just wanted to mix things up, I suppose. Whatever the case, I've enjoyed my first couple of rides on flats. I think they may be the ticket for me on fast rolling, technical winter singletrack, especially on shorter rides (2 hours pedaling). That being said, I'm certainly not ready to hang my cleats up yet. They'll still serve well for longer adventure rides where efficiency is a bit more important.
    -Chris

  23. #23
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    I rode clip less the last two years (Time design), and had similar problems when clipped in and needing to exit quickly. I also had a lot of problems with snow and ice build up. That being said I have many friends using egg beaters and loving them in all conditions. I just can't make the commitment to switch out four bikes worth of pedals.

    I switched to Azonic flats this year and I am very happy. I keep the clip less near by and switch back to them when their is minimal snow ( I am in CO and the conditions change week to week). I am a semi old guy (50) and have been clip less on the road and MTB for nearly 30 years as well.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saul Lumikko View Post
    I fail to see how the difference in efficiency is so important, since we're not racing these things. For normal pedalling the difference in efficiency is negligible as long as you have proper spinning technique. The most advantage you get is when seriously mashing to accelerate.
    Yep. Much easier to keep your feet warm, too. Clipless has its place for sure, but disadvantages far outweigh advantages when it comes to extended rides in cold, snowy weather, imo. Not trying to convert anyone, just sayin'. I'm kind of amazed at the gyrations some people will go through to ride clipless in the winter. The commitment of some approaches a religious fervor.
    The older I get the better I was...

  25. #25
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    Fat bike, snow, clipless

    Quote Originally Posted by veloborealis View Post
    Yep. Much easier to keep your feet warm, too. Clipless has its place for sure, but disadvantages far outweigh advantages when it comes to extended rides in cold, snowy weather, imo. Not trying to convert anyone, just sayin'. I'm kind of amazed at the gyrations some people will go through to ride clipless in the winter. The commitment of some approaches a religious fervor.
    And to think I was going to get reamed for opposing clipless snow riding!
    The leg bone's connected to the Cash Bone!

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgw2jr View Post
    And to think I was going to get reamed for opposing clipless snow riding!
    One or all of us will probably get reamed before this thread ends. For the record, I ain't opposin' nothing, just speaking out for free choice. Platforms for me in the winter. Ride what you want.
    The older I get the better I was...

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by veloborealis View Post
    Yep. Much easier to keep your feet warm, too. Clipless has its place for sure, but disadvantages far outweigh advantages when it comes to extended rides in cold, snowy weather, imo. Not trying to convert anyone, just sayin'. I'm kind of amazed at the gyrations some people will go through to ride clipless in the winter. The commitment of some approaches a religious fervor.
    I have no issues with clipless in any other situation but I feel flats work better for me on the fat bike for several reasons.
    1. Can use the bike with any shoe.
    2. It seems to be easier to adjust to different temps.
    3. Easier to start and stop in deep snow.

  28. #28
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    20s and teens, clipless. I find that unless it's wet snow (30s and higher), packing/jamming is no problem, and even when that is the case, new generation shimanos just have to be kicked once and they work just fine. Older generation ones and the mechanisms that still come in 545s and 434s are poor and get packed relatively easy. The new modern design with the "open" area just allows snow to push through, like Time or CB.

    If it's single digits or colder (like this morning), I go flats and big warm boots. Doesn't really matter what flats, but mine are magnesium just in case I have to start a fire!
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Doesn't really matter what flats, but mine are magnesium just in case I have to start a fire!
    Ha! Mine, too. I know, or at least I think, you're kidding, but now you have me wondering if there's enough Mg in the alloy to use pedal shavings as a fire starter?
    The older I get the better I was...

  30. #30
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    Fat bike, snow, clipless

    Quote Originally Posted by veloborealis View Post
    Ha! Mine, too. I know, or at least I think, you're kidding, but now you have me wondering if there's enough Mg in the alloy to use pedal shavings as a fire starter?
    That much Mg content would make the pedals pretty soft wouldn't it?
    The leg bone's connected to the Cash Bone!

  31. #31
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    Idk, would be fun to find out sometime. I know there was plenty of Mg in fork lowers to set off a blaze you couldn't look at (and shouldn't throw water on)
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  32. #32
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    I had been using clipless for 15+ years and before that, toe clips since the mid 70's. I hated the feel of not being clipped in. My last clipped snow ride I had 3 or 4 falls where i couldn't get out. I saw the writing on the wall. Flats and the shoe du jour for me. It's been a learning curve for me, but I have happy feet. Besides, I like staying on my bike much more than the alternative.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  33. #33
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    I guess it depends on where you live. I have been able to get away with Crank Bros Mallet pedals, and spend most of my rides clipped in, but the snow here (Wasatch mtns UT) is usually pretty dry. If the snow is wet it packs up in your cleats and/or pedals much more causing lots of problems. Just saying in dry snow clipless can be a viable option.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by theGliberal View Post
    I bop my boot on the SPDs before I clip in. Never used flats.
    I bop my boot on the times before I clip in. Never used flats. Won't use flats.
    Baby seal walks into a club.

  35. #35
    um... yeah
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    You could try the Shimano Click'r pedals. They are designed for beginners so they are far easier to clip in and out. Might address some of your problems in the snow. I'm pretty sure they use standard SPD cleats, too.

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