After several weeks of unusual warm weather, it was time to rebuild my first bicycle snow plough.
After building a few snow ploughs, I learned that there are two types of bicycle snow ploughs needed. One that digs into deeper snow, is smaller, pointy, and slices up ice and the heavy snow from hell. This requires a much stronger plough because I often put my full weight into pulling the thing and also hit drifts at high speed with a bicycle so it has to be able to stand up to such punishment on a regular basis.
The second type of plough can be made of just about anything, a piece of flat plywood, a large tube cut in half lengthwise, or just hooking a snow shovel up to the bicycle.
Using the previous design, a pointy plough with sloping sides that digs into snow instead of sitting on top of snow (not very useful), I decided to scavenge and rebuild the idea of a folding bicycle plough for ease of storage and hopefully, the ability to carry it on a bicycle rack.
The new folding plough is 42″ wide whereas the smaller one is only 25″ wide. In a light snowfall, this wider plow should be able to clear a wide path quite easily. The v-shaped plough cuts through snow well but has the limitation of not being able to push snow off a pathway so the wider, the better.
In deeper snow, the smaller plough is needed as the amount of force required to pull a plough in snow sky rockets the deeper the snow gets. At around 4″ of wet snow I just hook a rope up to the plough and pull it while walking.
It is supposed to snow tonight. 5cm of dandruff from the sky. Let you know how the plough works. The hope is that I’ll only have to plough out and back once instead of several times.
The new plough has steel blades and is made of the usual 3/4″ plywood. The design adds larger wheels, a fixed front wheel and castering rear wheels since I may make several sizes of spreader bars to adjust the plough width. Doing so changes the angle of the rear wheels which is why castering wheels are used as they will track in whatever direction the plough goes. Hopefully it will still track relatively straight. In order to keep it compact, only a nylon dog leash will be used to pull the plough. No slippery coating is used on the plough until some testing is done. 3 1/2 feet wide should clear a sidewalk in one go or a pathway in two trips thus reducing the number of ridges of snow left behind.
Recently, it was time to upgrade my plough bicycle. A classic cruiser worked quite well except in deep snow and is limited because of a single gear that prevents maintaining a decent pedaling speed at low speeds, typically 10-15 kph.
A three speed hub is relatively cheap and offers the same reduced winter maintenance of a single chain and gears but has the benefit of being able to change gears while stopped. Two gears are lower than the cruiser and one gear is slightly higher. The Giant Simple 3 was on sale and considering the cost of upgrading the cruiser it only slightly more expensive than fixing and upgrading the old work bike.
Lower gears are a definite advantage up to a point. That point is where it is difficult to balance the bike in snow while trying to pull a plough with a couple of square inches of tire, deep snow, and high resistance to ploughing in less than ideal circumstances like wet, freezing, or wet snow and as you can see, there is only so much can be gained from bicycle ploughing. In light dry snow or only a few inches of snow, there isn’t a lot of resistance to pulling a plough and this is where bicycle ploughing excels over a snow shovel.
This traction issue hasn’t been a huge issue because of using an Ice Spiker winter tire with 304 studs that has huge knobbies and in snow that packs fairly well, I can stand on the pedals and apply full effort without the tire slipping at all.
With the bigger plough, the resistance can be much greater than a smaller plough that has worked extremely well in snow up to 3 or 4″ deep. So lower gears are needed for more pulling power and more traction is also needed which takes us into the new SlipNot bicycle tire chains and issue encountered the first day the chains arrived.
Since 3 of my 4 bicycles use the same 26″ rims, I have access to 3 tire sizes used on my bikes (1.9″, 2″ and 2.125″ wide tires). These different tire widths however create issues with tire chains even when ordering 26X1.9 to 26X2.125 chains. You’d think the chains would fit all three sizes right? Wrong!
One bike had center pull brakes. The brake levers hit the chains on the side of the wheel. The front 1.9″ tire was too small. The 2.125″ rear tire was too big unless I used all the turnbuckles from both sets of chains (used to adjust the fit).
The old cruiser bike has a brake built into the rear hub. No issues with brakes getting in the way but the fender clearance was insufficient. The chains did however fit the tires from what I could tell.
The Giant has a huge clearance around the wheel. It comes with very big tires that fit quite close to the fender. However, I had a 26X1.9″ front tire with more of a knobby tread and the fit was near ideal (unlike the other 1.9″ tire that was too small by about 1/2″.
The Ice Spiker rear tire is 2.125″ wide but since it has a lot of knobbies, the chain fits in between the bumpy tread and fits when using two sets of turnbuckles. Go figure! It would seem that the tires that are most likely to cause issues are 2.125″ wide tires with very little tread such as summer tires (which is exactly why one would buy tire chains for use in the winter).
With the tire chains and studded knobby winter tires, traction should be close to idea, somewhat like the James Bond bicycle, a K-Trak or a fatbike. The gearing options should maximize power under different snow depths.
The narrow plough can handle high speed ramming into two foot drifts and tunnel through drifts that bury the plough. The third wide plough is however, untested. Will it work in reasonably deep snow, with the new bike, and studded tires with or without tire chains?
Its snowing. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, SlipNot is sending a set that should fit. Awesome!