Brighton’s recent ski bike demo, promoted by the American Ski Bike Association was a showcase of MTB influenced ski bikes. With 4 manufacturers and a number of custom bikes on hand, it was a great opportunity for riders to get a taste of a variety of styles of ski bikes. It’s clear that MTB popularity and technology are on the verge of transforming a formerly DIY activity into a normative alpine activity. Jim Cameron from the American Ski Bike Association explains a little about the state of the industry, analogizing it to snowboarding in the ‘80s:
Two trends appear to be emerging in the ski bikes: coil sprung single pivots; mass production in Asia. As a result, performance has improved and prices have fallen, with the opportunity to pick up one of several models for less than $1500. The somewhat confusingly named Ski Byk, started as crowdfunding project about two years ago, was a standout at less $1000 to start, as a fully cable machine. With no drivetrain, the single pivot layout, tapered headtube and 140mm of front and rear travel is your standard, entry-level dually snow trail bike, for the price of a similar MTB frame.
The pedal mount was simple and robust and the Zoom fork adequate and better than some, other, more popular ones. Owner, Chris Schuler, a former snowboarder is a passionate ski biker and clearly has a vision of bring ski biking to the masses. One unique piece that Ski Byk was showing off is their Liberator, a new Utah-made ski, featuring a continuous radius from front ski tip to rear ski tail and available as a bike upgrade or independently for $400.
Check out the Ski Byk in action, with some technical features explained in the video below.
Play this video to skip to the Ski Byk section
A very unique device, the Boomerang, is the product of Jeff Rapp, who needed a way to keep up his winter sports after loss of leg muscle due to a degenerative condition. As such, Rapp needed a way to sit on the ski bike, absorb shock and load easily, which the Boomerang accomplishes through a cantilevered design employing a snowmobile ski shock.
The shock is pretty special, having a second Evol aircan to get the spring rate right and is also custom tuned on the damp side for Boomerang. Think Softride/Allsop beam crossed with a Sweetspot URT and you know that this bike is for cruising, not sending and shredding. With foot skis, essentially zero handlebar input and a “in the back seat” steering style, the Boomerang is not intuitive to MTBers and lacks some ease of use and high performance (steep) capacity, however it does offer a unique option for the adaptive rider.
Watch it in action: Play this video to skip to the Boomerang section.
Utah local TNGNT ski bikes was on hand with some new Marzocchi equipped Carve models which owner, Scott Carr, explained was designed to enhance the overall ride feel. These bikes were covered in our Ski Bike 101 story and feature an interesting ski mount with an elastomer that acts to moderate ski angle while damping the action. With a long swingarm and 160mm of travel and solid fork, these are excellent entry level enduro bikes.
Scott Carr talks through the design process in the video here…
The most significant company at the event was Lenz Sport, Devin Lenz’s MTB and ski bike company, building ski bikes since 2004. Lenz Sport has 11 ski bikes in their history ranging from mini-sized hardtails to eight inch travel DH sleds. Anymore, Lenz Sport is focuses on six models, two of which were available at the event: the Launch, a 7 in travel, Denver, CO made freeride bike; the Recon, a 6 in travel imported all-rounder.
Unlike some other ski bikes, Lenz’s MTB background plays into the precisely positioned shock layout which offers a progressive rate that plays well with coil springs. Riding the Launch, it is clear that it is a beastly machine, that responds well to carving, yet is big enough for deep pow. Lenz Sport offers a variety skis for their bikes and others and the Commanders on the Launch added stability and comfort, not dissimilar to putting plus tires on a bike. You’ll note the Lenz Sport freeride pedigree in their riders’ choice the wide, long skis, the bikes’ burly construction and in-house made aluminum foot pegs.
MTB tech has a strong influence in the current offering of ski bikes, unlike their ski bob predecessors, which were sled based. Single pivots are surely the layout, made possible without the necessity of dealing with brake or drivetrain forces, as in a bike, though it will be interesting to see if rocker actuated/tuned layouts are developed for high performance applications.
Similarly, contact patch length (aka wheelbase), reach and headtube angle may undergo refinements to mimic modern MTB frames, especially as it very easy to achieve expert skier speed quickly. Some MTB conventions are difficult or pointless in the ski bike layout, handlebar width can make it difficult in uplift gates and loading is never easy, on the other hand, you’ll never have to worry about your dropper crapping out or your rear mech getting munched in a bike parking rack.
With affordable, quality suspension and MTB ‘standards’ the current crop of ski bikes are reasonably priced and proven, making them a serious consideration for the +1 in your N+1 formula.