Snowbiking on the edge of extreme winter sports
The Aspen Times
465 N. Mill St., Aspen
Could snowbiking be the next extreme winter sport?
Alex Dicharry thinks so.
Dicharry, owner of local shop Aspen Motoworx, helps clients build the bikes by adding tracks and a front-end ski to the body of a motocross bike, creating equipment that he says can go just about anywhere a snowmobile can with less weight and more ease.
“What we’ve found now is that if this thing is built correctly, it will go 99 percent of where a snowmobile will go,” Dicharry said. “This is easier to ride.”
The technology has been around about 15 years, Dicharry said, but it’s only recently with the release of track conversions that the transition from wheels to sled has become seamless, he said. Even so, to make the full transition, a bike needs added insulation and some added horsepower, heated grips and hand deflectors to protect against the elements.
“That’s where we come in as the mad scientist,” Dicharry said. “This is my laboratory.”
The tracks currently on the market will fit any big-name brand bike. However, Polaris, one of the biggest companies in the powersports industry, last year acquired Timbersled, one of the track manufacturers. Dicharry expects that sooner rather than later, snowbikes will be available for purchase direct, without all of the lab work.
While building a snowbike requires eliminating about a third of the body of a motocross bike, with the track, the final product winds up being about 50 pounds heavier. But it’s still much lighter than a snowmobile, making it easier for a driver to maneuver and less of a hassle if it gets stuck in deep snow.
The downside of the model is on hard-packed snow, where the single ski in the front can be hard to navigate, Dicharry said. But there’s plenty of terrain just in the Aspen area that’s perfect for the bikes, like up Independence Pass or the motorized access backcountry around Lenado.
“Powder is what they are built for,” Dicharry said.
Despite that drawback, Dicharry foresees snowbiking becoming a professional-level sport just like snowmobiling and snocross in the Winter X Games, happening all weekend at Buttermilk. Professional motocross riders such as Reagan Sieg and Ronnie Renner are already venturing into the sport, capturing flips and jumps on the bikes for the camera.
“I have no doubt that will come about,” Dicharry said. “It’s so wonderful to see this thing evolve into what it’s become.”
Dicharry, who says he’s “raced everything on two wheels,” opened his first motorcycle shop in 1996 and relocated to Aspen in 2009. Aspen Motoworx is slammed in the summer with maintenance and some sales of motorcycles, dirt bikes, scooters and just about anything motorized. In the winter, clients seek it out for help with snowmobiles and, of course, converting snowbikes. Dicharry estimates he’s built about 12 to 15 of the bikes.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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