Condensed Answer: A standard BMX bike is not the most optimal bicycle for riding in snowy conditions primarily because the tires are slicks and thus offer poor grip on snow.
With a few changes, however, a BMX can become an acceptable performer on snow, but never a top machine for such terrain.
The Problem With Riding BMX Bikes On Snow
- Slick Tires
Standard BMX bikes are designed for paved roads (street riding) and skate parks with a smooth surface. Consequently, the tires on most BMX are what’s known as slicks.
Slick tires do not have off-road threads and provide extra grip when riding on paved roads. Hence why road bikes use slick tires too. The thread pattern on slick tires is meant to push water away rather than to dig into the ground.
In different, knobby tires can dig into the ground when it’s soft (e.g., snow, mud…etc.) and provide more traction in off-road conditions. A slick tire cannot do that and consequently increases the chances of unnecessary slides which may easily lead to a fall, especially when the front wheel is involved.
If the rear wheel skids, the rider may be able to keep the bike balanced, but when the front is misbehaving, a fall is close to 100% guaranteed.
Therefore, if one wants to make a BMX bike more suitable for riding on snow, the tires have to be replaced with a knobby model or maybe even one with spikes (studded tires). The spikes provide even more traction by “stabbing” the snow.
Additionally, one could also switch to the widest tires that the frame and the fork can accommodate. The extra width will provide more traction.
Another technical property that makes the use of BMX bikes on snow less than ideal is the lack of multiple gears that would allow the rider to control how many rotations the rear wheel makes per 1 spin of the cranks.
The absence of gears forces the rider to manipulate the effort output by regulating the pedaling style. In some cases, it may also be necessary to get out of the saddle to generate enough effort. Those alterations could have a negative effect on the rider’s balance which is even more crucial when riding on snow.
That said, the single-speed drivetrain has a positive side too – it’s simple and its performance doesn’t deteriorate notably due to contaminations.
- Low saddle
BMX bikes weren’t originally made for adults. Their purpose was to allow children to imitate motocross riders. Over the years, people realized that BMXs are extremely effective for the performance of various tricks thanks to their small format and geometry. For that reason, the parameters were kept the same.
BMX riders keep their seat posts low so that the saddle doesn’t interfere with the execution of tricks such as bunny hops and manuals. If the seat post is elevated, the rider would have a hard time performing those movements as efficiently and may even get injured.
Since BMX bikes are not used for commuting, the low saddle isn’t a problem. Riders pedal out of the saddle to get up to speed and then perform a trick.
If the bike is going to be used on snow, however, riding out of the saddle becomes a bit problematic because of the higher center of gravity.
Another downside is the inability to quickly position one foot on the ground when losing balance.
The only way to solve the issue above is to get a larger BMX (e.g., 26″) or install an extra-long seat post that would allow you to pedal comfortably in a seated position.
When that’s done, however, one loses the ability to perform standard BMX tricks.
- Subpar Braking
BMX bikes often have no brakes or only a rear one. Those setups make it easier to perform tricks such as bar spins. However, when the bike is used for commuting the lack of braking power creates a problem.
If the bike has no brakes, it has no business being used as a serious commuter as the only way to break is to put your feet on the ground or to touch the rear wheel with the sole of your shoe. Both methods are extremely inefficient.
If the bike has a rear brake, the stopping power is greater, but it’s still low because the rear wheel has poor traction. During braking, there’s a weight shift to the front. As a result, the rear wheel loses traction whereas the front one gains. Thus, front brakes are much more effective when it comes to stopping.
However, things change in snowy conditions. The weight shift described above could actually make the front wheel slide in an unwanted manner. For that reason, the general rule of thumb is to avoid using the front brake when riding on snow and ice and to rely on the rear one.
Another issue is the fact that BMX bikes use rim brakes which are a lot less efficient than disc brakes in wet conditions because the rims get dirty and slippery whereas the disc brake rotors experience less contamination.
- No Fenders
On one hand, the absence of fenders on BMX bikes is a good thing because there’s less mud and snow accumulation around the fork and frame. However, in urban settings, where the snow is extremely polluted, fenders help by protecting the rider from the tire spray. Without them, the rider’s back, legs and even face would get covered in “chocolate mousse”.
The bare minimum would be to get a partial fender pushing away at least some of the rear tire spray. It’s also recommended to get a small front fender as it will eliminate some of the dirt reaching the rider’s face.
FAQ: Can I perform BMX tricks in the snow?
Technically, you can. People have done it. However, the danger is high as it’s very easy to slip and fall.
BMX riding is already sufficiently dangerous as it is. Adding another risky element raises the danger level substantially. Therefore, it’s not recommended to attempt BMX tricks on snow.
Summary: What You Need To Know
A BMX is not ideal for riding in the snow for the following reasons:
- Slick tires that offer poor grip. (The tires should be replaced with models that have an off-road thread or maybe even studded units. The front tire is a lot more important than the rear one. If it loses traction, it’s “game over”.)
- A low seat that doesn’t allow comfortable pedaling in the seated position.
- A subpar braking system for wet condition
- Absence of fenders
4. No protection from the road spray due to the absence of fenders.