How are experiences using 40mm gravel tyres on compacted snow?
I’m headed to Alpe D’huez for an impromptu week, and have the option to taking 1 bike.
Idea ally, I’d use it to climb and descent AH a couple of times (primary activity is skiing), and to run my golden retriever on the compacted snow tracks, so that she can get vigorous exercise.
A) Gravel bike with 40mm tyres - I’ve used it on compacted snow in London and was doing fine
Can use it on the road
Used it on compacted snow in London a few weeks ago, worked much better than I expected. Grip was strong even on “full white” canal overpass pedestrian ramps (with very steep gradients)
B) Road bike
No taking the dog out for runs.
C) MTB (Epic Evo)
Not really the best bike to climb (or descend) AH.
As long as the gravel bike is rideable on compacted snow, I think that would be the right choice, but I’m not sure if setting up myself for disaster.
Taking 2 bikes (road + MTB) not an option as there is no space.
I live in the north of Scotland and have several clubmates that swear by ice spike tyres for winter gravel bike use. If you have the budget or if someone could lend you some they might be a good idea, you won’t notice the added rolling resistance as much going uphill and will avoid the ice risk highlighted by @moukari
And another vote for ice tyres - We had snow here (Ireland) before Christmas. My 40mm Hutchinson Tundra were good on the fresh snow. By the next weekend, after intermittent snow and lying/ walked on snow it was a bit sketchy to be honest. Bailed early on that spin, as notwithstanding ice on the roads, it wasn’t even that much fun on the fireroads.
I don’t know how much snow they’ve gotten this year in the French alps. If it’s anything like a normal winter here in Colorado, descending AdH could be very sketchy, even if they de-ice.
On the packed snow walking tracks, moving in a straight line will probably be fine, but could get sketchy on turns, and if you need to brake suddenly.
I spend 4 months a year riding in snow on my fat bike, and even on the fat bike, I’ve got to pay attention on descents, turns and while braking.
All-in, if I was in your shoes I’d take the Epic Evo. It’ll handle the snow the best, and do you really care if you’re not setting PBs up and down AdH? You’ll also ride slower, so wind chill is less of an issue. This is a big deal when it gets cold. It’s one of the reasons it’s possible to ride in very cold temps on the fat bike - because of riding so slow.
It is a very well deiced and sun-facing road, as it is the only access road (in the winter) of a sizeable resort (think small town at the top of the mountain). I’ve ridden a day or two after a snowstorm which closed the ski lifts, when temperatures had just gotten positive (but sun had been shining), and the road was completely dry (I start from the top, so was going down really slow to make sure). I would not do it unless the road was visibly dry.
I found that if it’s sunny, with my col I prefer the temperature to be closer to 0C than 10C, i
(I’ve been going to AH for 38 years, as my grandparents have a flat there - Unfortunately only started cycling seriously 4 years ago)
I’d take the gravel bike and plan on road riding. If the trails are unrideable on it, but it’s only for walking the dog, you can just get off and walk? I used to ride a normal commuter bike (and tyres) in the winter, snow is fine, ice is not, so it depends if the compacted snow has frozen over.
My experience on very hard snow (London canals and parks, a few weeks ago) has been suprisingliy good, so I’m cautiously optimistic on the tyres. I’m not sure if the snow compacted by the piste machines (every day) will be hard enough, but might be able to report in 2-3 days.
I lived in SE michigan the past 2 winters and would frequently take my gravel bike out with 43mm GK SK’s on the gravel road after the cars had a day or 2 to pack the snow down. It would be find for 95% of the roads. Some spots would go soft and you’d get a little squirrely on. But we’d do long group rides with little issue.
Though I think some machine compacted trails for skiing or fat biking might still be too loose to bike on. They would do that to some trails near us and you can’t ride a normal mtb on them because you’d cut ruts into the trail.
Note: Alpe d’Duez is a skiing resort, as such (unlike many locations in the US, according to my colleagues), all the village is at the base of the slopes, and as such machines dig out a lot of walkways (and also why the single access road - the one we cycle on - to a “town” of >20k people (in winter) is well deiced)
Had to lower the pressure (started at 30), to something that would be barely useable on road (haven’t measured yet).
Can put >300W upslope with traction, and ride down at close to 35kph downhill (top speed of the dog). This starts feeling a bit unreasonable but risk profile is riskier due to the fact that a fall on snow is not as bad.