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Aussie snowbiker Shannon Mason | Columns | Gassit Garage

How does a motocross rider from tropical Queensland end up taking on the Canadian snow gods at their own game? With a swag of Aussie spirit

Pounding through the powder on a crisp winter’s day aboard a motocross bike is now what dreams are made of. But three years ago I’d never even heard about the sport of snowbiking.

I recall it was a hot, sweaty night in Ambrose, Queensland, and I was planning a North American holiday in 2015 when I stumbled across it. Yet by January 2016 I’d competed in the AMA Snowbike Nationals in McCall, Idaho, placing 20th out of 56 riders.

Looking back, it is now hard to imagine life without snowbikes. The term ‘on any Sunday’ has a new meaning for me these days; now it’s a dawn-till-dusk event in negative whatever degrees with a couple of mates in search of the gnarliest lines in the backcountry of Canada’s British Columbia.

My first impression of snowbikes was horrible – it’s the worst handling bike I’d ever been on! The ski was darting around, the rear track was stiff on corners and trying to stand the bike upright when I was battling to get the thing to lean. But the moment I rode off hard-packed snow and into soft powder, everything changed. It just turned into an effortless, floating feeling – with the throttle pinned the whole time!

Imagine riding on an ocean of loamy sand where you can pick nearly any line for as far as the eye can see. If you ever stack, you’re landing in a soft, albeit cold, pillow – it’s pure happiness. At times the extra-soft snow leads you into snow-drowning moments, like when you catch a log buried under the snow, but you still enjoy every minute of it. It’s truly heaven on earth, where snowbikes rule!

Snow versus dirt

Other than the fact that you’re riding way above the ground on a pile of snow, the snowbike handles similarly to a dirtbike in terms of cornering and clutch control. The rest is a new game. The power delivery is not as potent, so you twist that throttle pretty hard all day, and it’s an awesome feeling, especially on a two-stroke.

When it comes to braking, there’s no front wheel, so no front anchor. There is a disc brake in the rear track system, which can be hooked up to either the rear pedal or the front brake lever. I opted for the pedal – not only does my brain feel better about it, but the ability to quickly tap the brakes while at full speed into a berm is worth it, for a race situation anyway. Most riders actually set it up to the lever. The benefit of that set-up is that the brake lever remains clear, while the pedal can get jammed up with ice on deep-powder days, making braking a little difficult.

Read the full story in the current issue of AMCN (Vol 68 No 02) on sale now