Intro to Snow BikeCross
Welcome to Snow BikeCross
If a motorcycle's wheels are replaced with a track and ski system, is it still a motorcycle? Is it a snowmobile? At X Games, they'll be called Snow Bikes (SNB), and the discipline, Snow BikeCross, makes its X Games debut at Aspen 2017. These converted motocross bikes on snocross-style courses are creating buzz in the snow motorsports world.
Making the conversion
"Snow bikes have an obvious appeal because you get to use the dirt bike you know and love out in the snow," says Joe Duncan, sport organizer for Snowmobile and Snow Bike events at X Games. Motorcycle-to-snow conversion kits go back to the 1960s, before motocross was even popular in the United States. "As they've gotten lighter, smaller, more powerful and more manageable in recent years, the combination has made them a new fan favorite out on the mountains."
Fairly new sport
McCall, Idaho is ground zero for snow bike racing. In 2008, a race was held in conjunction with the town's Winter Festival, and it's become a regular event since. Here, in nearby Smiley Creek, X Games Aspen 2017 Brock Hoyer gets in some fresh lines.
The snow machine industry is paying attention. In April 2015, Polaris bought Timbersled, one of the most popular snow bike kit manufacturers. Arctic Cat makes its first foray into the market with the 2017 Arctic Cat SVX 450, developed in partnership with Camso. Other conversion kit manufacturers include Yeti SnowMX, Snow Trax and 2Moto. Here, Brock Hoyer catches some major air in Idaho in early 2016.
X Games Aspen 2017 invite Brock Hoyer started training for X Games as soon as the first snowfall of the season landed, back in November. Now backed by Rockstar Energy, Hoyer is looking in tip-top shape heading into Aspen.
Who will compete at X Games? A mix of snocross vets, freestyle moto specialists, motocross racers and a couple of former X Games Moto X Enduro X medalists. Ronnie Renner was among the first X Games Snow BikeCross invitees, along with three-time MTX Best Trick gold medalist Jackson Strong, freestyle and XG Austin 2016 Best Whip silver medalist Axell Hodges. Snow bike pioneers Brock Hoyer (pictured here) and Reagan Sieg were also on the initial list.
The cool thing
"The cool thing is that this sport is bringing in motocross, freestyle and endurocross riders as well as the snowmobile guys," says Reagan Sieg (pictured here), whose freeriding videos have helped fuel interest in the sport. "It's a pretty easy thing to get on a snow bike and ride it if you have a dirt bike background."
Cornering and handling
A stock KTM 450 SX dirt bike is 225 pounds (dry) whereas a stock race snowmobile is about 450. The snow bikes can corner and handle more like a dirt bike than a sled, as seen in recent viral freeriding videos filmed in the backcountry.
Snow as a factor
"The snow bike is a lot more natural for me to maneuver than a snowmobile, but it's also a lot different than riding a regular dirt bike," says Ronnie Renner, an 8-time X Games Moto X gold medalist. "My biggest challenge so far has been reading the snow -- it doesn't behave at all like the dirt and sand I'm used to."
Here we come
"X Games, here we come," says Aspen 2017 invite Ronnie Renner.
Renner digs it
"How many guys are in the final? Eight? Let's just say I'd like to be in the top eight," Ronnie Renner jokes. "I want to be realistic about it. There's nothing more fun than winning, but this is so new we'll just have to see how it goes. Being from Florida and living in SoCal is obviously not the optimum to be a snow biker, but I dig it."
Coming to X Games Aspen 2017
X Games Aspen 2017 Snow BikeCross is scheduled for Fri., Jan. 27, at 2:30 p.m. MT and airs live on ESPN3.