Winter Commuting?

I currently have a 29er with a 29x2.1" tire. It’s fine most days, but can be a real challenge on days with more than a couple of inches of fresh snow and sometimes a day or two after. The roads end up with hard packed snow covered in “salt slush”, that loose gross powdery snow that’s dry but slops around like slushy snow. I end up having to slow down and expend a ton of energy just to stay on top of the wheel because it sinks and squidges left and right. Sometimes it’s bad enough that it would be faster to get off and walk.

I’ve ridden a 36er; it was fast, and such a smooth ride! But that was summer. And it’s still a 2.25" wide tire, so I assume it rides similarly in the snow. Some of my co-workers rock the 4" - 5" fat bikes in the winter, so I’ve also considered getting one of those… or a hatchet with a 26x4.8" tire.

Who rides in the winter? Does a 36er stay on top of the snow any better that smaller diameter wheels? Is a 26x4.8" Hatchet good for winter commuting, or is it too slow & heavy for all but the worst days and playing on snowy trails?

I ride both in the winter on groomed fatbike trails and on our forestry road and in our small town.

For having fun in the snow (lots of falling) and on the cross country trails I love my KH29 with a 3 1/4" Duro Crux. It float well with speed and I run it at 20lbs. (I’ll double check later)

Speed is the key. Keep it cranking hard when you hit the questionable stuff and you will power through.
It may feel uncontrolled in the beginning but it’s really just letting the unicycle bounce around underneath you while you stay calm on top.
It’s easy to dump speed/power while going through an obstacle. Recovering power during an obstacle makes it that much harder.

If the base is packed hard like concrete or frozen snow/ice then the 36" is very doable.
I find the 36" cuts through the lumps of snow, fresh snow, and slushy snow super easy.
The grip is great with my Nightrider and I run at about 25lbs.
I find the trick is to ride smooth. No harsh turns or powering too hard.

At least this is what I tell myself so I can’t justify buying my own Hatchet with a nice big 5" fattie on it!

I also know the benefits of a fatbike (my wife has one).
They are incredible and make biking in the snow fun and very doable.
It’s physically hard but you’re a unicyclist so no problem.

If I had more money I would have a fatbike myself and only ride it on weakdays.

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We don’t get a lot of snow around here, but last year we had a pretty heavy snowfall that lasted 3-4 days. My fattest unicycle only has a 3” tire on it, but it did pretty well in it. I took it with me up to the mountain pass as well, but in the deep snow with ice clumps and obstacles underneath it was useless. Maybe a hatchet would have worked in those conditions.


I have done a lot of winter commuting back in the day. If you can keep your speed up and aren’t particularly scared of slipping on ice a 36er can be the weapon of choice. You get the same float as a 26x3 with a narrower profile and lower angle of attack making it much more efficient cutting through the snow.

Fat tires work great on some surfaces that nothing else will work on but are a lot of work to keep going. I’d keep the fat tires for play days and occasional use in extreme conditions just so you can have the bragging rights of riding in on a snow day when nobody expected you to make it on one wheel.

The last winter I unicycle commuted I ended up riding a 26x2.35 ice spiker pro on a schlumpf. Not the most amazing float in poor conditions but very sure footed and when kicked into high gear I got similar speeds to my 36 without the wonderful stability but with much easier re-starts.

Some days I rode a very skinny wheel (27x1-1/4) to cut through the slush which can be surprisingly effective, but like the fat wheel it can suck in the majority of conditions.

Coming from my bike commuting days where I saw a guy doing horrible conditions on his 25c tires on a road bike, I’m with you. Anything can be ridden in winter with enough skill, but certain builds are going to be more suited for certain conditions/will be easier to use.

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