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Ditching spokes for skis

Posted: March 30, 2012 - 12:00am
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Quincy Gregg, 14, followed by Macleod Morehouse, 15, ski down the slopes with their homemade ski bikes at Eaglecrest on Monday.
Quincy Gregg, 14, followed by Macleod Morehouse, 15, ski down the slopes with their homemade ski bikes at Eaglecrest on Monday.

The one thing Macleod Morehouse, 15, and Quincy Gregg, 14, know about the sport of snow biking is that it’s really, really fun, but it sure hurts to fall.

Perhaps that’s because the homemade variety, like those Macleod and Quincy ride, are clunky. If the wood block doesn’t get in the way, the over-sized, pink, knobby pedals will. Then there’s the heft. They’re heavy, the pair say. Oh, and they lack brakes.

“You eat it so much faster on than you would on skis. And you know it’s coming. It’s just like - BAM - and then you’re on the ground,” Quincy said.

For these young locals, the fact they lack brakes is also what makes their homemade ski bikes so much fun.

"I pretty much just go straight and hope I don't eat it," Macleod said.

It seems the falls can't hurt too bad.

Based on reports from Eaglecrest Ski Area users, the pair have been putting the bikes to good use this winter. They've been spotted on both the alpine and Nordic trails, barreling down the runs at top speeds and turning around at the bottom for another go.

On this day, we met at the base of the main lodge. Macleod and Quincy were easy to spot as they stood next to their ski bikes.

The only thing the two bikes have in common is the fact they both have skis where the bike tires used to be. Macleod’s black bike is simply a mountain bike stripped down and retrofitted with the tips of skis given to him by Pat Harmon, who owns the Juneau-famous “wall of skis” on North Douglas Highway. Quincy’s ride consists of a neon pink frame with forks that are welded to metal supports; off the forks are a pair of mismatched children’s alpine skis. One is a twin tip. His handlebars are wrapped in black tape, other parts of the bike are held together by silver Duct tape. He balances on a pair of chunky, pink pedals.

“I can’t even say it’s my sister’s,” Quincy said.

That didn’t seem to matter moments later as he and Macleod loaded onto the Hooter Lift. Each hoisted the bike onto their lap as the lift swung around to carry them upward.

While the idea of a snow bike might be new to many, the concept has been kicking around for years. Commercially made bikes feature dual skis, burly frames, oversized seating and foot pegs instead of pedals. Some ski bikes can be bought ready to hit the slopes, others come in the form of a conversion kit meant to turn an everyday bike into one that is more winter friendly. Since 1970, the sport has been percolating around the world and enthusiasts are now aiming to design the perfect ride. According to some quick Web research, these bikes have been gaining popularity over the last 10 years and come in varying shapes, sizes and colors.

The bikes made by Macleod and Quincy are wholeheartedly unique and the bits and pieces holding them together can be found in an everyday garage. Building them was the hard part, they said.

"This is the second one (my dad and I) built," Macleod said. "The first one took us a couple hours, but this one only took about an hour to build."

Macleod said his younger brother often rides the other ski bike.

So, what about riding them?

According to Macleod and Quincy, riding a ski bike is - well - a lot like riding a regular bike. 

Turning them is a little tricky, said Quincy.

“It’s like 90 percent leaning and then you just kinda tweak it with the handlebars," he said. "(Then), you have to go like you are going to slide out the back ski when you're headed into a turn and you have to do that every turn down a steep slope."

In other words, the handlebars help, but it's not like steering a standard bike.

"Other than that," Macleod said. "You just put your feet on the pedals and ..."

Go. Sounds simple enough.

Just then, Macleod and Quincy glided over a rise on the run. Quincy wiped out and Macleod made a few turns before pointing the bike straight downhill. His jacket could be heard slapping in the wind as he sailed toward the lift line. A few shouts of encouragement came from riders on the chairlift.

With the season wrapping up at Eaglecrest, Macleod and Quincy said they plan on continuing to improve their homemade designs. Macleod said they thought of building and selling the bikes and Quincy said he has already received a few on-the-spot offers at the ski area. Despite this, Macleod said they'd rather just ride.

• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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