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How snow biking evolved from a mechanical experiment to a strategic sport

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The evolution of motocross depends on innovation and quick thinking. The sport started in the early 1900s, and over time engines evolved from 50cc to 250cc to enable speed, while swinging arm suspension allowed for more extreme racetracks. Snow biking is the next invention in a long history of mechanical advances and risk-taking athletes.

Snow bikes are a cross between a snowmobile and a dirt bike, and they race beautiful, unpredictable snowy terrain at high speeds. Athletes like Reagan Sieg and Brock Hoyer, two former motocrossers, have recognized snow biking as their next adventure largely because of the novelty and new challenges of the snow bike. The sport made its debut at the X Games this year (Hoyer took the gold medal in Snow Bike Cross, the snow bike racing event), and it’s clear that the sport is here to stay. As snow biking moves from experimental to influential, learn the strategy that goes into winning a race.

Learn the terrain

It’s not the mechanics of the snow bike that make the sport hard — it’s the snow itself. Unlike a motorbike course, a snow cross course is unpredictable, even for someone who has always ridden motorcycles. The texture of snow changes constantly over the course of a race, and the reflection coming off the white landscape plays new tricks of light that are new to people used to racing on dirt. The snow, inevitably, is boss, and part of the strategy in any race is learning to accept that. “My strategy is not to panic,” Hoyer says. “It’s going to be what it’s going to be — every race is different.”

Know your lines

During a snow bike race, you have to constantly read the terrain and pick lines, or particular paths forward, that allow you to get ahead. That sometimes means choosing a line that initially slows you down before allowing momentum at the end of a turn or after pushing off a snowbank. “You don’t always go for the fast lines,” Hoyer says. “There are times to follow and there are times to not.” Both Hoyer and Sieg practice on the “gnarliest” lines within a course so they grow accustomed to different variables, glitches, and turns. This makes it easier for them to set and adjust their navigation strategy in real time.

Keep Your Enemies Closer

Sieg and Hoyer, who are friends and competitors, agree: It’s good to know who you’re up against and what they’re thinking during a race. During a competition, everyone around you is an enemy. You should “know how to pick them apart on and off the track,” Hoyer advises. Your mental strategy is just as important as physical preparation for a snow bike race. “The first lap is like war, [with] guys criss-crossing and trying to find their line — everything’s a battle,” Sieg agrees. Despite their intensely competitive natures, Sieg and Hoyer have bonded over snow biking and now say they’re like brothers. “The camaraderie helps [us] elevate each other,” Sieg says. “It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, you did that? Well, watch this.’”

Reset and restart

When the flag first dropped at the X Games, Hoyer wanted to complete between five and eight spring laps (or laps at a sustained high speed) so that he could put his head down, maintain a lead, and “win the thing.” “My strategy changed about five or six laps in when I hit the ground,” Hoyer says. “It changed from trying to charge the lead to try to charge back into the lead ... I caught up to the leader and put some pressure on him.” Hoyer then watched for his opponent’s mistakes, ready to capitalize on them and ready to regain his ground. By remaining strategically nimble, Hoyer took gold.

Are you a Master of Strategy? Prove it.

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