Building a Propeller-Driven Snow Bike Isn’t as Hard as You’d Think
That is, assuming you think about it at all.
We like unconventional vehicles here at The Drive, from massive turbine-powered semi-trucks to huge walking robots from the 1980s designed to traverse any terrain. If it's weird, we're on board, and machines built for traversing the frozen, snowy outdoors are definitely on the menu. That's why we like the popular YouTuber Peter Sripol—he seems to like that kinda thing maybe even more than we do.
Sripol built a propeller-driven snow bike in his latest video, and what's interesting is how reasonably simple it seems to be. To be clear, this isn't his first go at something like this. He's previously built a much cruder version of this vehicle and has experience as a paramotor pilot. Because of those two experiences, the end result is interesting, to say the least.
Snowboards are used for the skis and a bicycle for the frame. After some modifications, a "rolling" chassis is assembled, and the first engine is fitted. It's a single-cylinder Predator 212 from Harbor Freight, which is noteworthy for how cheap it is—typically between $100 to $200. Combined with a carbon fiber propeller, this machine works reasonably well; however, 6.5 horsepower isn't much for a propeller-driven snow vehicle that has to push around a human. After issues coupling the propeller to the engine arise, it's replaced with a more powerful paramotor, which eventually speeds the bike up to 33 miles per hour.
The really interesting part of this, and indeed the allure of creating such a vehicle, is how simple it is. As somebody who has built a very crude go-kart with a Predator 212, I can attest to how complicated building a wheeled vehicle can actually be, especially if you don't have welding experience or the right tools to do even basic metalworking. It's not the actual layout of the vehicle that's difficult, it's the little things. Figuring out a throttle solution, getting the brakes to work right, making sure your drive chain stays tensioned properly. With a fan vehicle, there are far fewer considerations.
Without wheels, no axles or spindles need to be figured in. There's also no bearings to worry about, or any type of variable coupling to the wheels. It's a direct drive to the propeller.
The drawbacks are that you need a flat snowy area for such a rig to be useful, and a relatively energy-dense motor in order to conquer even slightly inclined terrain without adding a ton of weight. That means these things can be dangerous, and adding a shroud around the propeller can mean a lot of custom fabrication and added mass, which makes it less fun.
All of this being said, though, if the right parts can be bought off the shelf or custom-ordered from a supplier, all of these obstacles can be overcome. These days, my projects are much less go-karty and more in line with the realities of living in an apartment. Once I escape the city of Boston, however, my focus will undoubtedly shift from experimenting with 3D printed hydroponics to building something like this. After all: the funnest things in life are dangerous, and similar to my pal Lewin with his autonomous lawn mower, I'm unable to resist the allure of building my own aerosledge.
Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: firstname.lastname@example.org