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Friday, December 27, 2013

Cold Weather Challenges - Part two

I have to be honest, I was not sure if I wanted to return to this topic.  After all, I live in Florida and our "cold" is completely different from the "cold" of my home state of Pennsylvania or even the "cold" of Virginia.  But I was looking through the stats of the site and searches for "cold weather" and "cold weather riding" seem to be one of the driving forces for generating traffic to this blog right now.  That means many of you are reading this old post, which sadly does not contain much, if any, useful information.

So frankly, gentle reader if your looking for information about riding your motorcycle in the snow, or what tires are best suited for winter traction, your in the wrong place.  There are way better blogs and forums to get that information from.

All that I can do is pass on my little tidbits of knowledge that I've learned.  So read on, you might learn something.

What I will talk about is wind chill and preparation for those cold days.  We do have cold snaps here in Tampa that can be in the low 30 to high 20's (0 to - 6 C).  First thing that we as motorcyclists need to remember is this.  It's not the cold that will get you.  But the wind chill! 

All that graph shows is a loss of heat.  So if your traveling along at a nice clip of 50 mph (80.5 KPH) and the air temperature is 40 F (4.4C) your body is thinking that it is actually 26 F (-3.3 C).  The faster you go, the colder it's going to seem.  The cold can affect your reaction times, your judgement and finally your body.  This is called Hypothermia and is the rapid, progressive mental and physical collapse accompanying the chilling of the inner core of the body.  It's caused by the exposure to cold and is aggravated by being wet, the wind and exhaustion.  In fact, the state with the most reported cases of Hypothermia is Florida.  We are simply not used to the cold or understand how it can affect us.

BUT understanding some things and doing things right can extend your riding season into the cooler months and into into the winter.  PLEASE remember, for information about riding in snow or ice you need to go elsewhere.  I can not be held responsible for your decision to ride in that type of conditions.

What I can do is this.

STEP ONE - LAYERS (pay attention to the base layer!) -  For me the base layer is often just a pair of long johns (sometimes called thermal underwear) or a pair of fleece underwear.  It should be tight against the body but comfortable at the same time.  The snugger the fit means that less air will flow between your body and the clothing.  This retains your body heat for a longer period of time.

If your commuting like I do I would recommend the fleece underwear.  It breaths a bit more than the thermal underwear and that will make you a bit more comfortable at work.

An excellent example of layers
After that layers can be added or subtracted as needed.  I might wear a long sleeve shirt over my base, then a sweater over that.  If its colder still, I will throw on a hooded sweatshirt under my jacket (the hold fits under my helmet and keeps my head and back of the neck warm) and to protect my legs - a pair of sweat pants.  No, I don't look sexy but I am warm.  Yes, I've pulled over to put on a pair of sweat pants over my jeans.  I've even heard of riders slipping on their rain gear to help them stay warm.

My jacket is waterproof and I zip up the vents to keep the cold air out as much as possible.  Remember that air can act as a barrier, so when you layer your actually trapping warmer air close to your body and that helps protect you.

STEP TWO - AVOID THE WIND - Or in other words, make sure there are no gaps where the wind can get in and start to cool you down.  Gauntlet style gloves fit over the sleeves of your jacket and protect you that way.  "Hippo Hands" do the same thing.

An example of "Hippo hands"
Things like wearing a full face helmet and heaving a good windshield help as well.   You want to direct the wind around you if at all possible.

A Scarf or Balaclava (or even a ski mask) will help protect the face and neck; the neck actually has two large veins that bring blood back to the heart.  Keeping these veins warm will help keep you warm.

STEP THREE - KEEP YOUR HANDS AND FEET WARM - You should already be wearing waterproof and slip resistant sole boots.  If not, buy some.  I'll wait.

Back so soon?  Good!  The reason why is simple.  Your body will want to keep the core warm and your brain functioning.  Keeping your hands and feet warm is low on your body's list, plus there are lots of small blood vessels that can transfer your body's heat to the outside air if exposed.  Wearing wool socks in your boots or two or three pair of socks will help.

Find a good pair of windproof riding gloves.  If possible the gloves should have some sort of clasp or elastic to tighten it against your riding jacket.  The gloves should also be insulated.  Heated grips and electric gloves may be a solution as well.

A simple and rather elegant solution believe it or not is to wear a simple pair of latex gloves under your gloves.  The latex does not breath so the air trapped between the glove and your skin serves as another insulating barrier from the outside cold.

STEP FOUR - EAT! - You want to eat to keep your energy up.  You want to eat to healthy of course, for your body is producing a lot of heat.  Heat which you now have trapped in layers of waterproof and warm clothing.  There is a reason why we humans generally gain weight during the winter months and no it's not because fat is a insulation.  Your body produces more heat on a full stomach than it does an empty one.

So there you have it.  Remember these are just tips that I picked up.  Your mileage may vary and the smartest thing you can do is know your limits.  If your feeling cold, then stop.  Have a cup of coffee and a few donuts in a nice warm place.  Know the symptoms of Hypothermia and never ever be afraid to ask for help or go get help.

I want to see you out on that road.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My personal Top 10 list for 2013

First off - we here at the Scooter Revolution want to wish you and yours a happy Holiday season.  May the upcoming year be joyful and safe for you and your loved ones!

The end of the year is a time for us to reflect on what really matters.  At the end of the day, it's not about how many miles fell under our wheels, about the number of posts or even if how many people read this blog.  What matters to me is...did I grow as a person?  As a biker?

So here is my top 10 posts pulled from the posts that I have made (or will make - more on that in a bit) this year.  Links are included in case you wish to read that post for the first time or for the 100th time.

#10 - the "end of the year mileage" post

How could one of the top 10 posts be something I've not even made yet?  Because at the beginning of 2013 I had a vague goal in mind.  To ride further and more than I did in the previous year.  I started off badly, having no bike at all till early or mid February.  The fact that I will probably put close to 13 thousand miles on Kimmie in that time frame means something to me.  I accomplished that vague goal.

#9 - Moments

A short throw away post of sorts.  I tried to capture the wonder and joy of riding that I experienced coming home from a rare day shift.  The ride continued well after the work day was over.

#8 - Americana

This was not an long ride, maybe 25 to 30 miles total, but it was a wonder day out with Susan riding on back.  We attended a small town event, found a great twisty road and somehow managed to get some wonderful photographs.  It was a beautiful day.

#7 - Frustration leads to Serendipity

What I loved about this post, and I purposelessly didn't go into to much detail about this part; is that Sue and I had a fight early in the morning.  My mood was horrible and it just got worse as the morning wore on.  Till I got on the bike.  This post is about the trans-formative power of riding.

#6 - Now back to the Real World Grind.

Back in January I was still recovering from a indecent that I had.  At this time I didn't have a bike, although there was no doubt in my mind that I would ride again.  If there was any doubt in my mind they were dissipated the second I saw the wonderful hilly and twisty terrain of Roatan, Honduras.  As the tourist bus creaked along all I could think about was riding these same streets on a motorbike.  To lean into the curves and top a crest with nothing but ocean before me.  I realized that riding was part of "who I am."  

I am still raving about the cashew wine too!

#5 - Tarpon Springs   

A wonderful 110 mile round trip with Susan on back.  This was really the first time that we rode for extended periods at highway speeds and at night with her on back.  A good day, a good time and some really...really fantastic food...and wonderful memories.

#4 - Buddha and Me.

The trip to the actual temple was a short one and I spent maybe an hour or an hour and a half total there.  Afterwords I rode with two destinations in mind.  I took the long way around, riding back roads and cross streets and slowly making my way towards those destinations.  At the end of the day, my tire went "POP" and I had to replace it.  But again, I was OK with it.  The day was warm and lovely and the miles I put on the bike were good ones.  I could live with a bad tire.  

#3 - Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.  

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised at the amount of interest this "throw away" post generated.  However it did point something out to me that I had missed.  I was using the bike for nearly everything anymore.  I jumped on it at all times of the day or night to run to the store.  To go to the doctor.  To live my life.  

#2 - The Equinox to Equinox Rally

When I entered the rally I did so with one goal in mind.  To get out more, to ride more.  I accomplished that goal and finished a very respectable 13th out of 200 + contestants.  I also proved something else to myself.  That even though I was on a scooter, I was still racking up points and miles.  I think I needed to prove to myself that I could ride further, ride harder than many on a "real motorcycle."  I accomplished that goal.  

I also got to go places and see things that I would not of otherwise been to.  Isn't that the goal of riding?  Of travel?  I think so anyway.


#1 - Earning my Rounder Stripes

I have to admit, at times earlier in my "biking career", I was feeling like a poser.  I rode a scooter.  I don't have a tattoo(s) nor do I fit what ever it is a "biker" is supposed to look like.  Well, I guess I got the making of a good beer belly.

Then with this post I realized something.  I was out there every day, in all types of weather riding.  I was out at night, I was out in the heat and the cold.  I choose to do that.  I choose a two wheeled life originally because I wanted to save money...but then it became something more.  I became a biker.

So why was I worried about what I rode or what that moron on the 30K Harley (you know the one with under 3,000 miles on it) thought.  I was doing more than most ever did....and I wanted more.

I still want more.

So there you have it!  My top 10 posts for the year of 2013.  What are yours?

Monday, December 16, 2013

To Modulate or not Modulate, that is the question

For the coming Christmas Holiday my lovely girlfriend bought me a Kisan Path Blazer Headlight modulator kit.  What this does is "flash" the headlight at oncoming traffic...the idea is that it makes the oncoming motorcycle that much more visible.  They certainly do catch the eye, and frankly when I've been riding or in my car, I've always found them to be a little annoying than anything.  You notice them however, which is the point.

I suppose that the best safety gear is the stuff that you never think about.  A fire alarm goes off when there is a fire, but you never really think of it till it screams in the middle of the night.  A steel toed boot is forgotten on the foot of the construction worker till a hammer falls on it.

The picture above shows my full "battle gear" (the woman on the back is my mother getting a photo op).  Each piece of gear serves a purpose, and I no longer think about putting my gloves on or wearing a jacket.  It's become habit, it's became part of who I am when I ride.  Sure at times it's been hot and uncomfortable, but I know it only takes a second for something to happen, and my gear has proven it's worth to me once already.  I will not ride without a helmet, and the few times I've gone somewhere without my jacket have felt weird.  ATGATT or nothing.

So I will be honest, to review the Path Blazer would be a tricky job for me.  Riding the bike, I'm not seeing it.  I will never know if a car was going to pull out in front of me only to see the flashing light and go "Oh, how annoying.  I better stop."  If it helps keep me safe when I ride that is worth the money.  The light only moderates during the day, it has a sensor that shuts it off at night, which I understand is the law.  Plus, would I really want a strobe light effect driving home at night?

Nor did I install the device, having neither the tools or the knowledge to install it.  So I can't tell you how easy or not it was.  However considering the mechanics told me it take about 90 minutes to install it and it took closer to 3 hours...I'm going to go with pain in the ass.

So why write about it at all?

Simply because more cars are using daylight running lights.  Motorcycles, since 1978 at least, have been designed voluntarily to burn the headlight during daylight hours as a way of making them more discernible.  Now, due to more and more cars using running lights, it's became even easier to lose a motorcyclist in the mix.  Will modulated headlights be a standard on motorcycles one day?

Sadly most motorcycles accidents happen either because a car did not see the cyclist or because the cyclist was being unsafe in some way.

At the end of the day...I want to come safe.  So I practice ATTGATT, I (more or less) obey the traffic laws.  I don't lane split.  I am on my bike nearly every day by if the modulator helps get me home in some small way I recommend it.

I'll recommend it to you too.  Next on the to do list.  Rear brake modulators.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Color the Season - a blog challenge.

Every now and again you have to take up a Challenge.  In this case the wonderful Wisconsinland blog posted a challenge about "Color the Season."  I supposed if I continued to live up north I would need some sort of color to break up the bleak whiteness.  

So I thought I would share a few photo's that, for what ever reason, did not make the cut on the blog.  And a few photo's of things found outside my door.

From the Buddhist Temple I visited.
Sometimes the best flowers are the ones you find on the roadside.

My back yard, the bench will be painted a antique white.

A stained glass window from a Abby.

I have two orange trees in the back yard.

I hope that brought a little color into your day!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Just Go.

All roads lead somewhere, and once your somewhere... you can always find your way home. - Teri McDonough Wilson

It's nearly the middle of December already and I've not written much.  Nor have I ridden that much.  Life, the holiday's, work...these are all excuses.

So it's good to get out.  I went out the other day, sans jacket and with my visor up, letting the cool air blow around me.  The winter sun is weak but it's a warm day - cool by Florida standards - and I dip over hills, through curves.  I lean right, left, turn the throttle up as I hit a straight away....a hours ride turns to two.

It's odd to just go with no destination in mind.  I really don't care where I am.  I turn left because the traffic is heading to the right.  I turn right because the road sign has an odd name.  I am not yet lost, but I don't know these roads.  I don't know this part of town.  It's okay, I don't need to know.
I ride through a swamp which stinks of rotting flesh and I startle some carrion birds, their black masses raising quickly, and they bitch at me for interrupting their meal of armadillo.  I wave at them absentmindedly.

Suddenly I know where I am, as I turn towards home.  I pass the entrance way to the park, I'm not done yet.  I need to go, to ride for a bit.   I feel the weight and the responsibility of maintenance, jobs, bills and being a adult slip away.  I'm a kid again, I swerve the bike running between imaginary cones on an empty street.  I consider popping a wheelie...but the adult in me frowns at that idea.  Some times the adult needs to be listened to.

The opportunity to go.  To get out.  To ride with no destination or time restraints does not offer itself willingly to me.  Sometimes I let it pass me by; after all there are books to read, food to eat and wine to drink.  I find myself yearning for some of Belize's Cashew Wine.

I think of trips, places I've been...the epic adventures I've had and know that at this moment I am happy.  At this moment I am free.  At this moment I am living an adventure.