The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part Three – Freezing Weather, Frozen Humor.


As much as I love riding my motorcycle throughout the year, when it dips below 40 degrees F. (4 Celsius) my Harley and I have to have a “come to Jesus talk”. If I’m only tootling around town then I’ll hop on the bike. But if I’m doing the 50 miles (80 k) one way to work the story is different. First, I have to make sure the bike will start. If the temp goes below freezing at night the bike might just want to sleep in a bit more. One day it wouldn’t start, and I had to use my 1973 BMW bike, which ironically, cranked immediately. You have to love those Germans! I finally managed to get one of those portable jump starters so the 2004 Road King will always start now; one way or the other.

Then, I have to look at my cold riding gear. I can’t afford the expensive stuff, so I’ve gathered a mix of things over the years. I do have battery operated heated gloves, but they only last an hour and don’t heat the top of my hands. (I have to have a spare battery pack for the way home.) I have long underwear, my regular trousers and then my rain trousers on top of them. Then, I have a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, my leather vest and a rain jacket on top. Because I’m short, stuffed up I look a lot like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Then I bought some incredibly warm socks that I wear. I have a full-face helmet and a black (Snoopy?) aviator’s silk scarf to wrap around my neck. That will keep me from being frozen for about 25 miles which is roughly the distance to a Starbucks, my stopping place on the way.

The rest of the way is interstate and high speed. At 70 mph and 40 degrees the windchill makes it feel like 23.8 F (-4.6 C), according to the internet. At 34 degrees F, the coldest I’ve ridden these days, it feels like 15F (-9.4C). The other day it was so cold I had to break frozen smoke off my exhaust pipe; so cold that the trees I passed were chopping themselves into firewood. You get the idea. At least it wasn’t snowing, as it was when I was riding in Canada a few years ago, or when I was crossing the Rocky Mountains once in Colorado. (Stories on this blog)

I go back to work in three days and it’s supposed to be 38 degrees when I leave. I’m just going to forget about that for now.

If you’ve got any cold riding tips, other than “don’t”, please let me know. Otherwise, if you see a guy next week on a motorcycle with icicles on his helmet that would be me. Don’t forget to wave. I’ll met you at the next Starbucks.

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