The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part One – Beginnings

This past June I decided to see how long I could go relying only on my motorcycle for transportation. My goal was that of trying to go a whole year using just the bike. I remember having ridden, out of necessity, through the winter of 1978 in Atlanta. I had an old Toyota Corona, but it was broken so I relied on my 1972 BMW R60/5. Starting in 1970, BMW had begun installing electric starters on their bikes, while retaining the traditional kick starter. In 1973 they extended the wheel base on the model so as to, among other things, allow for a larger battery to be installed. But mine was a 1972. The poor, smaller battery was usually not up to the job, especially on cold days and so I was left with trying to kick start the bike or finding a hill. Fortunately, there was a big hill a block away from where I lived. If I couldn’t kick start her, I’d push the bike over to the spot, open the gas petcocks, tickle the Bing carburetors, hop on and go flying down the hill.  At the right moment I’d pop her into second gear and she would kick over and the engine would start humming. Worst case scenario I’d have to, Sisyphus – like, push her back up the hill and try again. Ah, the good old days! A few years ago, when I decided to buy an old BMW like my first one, I decided to get the year later model, the 1973 version, that would accommodate a bigger battery. But I really wasn’t worried because by this time I also owned Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King.  She could weather anything. Well, except for one cold morning in early November when she wouldn’t start. I had to get to work! So, I went over to the old BMW which I hadn’t started in a few months, opened the petcocks to let the gas flow, pushed the choke levers down, pressed the starter and she cranked right up! So, I grabbed my bag and rode the fifty miles up to work, without a problem.  Well, without a problem on the ride. My BMW still has its limitations as you would expect any 45-year-old motorcycle to have. The neutral light has gone out, so you have to just try and feel neutral when you’re changing gears or coming to a stop. The speed limit when I had a BMW in the 1970’s and 80’s was 55mph, which she easily handled. But now, on the interstate, it was 70mph which was a slight challenge. Only slight because the BMW’s speedometer was broken, so I couldn’t tell how fast I was going anyway. RPM gauge didn’t work either. She accelerated slowly, and she still had a 45-year-old headlight. Whoa, I just realized I could say almost the same things about myself, although next month I’ll be turning 65 years old. I definitely have a hard time finding neutral and I accelerate much more slowly. Fortunately, neither one of us have any leaks, yet.

I put the charger on the Harley battery over night and she cranked right up the next morning. And after a little rest that night, I did too.