Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fun?

In a recent post on Scooter in the Sticks, Steve Williams asked the question "Is it fun to ride in the winter?". I have been giving this some thought as I hear similar questions all of the time. The most common being "Why?". First of all, I do find it "fun" to ride in the winter on something suitably equipped for the conditions. But that goes for just about anything. You may be able to get away with driving a cage with marginal tires or leaking fluids in the summer but it'll probably get you into trouble come winter.

Falling over even at a standstill is not my idea of fun. The sidecar helps to keep one from falling over even on roads where it's challenging to walk. The studded tires give you a little bite into the ice and to a lesser extent on packed snow which helps when accelerating, braking or cornering. Riding my old mountain bike with studded tires in the winter is fine as long as I stay out of deep snow, if I tried riding my road bike in similar conditions, I'd be on the ground before I ever make it out of the driveway. But even with studded tires, traction is still tenuous at best so there is still a fair amount of wheel spinning and sliding. The sliding is usually in the "fun" category.

Being cold is not my idea of fun. Dealing with winter temperatures while riding is easier if wind chill can be minimized. The full fairing, barn door sized windshield and bar end muffs on the RT provides such a pocket of air that I rarely needed anything more than my normal riding gear. The windshield, lowers and bar-end muffs on the Ural don't provide as much protection from the wind but it's enough. Many riders refuse to ride with a large windshield let alone a fairing. Those that ride without real wind protection generally feel frozen even at moderately cool temperatures. This was evident from my recent experience with other PBC (Polar Bear Challenge) participants. Some mention needing six or seven layers on top of heated gear and grips and still be frozen after a short ride. The heated jacket liner, heated gloves, flannel jeans and a fleece liner under the Roadcrafter Light was more than adequate down to -40°. At times, too warm.

Not being able to see where you are going is not fun. The Bombardier modular snow helmet that I picked up used last year has largely resolved that problem along with improved lighting on the rig. If it gets really cold, the visor will still tend to frost up even with the rubber face mask. Whojigger, the recent visitor from Ketchikan, riding a blue/white Ural, had an electric visor on the newer version of the same helmet. His visor never frosted up even without the rubber face mask. I may have to look into that. The air vents on the side of the helmet that the rubber mask connect to froze up a couple of times. This made breathing a bit difficult and the rubber mask felt somewhat clusterphobic.

Is it challenging to ride in the winter? As long as you are prepared for the weather and road conditions, not really. Am I trying to prove something? Maybe that a motorcycle with sidecar is a practical year 'round transportation option. Will I continue next winter? Probably. I don't see any reason to stop. The Ural is easier to ride during the winter as I don't need to shovel as much snow. Even with 8" of fresh snow on the driveway and road, no problems at all. I wouldn't try that with the BMW. But, is it fun? I think riding in the winter is more enjoyable than the summer but I don't have enough confidence in the hardware (Ural) to try a long winter ride.

There is a risk to relying on the engine running to stay warm. That would be a good reason for a large capacity battery in place of the standard motorcycle battery. But, on a motorcycle, you are generally on the road system and not in the middle of nowhere. If you were the typical dog musher or snow machine rider, you'd be off of the highway system and not near emergency services.

Trip update - For the rest of the week, we'll be in Elizabethtown, PA, spending time with Bridget's father. The temperatures are much more winter-like than Chicago. I've probably taken a picture of this bronze statue w/printing press before but I like the subject and the contrast with the sky. Note, no green grass yet. Clear blue skies for now but snow is forecast for Friday. It may not be too fun driving back to Philadelphia on Saturday for our flight back to Alaska.

22 comments:

  1. I think it can be much fun as long as your are warm, and enjoy the ride, plus have the necessary skill set. If it's getting unsafe... fun can be gone in an instant, same when it's getting cold quickly.

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    1. Strange as it may seem, I think that I enjoy riding in the snow more than summer riding. And, even more strangely, driving the sidecar rig more than 2 wheels. Not sure why yet.

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    2. Richard, the cold must have done something to your brain... ;-)

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    3. Check out Dom's comment below. He says it's an addiction though I'm not looking for a 12 step program just yet.

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  2. Anyone who has to deal with severe winters knows it's all about keeping warm. If you're warm you can have fun, no matter what you're doing. As for commuting being 'fun', never.

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    1. There have been many mornings when I look forward to the ride into work as much as anything else. Especially if I add a few more non-highway miles into the commute.

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  3. If I could be warm I would agree on it being fun. I loved your ride videos this winter. I never have to worry about that in Arizona. My jacket never even saw its liner this winter, but it also spent most of December and January in the garage waiting on parts.

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    1. You're right about the "warm" part. There were more than a few times when I had forgotten to connect up the heated gear. But pulling over and taking some pictures is fine as well. I have such a modest commute, the heated gear and stuff don't matter much. The fleece liner, lined pants and a leather jacket is fine for trips up to about 5 miles before you start to feel the cold seep in.

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  4. I learned in WI that it's not that winter is cold, it's that you aren't dressed properly. And there is a lot of truth to that. But no amount of clothing makes the sun come out...

    A challenge can be fun in a special way. I like that, too. I used to live 45 minutes,one way, from a job I loved. It was on the Door Peninsula. I did that drive for 4 years and loved the drive to and home all 4 years, even in icy snowy blizzards. Not one day did I not love it. Of course, it wasn't city bumper to bumper. That's a miserable commute for sure.

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    1. Absolutely right, if you are dressed for the weather, its usually fine. Though I have been out a few times when there is no way to be dressed warm enough. -50°F and 40knot winds come to mind...

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  5. People used to ask me about riding in the winter, but it really is about being prepared and having the right gear. And I never had to scrape windows!

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    1. I like the never having to scrape windows part and only needed to brush snow off of the seat. And being prepared for the weather really is key.

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  6. If it wasn't really any fun I don't think you'd still be doing it. Riding in winter that is. I think you enjoy the challenges. Keeps you from going stir crazy.

    I hope you don't get any snow before you trek back hope, that just doesn't seem fair.

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    1. That was one of the reasons for this post. Trying to figure out for myself the "why" and "is it fun". Last year was more frustrating as I couldn't figure out where the water in the carbs was coming from. This year, no problem especially with the BMW. It ran flawlessly down to -48°F. (I was secretly hoping for a -50°F day!)

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  7. At this point, I'm very content leaving winter riding to others and living the cold blasts through them. I'd never ever commute that way but if that 3rd wheel rig ever DOES show up in my garage.....

    Wishing a fair weather trip home Richard!

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    1. It's amazing how the 3rd wheel transforms things. But your friend with the GS probably says the same thing. I don't miss the leaning in turns at all and the slower speeds seems to fit my riding style.

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  8. I think the sidecar is a practical option and a connection to riding the traditional way which tricycles are not. Indeed before the advent of cheap cars non-enthusiast rode them because that was what they were: practical. In your temperatures though...

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    1. I'm always amazed when looking at old photos at the number of sidecars on the roads. Sidecars are more "tippy" when turning towards the sidecar but trikes are "tippy" on both directions. Three wheelers with two wheels in the front are stable in both directions. You're right that the advent of cheap cars made the motorcycle with sidecar obsolete. But then again, cars aren't cheap anymore. But then again, nothing is… sigh, I sound like I'm too rooted in the past.

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  9. Nice summation Richard! and yes, I prefer riding on snow than in nice weather. I find nice weather somewhat "boring" now. And yes, I prefer three wheels to two now....its an addiction.

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    1. I took the sidecar off of the Beemer last summer but only rode it once just to see if I remembered how. Maybe I'll ride more often this summer since the Ural will no longer be new (to me). Maybe...

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    2. You guys should seek help...

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    3. Maybe this is the new norm?

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