The First Ride of the Season
Snow melting. Sun shining. With mercury rising and an itch to get back on two wheels, it won’t be long before you’re back on the street again. If you’re not lucky enough to live in a year-round riding zone, you and your motorcycle have probably been dormant for months. Please consider these sure signs of spring as you as you saddle up this season:
Smells like Mothballs
Even if you’ve stored your motorcycle in a closed garage and trickle-charged the battery with a battery tender your bike is still subject to deterioration and damage. Critters chew. Cables come loose. Hoses can crack. Before you hit the road, give your ride a full circle inspection. Carefully check everything on your bike, from tire pressure to fluid levels, before you put your wheels to pavement. To help you remember what to inspect, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests the acronym TCLOCS.
T – Tires and Wheels
C – Controls
L – Lights and Electric
O – Oil, Gas and other Fluids
C – Chassis
S – Side Stand
Use the TCLOCS check list before the first and every ride of the season. Your owner’s manual has more specific information regarding the items on this checklist. And don’t forget your bike’s routine maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape!
The snow may be melting, but your favorite roads still need a good cleansing. Many riders won’t go out until after the first rain has washed the road of salt, dirt and gravel left behind by receding snow. Add sand, leaves, branches and twigs to the mix, and you have a potpourri of debris that collects at the edges of the roadway and at ends of driveways, near curbs, and in corners, traffic circles, roundabouts and rotaries. Warm afternoons and cold nights increase the possibility of black ice, which is actually quite transparent and difficult to see. Patches of snow and frost will linger in shady areas. Quick thaws can cause high water in some places. All of these potential hazards can compromise your traction.
Be especially alert when pulling in and out of parking lots, where dirt and gravel pile up after the snow melts.
Scan far enough ahead so potential hazards don’t surprise you. When you encounter these conditions, don’t panic. Maintain a safe speed, avoid braking or downshifting, and keep the bike upright as you ride through. Coast over road debris, and avoid excessive lean in curves. If possible, large potholes should be avoided. If not, keep your head and eyes up, rise off the seat, stand on the pegs, and shift your weight back slightly to avoid being pitched from the motorcycle.
Twigs and debris might be the surface conditions you'll find at the end of your very own driveway.
Cropping up along with daffodils and tulips are orange barrels! Roads suffering from frost damage, cracks and potholes may see the arrival of repair crews in spring. Be aware of changing conditions and construction zones -- coming soon to a roadway near you!
Roads take a beating in the winter. Use caution in construction zones, which crop up soon after crocuses in the spring.
Your bike isn’t the only thing awakening from hibernation. Your rusty skills need a wake up call too! Reacquaint yourself with the feel of your clutch and operation of your brakes. Take it easy your first few times out. Go a little lighter in the leans. Give yourself more time and space to stop. Get your head back into the game by reading or watching videos on safe cycling. You may also benefit by preparing yourself in a parking lot or taking a refresher class.
Spring weather means everything and anything under the sun. Rain. Sleet. Heat. Wind. It can be snowy and icy in the morning, sunny and 70 in the afternoon. Plan for a variety of weather conditions if you’re going to be out for any appreciable amount of time. Dress in layers. Pack a rain suit. Check your local weather forecast early and often. Conditions change rapidly in the spring no matter where you ride, so if you don’t like the weather, wait it out.
Spring fever isn't limited to motorcyclists. Watch for bicyclists, joggers, walkers and Sunday drivers.
What’s the Buzz?
Pedestrians. Joggers. Bicyclists. Walkers. Car drivers tooling around with the windows rolled down and stereo loud. There’s a buzz of activity out on the road. Even animals seem to have spring fever! Expect to avoid deer, dogs, cats, squirrels, moose, armadillo, and children when you’re out riding this spring!
RIDING YOUR MOTORCYCLE IN THE RAIN? YOU'LL LIVE, SERIOUSLY!
I'VE COME ACROSS MANY MOTORCYCLISTS WHO ONLY CONSIDER THEMSELVES "FAIR WEATHER RIDERS." LOOSELY TRANSLATED, THAT MEANS THEY'RE RIDING ONLY WHEN IT'S SUNNY AND WARM ENOUGH THAT JACKETS AND OTHER PROTECTIVE GEAR ARE, FOR SOME, CUMBERSOME OPTIONS. IT ALSO MEANS AVOIDING WEATHER THAT ISN'T IDEAL. IF YOU LIVE IN CENTRAL OHIOOR ANY PART OF THE MIDWEST, BEING A "FAIR WEATHER RIDER" CAN TAKE AWAY NEARLY HALF OF THE RIDING SEASON THANKS TO THE CONSTANT MOVEMENT OF CLOUDS AND PRECIPITATION IN THIS PART OF THE UNITED STATES. A BAD FORECAST FOR LATER THAT DAY CAN ALTER A ROUTE OR CANCEL A TRIP WITH FRIENDS. WITH SOME PRACTICE AND PREPARATION THIS CAN BE CHANGED.
UNLESS YOU LIVE IN CALIFORNIA OR ANY PART OF THE SUN BELT WHERE IMPENDING RAIN CAN BE PREDICTED DAYS IN ADVANCE, PREPARING TO RIDE IN THE RAIN IS VITAL. THE ABILITY TO RIDE WELL THROUGH A DOWNPOUR IS ANOTHER SKILL A RIDER CAN ADD TO HIS/HER TOOLBOX OF MOTORCYCLING. NOT ONLY WILL YOU BECOME MORE CONFIDENT ON YOUR BIKE, YOU'LL DEVELOP A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR TWO-WHEELED MACHINE.
HERE'S A FEW TIPS TO HELP YOU OUT.
1. GEAR: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE MANY INNOVATIVE ACCESSORIES AND GEAR THAT ALLOW YOU TO RIDE IN EVERY CONDITION AND, IN TURN, LENGTHEN YOUR RIDING SEASON. RAIN SUITS, GLOVES, BOOTS, ETC. ARE AVAILABLE FOR EVERY NEED AND FOR EVERY STYLE OF RIDING. DO A LITTLE RESEARCH ONLINE OR GO TO YOUR LOCAL MOTORCYCLE STORE TO SEE WHAT THE POWERSPORTS INDUSTRY HAS TO OFFER.
2. TIME: IF IT'S THE FIRST TIME IT'S RAINED IN YOUR AREA IN MORE THAN A FEW WEEKS, GIVE THE ROAD AN HOUR OR SO TO WASH AWAY ALL THE OIL AND OTHER ROAD GRIME THAT'S BUILT UP DURING THE DRY TIME.
3. INCREASE YOUR FOLLOWING AND STOPPING DISTANCES. VISIBILITY (OF YOU) AND VISIBILITY (YOUR VIEW OF THE ROAD) ARE REDUCED IN THE RAIN. FLASH THE BRAKE LIGHT SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE STOPPING. LOOK AROUND AND AT YOUR MIRRORS FOR OTHER CARS AND OBJECTS IN YOUR PATH.
4. ELIMINATE SUDDEN MOVEMENTS. TAKE MORE TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU WANT THE BIKE TO GO. DELIBERATELY MAKE LINE CHANGES VISIBLE AND OBVIOUS TO OTHER MOTORISTS. GRADUALLY ROLL THAT THROTTLE AND SHIFT CLEANLY. PRESS BOTH FRONT AND REAR BRAKES SMOOTHLY AND GRADUALLY UNTIL YOU COME TO THAT STOP.
5. TAKE IT EASY ON THE TURNS. THIS ISN'T THE TIME TO SLAM INTO A CORNER OR PRACTICE MAXIMUM ENTRY SPEED. YOUR TIRES HAVE GOOD GRIP ON THE ROAD. WHEN YOU GET MORE COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR BIKE IN WET CONDITIONS, TRY INCREASING YOUR LEAN AS YOU TAKE TURNS.
6. ALWAYS HAVE A WAY OUT. DRIVERS ACT DIFFERENTLY DURING A RAINSTORM SO BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING. I USUALLY TRY TO POSITION MYSELF TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE (OR IF I CAN HELP IT, TWO) WAYS TO LEAVE MY LANE IN CASE OF A SUDDEN STOP, A FLYING OBJECT, OR DEBRIS ON THE ROAD. IN SOME CASES THAT MAY BE AN ADJACENT LANE, A FREEWAY SHOULDER, OR (IN AN EXTREME CASE BECAUSE THIS IS ILLEGAL EVERYWHERE BUT CA) SPLITTING BETWEEN TRAFFIC.
7. WATCH OUT FOR PAINTED LINES AND TAR SNAKES. THOSE THINGS ARE SLIPPERY WHEN WET, SO IT'S A GREAT IDEA TO AVOID PUTTING YOUR FOOT DOWN ON TOP OF ONE WHEN YOU COME TO A STOP. WHEN ROLLING OVER THEM, USE CAUTION AS WELL.
8. THE ONLY WAY TO IMPROVE ON RAIN RIDING IS TO ACTUALLY GO OUT AND RIDE IN THE RAIN. TRAVEL ON FAMILIAR ROADS. RIDE TO AND FROM WORK. TAKE THE HIGHWAY. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! WITH TIME, RAIN RIDING IS JUST ANOTHER MOIST DAY ON THE BIKE.
LABELS: RAIN, RIDING SKILLS
Extend Your Riding Season: Cold-Weather Strategies
By Bill Andrews
As the last brightly-colored leaf gives up its grip on the tree branch, the new season forces some of us to give up the ride. Our two-wheeled companion is rolled into a corner of the garage with battery on a trickle charger, and we hope for an early spring. For others, though, there is no end to the riding season, just a change in riding gear.
No, we're not talking about those who live in perpetual sunshine and warmth, but rather, folks who don't let cold weather deprive them of their favorite form of transportation. With a little knowledge and a few cold-weather tricks, your riding season can be extended.
Here are some strategies for dealing with the worst winter has to offer:
Black ice — really just an ominous name for hard-to-see frozen water on the road — can occur anytime the temperature has been near the freezing point, or when frost can form. Some touring bikes have an air-temperature thermometer, but even if yours doesn't, adding one yourself is an inexpensive way to help you keep an eye on potential hazardous road conditions — especially when the air temperature starts to fall.
Bridges are susceptible to icing because they are disconnected from the warmth of the ground and cool faster when air temperatures drop. Watch for spots on the road that are shaded from the sun. Well-traveled roads are often better, because passing traffic melts and dries the moisture. If you do feel like you're on an icy patch, don't make any sudden moves, and don't touch the brakes. Pull in the clutch and let the bike coast until you're clear.
That cold shiver up your spine isn't just uncomfortable. It could also be a warning.
Hypothermia occurs when your core body temperature drops significantly, and it can be deadly.
Temperatures don't need to be below freezing to induce hypothermia. Wind chill gets worse as wind speeds increase, and the longer you're out, the worse it gets.
One early sign of potential hypothermia occurs when you start feeling cold and you can't decide if you should pull over or not. The answer is always yes, but your judgment may be clouded. Long before this point occurs, you should have pulled into that nice warm cafe and had some hot chocolate or soup.
Uncontrolled shivering and chattering teeth are signs of real danger. You may start to feel dizzy, or even drunk, as your muscles begin to stiffen. Continued exposure may cause the shivering to slow down or even stop, but by then you're in serious trouble.
The well-dressed rider
How do you mitigate the dangers of cold weather? First of all, cover up.
It all boils down to insulating your body. To do that, you need to layer.
Synthetics work better for your inner layer than cotton, which holds moisture against your skin. On top of that, wear fleece, wool, or other layers that provide insulation. The idea is to let your body create a warm pocket of air between you and the environment.
Finally, you need to stop the environment from stealing your warm air. Your outer layer needs to block the wind. Leather works; denim, for example, doesn't. These days, we also have a broad array of choices in nylon gear made specifically for motorcycling that provides versatile weather protection with vents, removable liners, waterproof membranes, adjustable fit, etc. If you choose outerwear that isn't waterproof, such as a leather jacket, be sure to carry a rainsuit that fits over it. Getting wet robs you of your insulation.
Whichever outer layer you choose, remember that it should provide crash protection, too. Buy gear made for motorcycling, not a fashion show.
Hands can be particularly vulnerable to the cold. Gauntlet-style gloves will help you seal the gap between gloves and jacket. Gloves with a breathable, waterproof liner will keep rain out while allowing moisture from perspiration to escape.
It may be obvious, but a full-face helmet will keep you warmer than no helmet, or an open-face helmet. Sealing the area around your neck with a bandanna, or better yet a fleece or wind- and waterproof neck warmer, can make a dramatic difference. A balaclava under the helmet provides a lot of additional comfort for minimal bulk.
What about the bike?
No matter how well you're dressed, cold air has a way of sneaking in and robbing heat. The longer you're on the road, the worse it gets. Your front line in the defense against cold is to block the wind.
A windshield or fairing is a good front-line defense. Mounting a small windshield on your handlebars, if your bike doesn't have one, can be enough to divert the wind off your chest and help keep your upper-body vital organs warm.
No matter how well you dress, if you're on the road long enough, you'll lose more heat than your body can generate. Long riders resort to electrical assistance. Heated clothing, which uses your bike's electrical system to power heating elements, makes a huge difference by not just insulating you, but adding heat to the whole equation.
Gloves start around $100. Vests, depending on the style, can go from $100 to $200. Socks can range from simple D-cell powered items that sell for around $25, to $90 systems that hook into the rest of your electric riding gear.
Make sure your charging system can handle the load. Find out the output of your charging system, add up the draw from all your electrical gear, and make sure you're not draining your battery. Also, leave a margin of error, because your bike's output may be measured at cruising rpms and it may produce considerably less electrical power at idle.
For many riders, a vest alone is enough. If you keep your torso warm, your body will focus on pumping warm blood to your extremities. If your torso gets cold, your body will abandon the extremities to try to keep the vital organs warm, and that's when you can suffer from dangerously numb hands or, possibly, frostbitten toes.
Another option is a lightweight, disposable heat pack, which offers a different kind of protection.
Imagine you're out for a ride on a nice fall day. You're so consumed with the changing leaves that you don't notice how far you've ridden. It's getting dark and cold — fast. A bit of quick heat can make all the difference.
An outdoor gear store, or even one of the big-box retailers that sell recreational goods, will have chemical packs. Be careful, because some can heat up to 150 degrees, so don't put them next to bare skin.
One last thing to think about that you may not have considered: Drink lots of liquids. Dehydration may be foremost in your mind in the hot months, but you still lose moisture in winter. Cold, dry winter air can suck moisture out of you and you may not notice that you're perspiring, which can drop your temperature even further.
Courtesy of the American Motorcyclist Association (800) AMA - JOIN
Sample Long-Distance Motorcycle Touring Checklist
(adapted from the American Motorcyclist Association¡and personal experience!)
- (2) jackets (mesh and touring) or (1) convertible, multi-layered motorcycle jacket
- (3) pairs of gloves (mesh, standard, waterproof/warm)
- glove liner
- rain gear/liner with glove and boot covers
- cooling vest
- bandana and/or baclava
- (2) pairs of boots (standard/mesh and waterproof)
- moisture-wicking undershirts/undergarments
- moisture wicking or hiking boot socks (depending on weather)
- Camelback wearable water reservoir (some jackets have this built in)
- body powder (i.e. Gold Bond medicated or Monkey Butt)
- baby wipes
- ear plugs
- additional dark/light face shield
- spare glasses
- walking shoes or flip-flops
- light jacket/windbreaker
- a source of music (iPod, XM Radio, CD, etc.)
- Bungee cords (various sizes)
- Soft-hook tie-downs
- Cargo net
- Garbage bags (make great rain covers or even as an extra windproof layer on you in extreme cold)
- Waterproof saddlebag liners (can hold ice and drinks or keep stuff dry)
- Portable bike cover
- Brake disc lock
- Cable lock (for securing helmets, jackets, etc.)
- Snacks and water
- Small spray bottle of Febreeze
Laundry detergent (powder) packets/clothespins (for washing out a shirt or undergarments in your room)
- Current license and registration
- Current Insurance Card
- Roadside assistance membership (i.e. AAA or AMA MoTow)
- Emergency medical and contact info
- Sharpie marker
- Cell phone
- Small first-aid kit
- Duct tape/Electrical Tape
- Siphon hose
- CO2 cartridge tire inflator or another type of inflation device
- Ziploc bags
- Flat-repair kit (or a flat prevention system such as Ride-On)
- Spare helmet parts
- LED flashlight
- Multi-tool/Swiss Army knife
- Extra fuses
- Tire pressure gauge
- Medication (i.e. asprin, prescriptions)
- $20 hidden on bike/jacket
- Space blanket
- $2-$3 in quarters