May 10, 2009
Commuting on a bike is different than riding on the weekend or taking a short or long trip on a bike. I have never noticed this difference when commuting in my car vs. taking a trip. I don’t drive my car on the weekends for fun so I’ve no comparison there. It’s the preparation that makes it different. Riding on the weekend, which is a legitimate use for a motorcycle regardless of what my other commuter friends say at ridetowork.org, usually entails a quick check on the weather and making sure that the bike starts. I had my first bike for 5 years and only put 5000 miles on it. I never changed the oil, put air in the tires, or did any maintenance really other than charge the battery every summer. I know now that this was almost suicide, but I made it through that 5 years I think mostly because I did only ride a few hundred miles every once and a while. Long or short trips take planning and generally bikes get a once over or a service before the trip if the rider is sane. Commuting on the other hand means that your bike has to be in it’s best working condition all the time because you never know what you will encounter and what you will need to do to react to that event. This goes for clothing too. Commuting I wear all the gear that I can all the time. I just don’t want to be caught unprepared.
So last time I wrote I promised to talk about cold weather riding and such. I did a fair bit of riding this late winter and I have a few observations to offer. I discovered that my low temperature threshold is about 45 degrees. Much below that and I’d need more gear than I have. Right now I have a Harley-Davidson waterproof riding jacket. It is insulated and with a good pair of insulated, waterproof gloves; insulated, waterproof, firstgear TGP riding pants; wool socks and lug-type boots I did pretty well. my commute is about 45 min each way and by the time I got to work on the colder days I was pretty much at my limit for reaction time and generally uncomfortable. My bike also have a full faring so windchill and wind in general is less an issue, even on my hands. To really extend my riding season I will need to get the following items:
1) Heated hand grips – These would do more for my ability to ride longer in cold weather than any other item I could purchase. It’s my cold hands and the lack of reaction time that I fear more than being comfortable.
2) Covers for my engine guards – These are leather, pleather or textile covers that stretch over my engine guards and block wind from getting to my lower legs and feet. This is my second most important upgrade to make my life better on cold days. Like cold hands, cold feet make for slower reaction time and, for me at least, when my feet are cold I tend to take a lot longer to warm up over all.
3) Heated vest – While I don’t think that this is as important, it would certainly contribute to an overall better riding experience.
4) Heated seat – This is pretty low on my list because in the ’05 FLHTI the rear cylinder exhaust runs under the seat and out the left side of the engine and then down the left of the bike. This has the effect of warming the seat, not by a lot, but in lower (and higher) temperatures it is noticeable.
This list is in no way comprehensive but it is a list of items that, for me, will extend my riding season. That is all the incentive that I need.