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Category Archives: Commuting

Baby, it’s cold outside

Photo Credit: ADAM ZUCKERMAN, Rider Magazine

Photo Credit: ADAM ZUCKERMAN, Rider Magazine

Normally in the fall my friends and I take a four or five day riding trip that helps me get through the winter. This year we were not able to pull off our trip and I feel like somethings missing. I really look forward to this long ride capping off the regular riding season, but now it seems unfinished.

I’m not one to stop riding when it gets cold, but I do ride less in the colder months than in the summer. Partly this is due to me being lazy and not wanting to winterize my bike. It’s also because there are always those 60 degree surprise days that pop up all through winter and I don’t want to not have a bike to ride when they come around. Generally I’ll ride as long as the surface road temps are above 35 and the outside temps are around 40. I’ve collected a gear set that keeps me warm on my commute. With a little more layering I can go on long trips without getting cold. A few weeks ago two friends and I took a day trip into Luray, VA for lunch and a to ride the surrounding area. It wasn’t exceptionally cold but we did see snow on the side of the road as we crossed Sky Line drive on Rt. 211.

My winter kit isn’t anything special. It’s gear that I’ve collected over time and found works for me. I have Dainese TRQ-Tour Gore-Tex Boots, Smartwool tall ski socks, FirstGear TGP insulated riding pants, TourMaster insulated/windproof riding jacket, Aerostitch 3 season Vegan gloves, and a fleece neck warmer. For longer rides I will also put on my Cycle Gear FREEZE-Out base layer long sleeve top and long johns. I’ve been satisfied with my winter gear so far. The recent addition of the FREEZE-Out base layers has extended my riding range a lot. It’s light weight and breathes well keeping me warm but not hot and sweaty. My bike also has heated grips which are a huge help and allow me to wear thinner gloves but still have warm hands.

How long into the winter do you ride? What do you do to keep warm? Electric heat or no? Leave a comment and share. I’d love to discover your secret to staying warm so that we can all use it and be able to ride longer into the colder months.

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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Commuting, Gear Reviews

 

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Tie Down: Miles 281 – 379

Most of the miles that I’ve put on bikes in the past few years have been from commuting.  It’s economical.  My fuel up this run put me at 40.1 mpg @ 165 miles since the last fill up.  It’s also a whole lot more fun than driving a car to work everyday.  I find that I arrive at work in a better mood and am better able to clear my head from the workday on the way home.  On my H-D I used to just slip my lap top bag into the side bag, latch it up, gear up and go.  Figuring out how to do the same thing, in a practical way, on the Ninja has been a fun challenge.

The easiest way, for me, to carry my bag to work has been to strap it onto the passenger seat on the N1K with tie downs.  I thought about trying to carry the bag like a messenger bag, but decided that was not safe with this bag.  Tie downs proved to be a really easy solution because Kawasaki have provided some great attachment points on the back of the bike.  There are two anchors/hooks located just behind the passenger foot pegs.  The passenger grab handles and expansive room under the back seat provide more opportunities for lashing items to the bike.  Here’s a look at my rig for commuting:

 

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Commuting: Miles 281 – 379

Commuting is the one of the primary uses of my H-D and so it will now be the primary use for the Ninja 1000. There are some challenges to commuting on a bike with no storage. The main one being that I have nowhere to put my lap top bag. Luckily I do have tie down straps and am able to lash the bag to the back seat without much trouble. This arrangement will work out fine as long as I don’t run into any rain. So far so good on that, but I am looking at alternatives that will be more weather proof/resistant and that look better than wrapping my lap top bag in a lawn trash bag. The Ninja is a very capable commuter. My commute is about an hour one way which, as I mentioned in my longer ride report, is about the limit for me before I need a break. The Ninja is very smooth and easy to manage in traffic. The power delivery is not abrupt when leaving from a stop light or in stop-and-go traffic. She certainly wants to go faster, but is content with a more sedate pace. I find that refreshing because one of my main concerns about using a sport type bike as a commuter was that I would get whiplash every time I twisted the right grip. I’m seeing better gas mileage now that the bike is breaking in. My previous fill up came in at 33.2 mpg and this last at 40.1 mpg. As I get better (more restrained?) at throttle control and shifting I expect the mpg to be much better. The fuel up information is available at http://www.fuelly.com/driver/redkamel/ninja-1000.

 
 

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Commuting Part II

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.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2009 in Commuting

 

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Commuting

January 12, 2009

Since I purchased my bike last spring I have mostly commuted to and from work on it. I was more than a little scared of the highway traffic the first few times I rode to work. Having not been on any bike for about 5 years, let alone a bike as big as my new one, I was really worried that I would get into a situation that I was not prepared for.

The year before I bought my bike I read several riding skills books. Mostly the Proficient Motorcycling books by David Hough. The information that he provided (including diagrams) gave me a greater understanding of how a motorcycle works and how a rider should interact with his bike and the road. I also purchased a motorcycle maintenance book (generic maintenance because at the time I didn’t know I’d be getting a Hog). I wanted to not only understand how to ride a bike but how it works.

Understanding the lessons that Hough wrote helped tremendously with my confidence and improved my riding skills. I as surprised that with just the application of some basic principles I was able to make nice, tight U-turns and low speed turns, even on my EG. I haven’t had time, but there are also practice lessons to sharpen the skills discussed in the book. I try to fit them into my commute just to break up the routine of going to the same destination every day. It really helps (that and my IPod, but more on that later). The most useful tips that I found for commuting are these:

1. Breaking is almost always the best action to take. Learn how to break with front and back breaks properly. Learn the limitations of your breaks in a safe environment (parking lot) and not when you are breaking in a dire situation.

2 Look at the front tire of a car that is stopped at an intersection or cross street. The tire will make almost a full rotation before the bumper moves much at all. It is a far better indicator that a car is going to move than trying to make eye contact with the driver. The front tire also has to turn before the car can so this is also a great way to find out which way the car is headed. Looking at the tire also helps when traveling on the highway. As I stated above the car tire must move before the car can, so you’ll see the tire turn before the car moves into your lane. This last observation has saved me some skin a few times.

3. Wear all the gear, all the time. I work in an office and have to dress business casual but I still wear my full face helmet, jacket, gloves, chaps/riding pants, and boots all year. The key here is getting the right gear so that you will wear it. For the summer I wear a mesh jacket (with armor), mesh gloved, and leather chaps or my vented riding pants with the liners removed. At highway speeds this keeps me cool and comfortable. For winter I have a neck sleeve, insulated jacket, insulated pants and lined riding boots. My theory is that I want to be sure that I have as much protection as possible just in case. I may be the best rider out there, but that does not stop a distracted driver from putting me in an inescapable situation. Like a boy scout, be prepared (plus, bugs and rocks hurt).

I’ll be posting another entry about my winter commuting adventures. Stay tuned to find out exciting information about my low temperature threshold, keeping your feet warm and hands warm (without heated gear), and much much more.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2009 in Commuting

 

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