Winter Riding in the Twin Cities
Oh yes, some of us never put our motorcycles, scooters or mopeds away for the winter. We just keep riding. I'm not going to argue the state of our mental capacity - we know it's diminished. Sub-zero temperatures will do that to a person. For this article, we will let two demented personages ramble on for a bit. First off is Marty Mataya, the proprietor of Go Moto up in Osseo. He's running around in the snow on a 110cc Scout (based on the Honda Cub design) with a sidecar. Then we'll hear from David Harrington, local riding loonie, about winter riding gear.
Marty's Winter Riding Adventure
In need of the highest quality materials, I asked Lissa, my much better half, what we had in the junk drawer in the kitchen. She replied she needed everything in that drawer and wouldnít give up the combination for the padlock. So it was off to the local dump, aka, that area behind the garage, to see what I could discover. I dug 40 lBS of metal like material from under a smoldering mattress and set off for the shop. On the way there I noticed the spare to an old Yugo laying by road. It was flat but there was still tread on part of it. Perfect now I have everything.
I did a through inventory of my treasures and was confident I had everything I needed to complete this project, and set to work. Digging through my box of tools produced a hack saw blade with no teeth, not to de deterred I was able to substitute a very sharp, for now, hatchet. Deeper in the box there was a battery powered welder and a bit brace complete with a drill bit. For those not up on modern tools, a hatchet is actually two tools in one. One side is a hammer and the other side is sharp hammer.
12 hours one box of bandages and two cans of bactine later my side car was almost half done. However the batteries to the welder had gone flat so finishing this project would have to wait until they were recharged. I hooked them up to the alternator in the van, kicked the shop dog out of his straw bed and went to sleep.
The next day I awoke to pop, pop, bang, pop. Seems the batteries were overcharging and exploding inside the van. To bad they would have had some serious welding power by then.
More then a little confused on how to proceed I called my friend Elmer. He told he had some glue and heíd be right over. Elmer arrived shortly with his bottle of glue and provided detailed instructions on its proper application. Now I was all set to complete my project with Elmerís glue.
Once everything was together and the side car was able to roll around the shop I began to loose faith in my friend Elmer. Sure using glue to fuse two pieces of metal like material together might seem adequate in the lab, how can I be sure it will work in the rough and tumble world of side can travel. After all the lovely miss Lissa will be riding in there. Always putting safety first, the only way to be sure is to reinforce it all with duct tape. And not just any duct tape. Duct tape from China, where they use carcinogenic adhesives and the hair from children and retired workers to reinforce the asbestos backing.
Now my all encompassing project is complete If it would only it would quit snowing I could go try it out. Once it warms up a little.
All kidding aside this is the finished product. A bit crude, very functional. And really FUN ! I promise no glue or duct tape is holing it together.
Some Thoughts on Winter Riding Gear
OK, fair enough, Marty has got his winter ride put together. Equipping your ride is only part of the game though - you've got to get YOURSELF ready to face the harsh conditions of a Minnesota winter. I do ride all year, as long as the roads are in good shape. Packed snow, ice and freezing slush are not conductive to safe riding and I tend to stick with four wheels in those conditions. Of course even a well-plowed road can be treacherous so extreme caution and awareness should be the first tool in your winter riding kit. For the most part, we're looking for ways to stay warm while on a motorcycle or scooter.
I am a living example of why it's important to were protective gear when riding. I have survived some crashed with (relatively) minor injuries that would have been much worse without protective gear. I'm not just talking about helmets here - I wear armored body gear as well. It's for this reason that I don't suggest just going out and getting a one-piece snowmobile suit. They will keep you warm, but they are intended for use OFF-pavement and don't have the impact absorption of good street riding gear.
If cost is no problem, I would get some Underarmor cold gear at about $150, an Aerostich Roadcrafter suit at about $850, Gerbing electric vest and gloves for about $400, Sidi Adventure boots for about $400 and a Nolan Helmet for about $450. That's a total of $2,250 for your winter gear. I'll admit that I did spring for the Gerbings, on sale, but that's for when it's REALLY cold out. Here is what I ride in for temperatures down to about zero.
It took some digging but I have put together a nice set-up for about $600. The helmet is a Nolan modular full-face that was on close-out at Scooterville for $200. The jacket pictured is a Joe Rocket Ballistic that was $170. It's a year-old version that was still new and on sale locally. Fieldsheer makes a very nice cold weather jacket that I have seen on sale at local shops for $175. The pants are Joe Rocket and were on sale for $70. The Tourmaster Winter gloves were $60 and the Tourmaster boots were $100, both on sale. The jacket has a full-sleeve insulated liner and a wind-proof closure system. The pants are also insulated. Both have amour and reflective material for improved visibility. You'll also notice a neck gaiter in the picture that I got for free with some other purchases. I think they cost about $20 on their own.
Though I could certainly get by with other gloves and boots, I like the fact that these are made for riding. I can hold onto and operate the controls which I find challenging in really heavy hunting or skiing gloves. The boots are warm and also allow easy operation of a foot shifter and brake.
I encourage you to visit local shops and supply stores. By taking advantage of sales and sometimes just asking I was able to get the same pricing I could have gotten online. In the case of the jacket, the store sale price was better than the online price.
Bundle up, pay attention to the conditions and drivers around you, and go for a spin. Don't be surprised at the shocked looks you will get from people in their four-wheeled traps - you'll be nearly as warm and having much more fun.