…or: You Southerners Haven’t A Clue
Southern Fun Fact: “Snow blower” is not a synonym for “cocaine junkie”.
I’m standing next to my bike, putting my gloves on while letting the S warm up a little before I take off for work. It’s only 33F according to the radio-controlled clock in the living room. The outside temperature sensor is stuck to the wall under the front door’s eve and usually reads a little warmer than it should. I’m already shivering. As I jack myself into the temp controller velcroed to my bike’s tank I have to wonder how I even made it through my previous two winters: the first with barely appropriate riding gear, the second wearing nothing but UnderArmour ColdGear, two layers of clothing and my textile two-piece all-weather riding suit. I am older, skinnier, still anemic and probably turned into a Marshmallow Butt the moment I was first introduced to the modern marvel of agitated electrons that is heated motorcycle gear. I’m thankful this cold evening for being fortunate enough to have it.
During the commute my vest is eventually turned to “Full Blast Nuclear Winter” and my gloves end up somewhere in the mid-range of their dial. My neck is being bombarded with freezing cold air that somehow found a way through the tiny gap created by my earplug wire between my jacket’s collar and my Ninja/Bank Robber headwear also known as a balaclava. We’re talking the cap here, Mr. Slow, not the Turkish dessert! No mention of that yummy, honey-dripping, freshly ground nuts filled, rosewater infused, many-layered paper-thin phyllo-dough pastry that is a delightful piece of heaven on earth but so much sweeter. Hmmm… hmmm… *wipes the drool off the corner of her mouth* Where was I? Oh yes, it’s damned cold. I’m working on an acute case of precision frost bite on my neck, but I’ve got tunes! The wind chill alone drops the effective temperature from 26F to 16F; add to that my average speed of about 60-70 mph. Speaking of wind: it is gusting at even colder bursts of ice cold air and the bike is being pushed around side to side, so I opt for the middle third of my lane. This doesn’t scare me as much as it used to.
On the Harley it was a hair-raising experience. I remember the first time I experienced strong cross winds coming back from the International Motorcycle Show in Greenville, SC in February 2009. I had only been riding for five months and the wind pushed me all over the road. I managed to stay in my lane, but I was extremely nervous and didn’t like it much at all. I had to constantly remember to stay loose from the waist up, easy on the handle bars, lean into the wind, counter-steer and try not to focus on the visions my brain treated me to; visions of some Harley-riding chick running off the road and wrecking herself. The Hayabusa never wavered from her path. Unlike Kittyhog, The Fat Lady just cut through the crap weather, all I had to remember was to tuck in behind my Double Bubble windscreen and not let my body act as a sail. However, even sitting upright, the ‘Busa wasn’t much bothered by such annoyances as wind gusts. It seems the S1000RR, with all its aerodynamic wind-tunnel tested fairing panels, bobs around like a pirate ship in rough seas. Her precision handling and predictable manners make it a confidence inspiring rather than fear provoking experience; especially with a freshly mounted, properly scrubbed-in new front tire.
I really had forgotten what a precision missile the S1000RR really is. I suppose I had gotten used to riding around on front rubber sporting a flat middle and excessive non-use towards the edges. After my test ride in March of this year, I had excitedly exclaimed that I only had to think about turning and the bike would react! It was lust at first sight and love at first ride. I herewith apologize to all the Hayabusas in the world, especially to The Fat Lady, may her soul rest in pieces and her heart live on in someone’s SmartCar. *crosses herself in a moment of silence* I love you, always will; you are dearest to my heart, but you guys can’t corner worth a hoot!
When I arrived at work, I started shivering as soon as I parked and unplugged myself from the Pirate’s heat. I hurriedly went inside, ran up the stairs and loudly proclaimed: “Holy cow! It’s cold out there!” in lieu of the customary “Good evening, ya’ll!” I decided to stay in my gear until such time when I stopped shivering and felt warm again. I watched my co-worker run out the gate in a half-sprint, get in her car and all but lay rubber as she pulled out of the parking lot. Gotta get that engine cranked up to operating temp before the heater is going to work! I had to giggle. My fingers weren’t all that cold, but my legs and butt were chilling like Amaretto served on the rocks and my crotch was a frozen Winter Wonderland. My security officer promptly informed me that he wanted to play in my park and sing filthy Christmas Carols. He actually called me later and serenaded me over the phone, something along the lines of “Frosty the Snow Ho.” I informed him that my park was closed to through traffic from dusk until dawn. He almost fell down the stairs on his way out. This definitely calls for my specialty: Weapons Grade coffee with real cream. I put the pot on. Four hours later it’s still freezing in here. The heater is on full blast, but there is a definite draft in this building and the furnace just can’t keep up.
I swear I saw snow flurries. Later this sighting was confirmed by an external source. I can skip the Haldol tonight, I wasn’t hallucinating after all.
Photo Credits: Kudos and thanks go out to Jamie aka @jls1970 on Twitter. She graciously let me use her pic in this post. Visit her blog That’s What She Said. Tell her Miss Busa sent you and give her these. She’ll know what it means. *hands you a tube of lead-free solder and a push-up bra*
I’ve been living in north-eastern Georgia for nine years. To my recollection, it hardly ever gets below freezing and when it does it’s usually in January. We’re kicking this year’s winter off right. First we have temps in the 60s -70s at the end of November. Next thing, it’s 24°F on my ride home from work. The heated vest and gloves are on full blast and I can’t even feel the heat. Luckily, I can’t feel the cold either. I suppose that was an even thermodynamic exchange there. This week the lows are going to be around 17°F with highs in the upper 30s to low 40s. WTF? It’s way too cold way too soon.
I hate winter. Luckily, when it’s below freezing it hardly ever rains around here. No snow to worry about, which is good, because when it snows and it sticks, I’m SOL. I got stuck at work one night last year and had to camp out in the office and then work another 12-hour shift the next day. Yummy! I’m sure I looked and smelled heavenly. Hahahaha. I did, however, have the foresight to anticipate the possibility and had hubby drop off an inflatable mattress, blanket, pillow, PJs, and various toiletries that very afternoon on his way to work.
I don’t even know how I made it through my first winter with all my fingers intact. I was riding on my Harley Sportster wearing a fleece hoodie under a dress leather jacket and knitted fashion gloves under my fingerless Harley pair. I ordered the riding gear when I bought the bike in late September, but it was backordered. Didn’t get the gloves until mid-December and the matching riding jacket to my overpants didn’t get to my door until March or so. Sucked.
My second winter was spent riding my Suzuki Hayabusa. That was a cold-ass ride compared to the Harley, even after the install of a Double Bubble windscreen, but I coped (more or less). After coming home one morning with hubby finding me curled up on the floor in the fetal position, still wearing all my gear sans helmet, and my thawing, screaming bloody murder, achy hands shoved into my crotch, crying in pain; the “rolling it old school” era came to an end. Hubby insisted on buying heated gear for me. I had hooked him up for Christmas with a Gerbing’s heated jacket liner, glove liners and a dual temp controller. He hooked me up for my birthday in return.
My third winter will be spent on the S1000RR. The coldest of all my rides thus far. Must have something to do with the way the fairings guide the air currents around me. I swear, the Hayabusa felt “warmer” overall, except for the ass. For some reason, I always came home with frozen butt cheeks, a problem I don’t seem to have on the Double-R. But it’s all subjective, isn’t it? I am not ready for winter, I hate the gloomy light, the short days, the cold temps, and all that comes with it.
I’ve tucked my front tire more often than I care to admit publicly, my front end feels like a tank in turns until I give the fork oil a workout and my tires never really get up to proper operating temp. The ride is simply not as much fun this time of year. Probably because my traction envelope has shrunk to the size of “responsible adult”. And speaking of the front end tucking, now I get to go out in this crap weather of cold with even colder wind gusts and change my front tire, since it’s well…. past its useful life and has been for quite a few hundred miles now. I just have been too lazy, but now I’ve procrastinated that one way past the point of acceptable risk, considering the addition of “cold” and “hard” to “flat” and “slick”. I am so looking forward to busting my knuckles when I’m partially hypothermic. Yeah, what a hoot! I would like a garage, please.
I really hate winter. Riding becomes perfunctory and purpose driven. All function, no (real) fun.
Still better than taking the car!
I had occasion to try out hubby’s little gear purchase: a Gerbing heated vest. He hunted that puppy down online, after my little ‘incident’ in 18˚ F, which actually convinced me to quit being such a hardcore dweeb with a generous side of brain death and get some heated gloves. He really digs his Gerbing gear that I got him for Christmas (yeah, he’s the guinea pig in the family, he’s testing a set of Throttlemeisters on his Connie 14 for me right now ;P). Anyhoo, I ordered the gloves and figured, I might as well get the women’s vest, too while I’m there, since I’d probably appreciate it on longer rides. They didn’t have it in my size, so I checked one more place and they were out, too. Forget it. I’m just here for the gloves anyway. I ordered the glove liners and a temp controller. Next day, hubby went out and found a vest in my size and bought it for me behind my back. I’m still waiting on the gloves, since they are backordered and Gerbing was holding the controller, too. Hubby finally called them to tell them they need to go ahead and ship the controller out, so I could use my vest. The controller still hasn’t made it and I ran out of patience the first morning I saw the temp below 40˚F. I stole hubby’s extension cord, cranked up the bike and plugged that sucker in. I was prepared to get electrocuted since I wasn’t quite doing this by the book and I had no clue which of the three jacks on my vest I was supposed to use… One didn’t fit my plan, so I just picked a hole that would fit the male-to-female extension cord to the female power plug on the battery harness that I installed a few days prior. It’s DC, shouldn’t matter right? I squeezed my eyes shut and jammed that plug into the power harness. Did I mention I have a healthy respect for electricity? Ever since a few run-ins with electric fences as a kid, I am freaky when it comes to messing with the ‘live wire’. I didn’t get zapped, but I started feeling warm around the backside where my backpack pressed the vest against my shirt. Good, it’s working. Off to work I went. Without a temp controller or a way to switch it off I was getting a little toasty, so I sat bolt upright on my bike and let the wind hit my chest. Dang, this thing puts out some heat. My neck got a little chilly since I’m a moron and forgot to put on my neck warmer and forgot to turn the collar up on the vest, but who cares… it wouldn’t be heated anyway, or would it? I pulled into the parking lot at work 22 miles later, at 39˚F and rainy, all cozy and without frostbite on my fingers. Yeah, I think this’ll do nicely.
On the way home this morning, it was misting and foggy with the temp dipping into the low 30s. I sat upright; just as I did before, and went the Interstate all the way home, which adds four miles and higher speed to my commute. By the time I got home, my fingers felt slightly cool, but other than that I was feeling pretty comfy. It is true what they say: keep the core warm and the body takes care of itself and keeps the extremities from turning themselves into ice cubes. Finally I can feel my levers all the way to the house.
I wore the vest again in 42˚F on my way to get the bike serviced. This time I turned the collar up. I pretty much cooked my neck in seven miles. Talk about getting hot under the collar. Gerbing actually heats the collars on these puppies. Awesome! Note to self: wear the neck warmer under that to insulate from direct contact.
I can’t wait until my temp controller and the gloves come in. More testing is in order. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t drop below freezing again this year, now that I’m prepared for Mr. Frostie the Coldass Frostbite Fairy. And I love the fact that any of Gerbing’s components are self-sufficient, meaning you buy any of their articles (vests, jackets, gloves, glove liners, insoles, pant liners) and you’ll get everything you need to hook that puppy up to your bike’s battery and get rolling. Obviously, a temp controller is almost a must, or at least one of their budget alternatives: an inline on/off switch. That was something that was confusing to me when I first started looking into heated gear. What else would I need to make this junk work? With Gerbing there’s no stress. Yeah, they’re more expensive, but damn, that MicroWire technology is probably worth it. I’ve talked to a bunch of LD riders (mostly Beemer jockeys) and they all swear by this stuff. They all said that if I could afford it, get Gerbing. It was unanimous. Gerbing! All I heard. So, I put my trust in the people who must know a thing or two about crap weather riding.
I have no way to compare how it stacks up to other brands of heated clothing, in functionality, heat-output, power-management and consumption, weight, bulkiness, price-value, etc, but I’m liking what I have so far.