Winter fun on two wheels.
Some people just don’t want to ride their bikes in the winter season. Most are all tucked up in the garage ready for the first signs of Spring (the bike’s all tucked up that is!). I don’t blame them really, I used to be in that category right up to the moment I became a serious addict. My F650GS, Smoggy, for 4 winters, was by all accounts tucked in. He was on trickle charge and taken out by my husband on occasions for a dusting off of cobwebs. (Just to make sure that the wee bike was still amazing fun to ride!) A bit of a change from his GS Adventure. Poor Smoggy, getting his neck thoroughly rung! This winter / spring, Ed’s getting a new bike. He was thinking of selling his current bike privately. He announced that he would have to ‘borrow’ Smoggy to go away to some winter (camping) rallies, because his GS would be sold. My reply to him was that classic Scot’s expression, “Aye, right.” That was the end of that conversation.
I don’t want to put my bike away for the winter any more. I want to be able to grab any chance there is to get out on two wheels. I did have ‘equipment’ issues though. There’s nothing worse than riding in the winter and getting cold. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty ‘padding’, however, on occasions my hands were getting cold and we all know what that does for your concentration. Grasping your heated hand grips harder doesn’t heat up your hands better, it also makes you tense and that’s useless! The decision was made; if I was going to ride in the winter, I needed heated gear. Ed’s been a huge fan of Gerbing over the years and had amazing customer service from them. That ticked my boxes. Also, I knew that the jacket would fit. They don’t ‘do’ specific sizes for women, however when it’s worn under your normal biking jacket it’s really not an issue. Also, Ed’s fitted me, so I was off to a good start. The way they get you to measure your hand for the gloves works too, so the gloves fitted first time. Ed’s a bitty jealous of my new jacket which is substantially better than the one he’s had for years! He did try to steal it from me. Only the once though. He won’t try again!
I feel like a wee kid again. Remember when your Mum used to join up your gloves with string, feeding the string through your sleeves so you didn’t lose them? Yeah, I feel like that all over again!
So, there we go, I’m all kitted out now. Be careful out there though, there are safety implications. You might feel all nice and cosy, wrapped up in what’s actually a body hugging electric blanket, but ask yourself what temperature it is, outside this ‘Ready Brek’ glow that we have. You remember the advert, surely?
We can possibly be lulled into a false sense of security, so be careful. I was all nice and cosy the other morning, I left the house and it was 0.5°c, by the time I got to Edinburgh at noon (yes, went the long way), it was a balmy 7°c. Living where I do, there are 3 glens that meet, producing all sorts of interesting weather systems, normally involving large amounts of precipitation. I have webbed feet inside my tiny, wee, size 4 Altberg boots. There are also little micro-climates around every corner. Be careful of them, they can appear when you least expect them; areas that don’t get the sun and have frosty patches, ice and slithery surfaces that could also involve diesel spills. There are hazards all over the place. Use olfactory senses to be more aware of the conditions; you can smell the cold and on occasions you can smell diesel when the spill is substantial enough, there’s lots of other stuff too, mud, fertiliser…. Mostly though, it’s that combination of a skittery surface and fairly low temperatures. Oh. Don’t forget the deer. My other half hit one the other week whilst on his GS Adventure. It was down to sheer experience with a generous smattering of luck, that he stayed upright and kept riding until he found a safe place to pull over to allow the adrenalin to flow through his body. Lucky boy, the deer must have had a small limp for a while.
Worth it’s weight in gold, are the tyre pressure monitors that are on my bike. They’re marvellous. If you are unlucky and get a puncture, your dash lights up like a Christmas tree. You would have to have serious eyesight problems to miss the yellow warning lights flashing like beacons. It means you can find a safe place to pull over hopefully without having to ride too far. If I ever change my bike, I would miss those tyre sensors. My standard display on my bike dash is my tyre pressures and the temperature gauge. That seldom changes.
So winter riding has its challenges. Keep warm, it’s much better for your concentration. Make sure your tyres are in good condition and at the correct pressure. Watch out for micro-climates around that corner. At the end of the day, riding in the winter has massive benefits, you don’t have to suffer the ‘spring wobbles’; you know that feeling when you get on the bike after a break and really have to concentrate! Your cornering techniques resemble following the sides of a 50 pence piece and your slow speed manoeuvring skills have disappeared somewhere over the hibernation period. Go and find yourself a nice empty car park and practice your machine control. You don’t have to worry about that when you’ve been keeping yourself active through the winter. It’s also beneficial for when conditions deteriorate, you can cope with them. That’s another blog though. In the meantime, I keep on practising because I’m hooked.