Motorcycling in the Winter
A 1908 Harley-Davidson (one of the first)
There is a separate Reflection on how it all got started. Probably the best day of motorcycling I have ever experienced was in December 1998 when the The Riding Club of Greenwich held its second annual ride to Blythedale Hospital to visit the children. The New York Cruisers sent a contingent for the trip. There were nearly 50 motorcycles in total including two 1998 Harley Police models which escorted us to the hospital. We gave gifts to the children, entertained them with motorcycle paraphernalia, and sang Christmas carols to them. It was an emotional experience in addition to a nice motorcycle ride. You can see pictures of the event in the Photo Gallery.
My early riding days were in Tampa, Florida where the weather was almost always nice so until this winter I had had no cold weather riding experience. I have a condition called Raynaud’s Disease which makes for very uncomfortable fingers and toes when it gets cold so I was sure that I would stop riding in the Fall. That was before I discovered heated motorcycle clothing! It started with Hot Grips. This weekend project resulted in replacing the Harley installed grips on the Sporster and wiring up a switch under my GPS receiver bracket to operate them. The heated grips are great for cool days but I quickly found out that riding when it is below 40 degrees requires heavy duty heating. After searching around the web I discovered the nice people at Widder where I got electric gloves, vest, and chaps. I wear the chaps under my jeans and connect them to the vest. The gloves have a wire down each arm of my jacket and the wiring harness connects to the vest. The vest in turn connects to a switch which connects to my battery. Getting the wiring in place on the battery was yet another weekend project. My first ride was at 29 degrees. I was warm and toasty… except for my toes. I naively thought that two pairs of socks and my heavy leather boots would shield me from the cold. Not so. What to do. I sent an email to the nice folks at Widder. Do you have electric socks? No, sorry. Hmmm. Back to the web and the Excite search window. "Heated socks". First match was Gerbing. A complete line of heated clothing awaited, including socks, but I could see that the electrical connectors were not going to be compatible with my existing clothing. Being a PC junkie, incompatabilities are nothing new! I called the folks at Gerbing. Like every motorcycle industry supplier I have encountered, they were the nicest people. No problem, we’ll make you a wiring harness and an adaptor. And, if you send your chaps and the harness back to us in the Spring we’ll rewire your chaps to include the connectors at the bottom for our socks so you don’t need to have so many wires on your body! Wow. It’s a deal. Three days later I had the socks, got everything wired up, and off to Banksville. Toes? Warm and toasty! Not sure I’ll make it through the whole winter but as long as there is no ice on the road I am going to be riding and looking through the curves.
Addendum (10-Jan-99): Went out for an early ride this morning to meet up with the riding club. Navigating through the ice patches on my driveway turned out to be the easy part of the trip. About five miles from the house I realized my heated clothing and gloves were not working. I wasn’t sure at first. It was fifteen degrees and I didn’t expect to feel the heat — I didn’t expect to get cold though. I started to quickly get very very cold. I turned on the Hot Grips and they helped quite a bit but not enough to keep my hands from starting to hurt. I pulled over to the side of the road and checked all the connections. No problems. Must be the fuse which I neatly tucked under the seat when I installed the wiring! Back to the house and into the garage, got my homemade ramp setup, and into the nice warm basement. Sure enough the 10 amp fuse was blown. I wasn’t sure if the problem was my battery tender hookup or whether the addition of the socks put things over the limit. I added up the draw of the socks + chaps + vest + gloves. Sure enough….. 11 amps! Off to Radio Shack for 15 amp fuses.