Thursday, February 21, 2008

Two wheeled hot tub.

I've always been known as a spartan rider. Things like electric vests weren't a part of my world. I have a high pain threshold. A fact that Katie swears works against me. My preparation for cold weather riding consisted of finding gear that gave the most warmth for the least amount of bulk. I hate feeling confined. Even a balaclava in front of my nose and mouth was almost too much. The thought of being physically wired to the bike turned me off. No pun intended. Mostly I just rode. Sometimes it was so cold I had to grit my teeth. Even at that, I seemed to do okay. The only real affect was feeling quite chilled after a long ride in the cold. I wouldn't really notice it until I got off the bike and into a warm place. It would take hours to feel warm again.

Then one day about three years ago I had a chance to ride a guy's BMW F650, He wanted me to go play with the ABS. Since it was also a cold day, Lon encouraged me to wear his electric vest. That was the start of my downfall from the rugged, tough, rider I'd always been. I resisted for a while but eventually bought a vest. I went back to Lon, who was the sales manager at a dealer, and told him this:

"I both thank you and curse you! I thank you for introducing me to actually being warm. I curse you for helping me start to ruin my Spartan image!"

In order to make me feel a little better about things, I started to reason on the situation. It actually sounded more like making excuses, but so be it. I related it to safe riding. After all, that's my passion, right? I spend hours and hours teaching riders how to take care of themselves. It's important to be comfortable on a motorcycle. If a rider's comfortable they'll be better able to concentrate on avoiding hazards and bogies. My first Winter with the vest saw it get a lot of use. Pretty soon, though, my spartan nature returned. Ok, call it pride or being stubborn. I haven't used the vest at all this Winter. Enter our instructor banquet and a door prize.

I won this Gordon Gerbing signature edition electric jacket liner as a door prize. That was in November. The jacket makes a great liner under the 'Stich. Included with the jacket was the harness to tap into the battery. Not included was a controller. The electrics won't operate without a controller. So for pretty much the whole Winter I've used it without the heating function. I know some of you will question my intelligence. Comparisons to using a chainsaw without the engine running come to mind. Hey, it's my body. The jacket by itself makes a good insulating layer. It also looks kind of neat by itself.

Early January finally saw the credit card get a little exercise. A hundred dollars later I had a controller, a cord to adapt to the BMW type plug already installed on Sophie, and a coiled extension. Just in case I needed more reach, or for Katie's use from the pillion spot. Gerber hastened me on to my demise. The package arrived just two days later. One cold day I fired everything up. The temperature was in the low twenties (f).

Let me say that this is a quality product. The controller keeps the temperature setting at a constant level. Just turn the little knob and forget about it. The jacket has wires in the torso and the sleeves. It's just like being in a hot tub. Only less water. With a lot more clothes. No bubbles but deeper wind chill. All right. It's nothing like being in a hot tub. It feels just as good, though!

Now I'm afraid to use it. See, I used to have this point where I used the electric vest. Anything in the twenties qualified. Or, a ride over a hundred miles at freezing or below. Pretty soon the upper limits started being stretched. I feared becoming "soft" so I cut myself off. This electric jacket liner is even nicer than the vest. Soon I started plugging it in and rotating that magic knob at anything below forty degrees. I got so strung out that once I fired it up at 45 degrees! This was just too much. I haven't used the electrics for 11 days. I know, that long. What's happening to me?

It's no longer a matter of safety. I just like being warm!!! Is the rugged Road Warrior turning into a Coddled Combatant? Heaven forbid. Curse you, Gerbing. Your product does its job too well. This is more comfort than any hard core rider deserves. Or should be exposed to. I'm asking Katie to hide the controller. No matter how pitiful I sound, no matter what I say, do not give it back to me! I see the beginning of an addiction and it's starting to scare me!

Miles and smiles,



Krysta in Milwaukee said...

"It's no longer a matter of safety. I just like being warm!!!"

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Nobody but you will know if the jacket is turned on, or to what temp. It won't ruin your image at all. Or maybe it'll add to it: "he knows his limits, and that safety gear takes many forms."

Besides, as you said yourself, if you're comfortable & happy the ride is safer. (And, I would add, better and more fun.)

ps said...

I ride my 2.5 miles to work down to about 10 degrees. That's still long enough to get very cold if I get unlucky with traffic lights. If I have to wait at all of them my hands are pretty useless by the end of the ride. I also have this Spartan image of myelf, but the truth is if I had the money I'd definitely go for heated grips, heated gloves, heated vest, etc. Maybe next winter. Mostly it'd be nice to be able to go for a long ride on a dry winter weekend. I ride every day but I am still itching for some warmer weather--2.5 miles just doesn't cut it.


vaara said...

I just discovered Gerbings this past winter. Or should I say "winter." We don't get the below-freezing stuff here in the Bay Area (the one around San Francisco, not Coos Bay!), but 40F at 70mph is still pretty darn cold.

Tinker said...

I used to ride in winter weather, and do not be fooled, weather here in Texas can mess with you, mighty bad, mighty quickly. I was the baddest motorcycle rider in Austin. When it snowed I just planted my feet in the corners and SKIed around. Twist of the throttle and the back end would break free, swing around. and you could see that path in good hard snow. That winter was a bad one, snow, sleet, freezing rain fell constantly. I'd get so cold that my legs would stiffen up and it was all I could do to swing my leg over and get off the bike.

Then I noticed there was a guy arriving in one of those periods of freezing rain that shuts the town down. And he was driving an old Indian Scout with a side shifter! And he was wearing an Orange Snowmobile suit! He commuted regularly from Killeen/Fort Hood to Austin, Via the back roads, on his Indian. Well, that put an end to it, if I wasn't the toughest rider then I was just another idiot on two wheels.

Stopped riding in Snow, Sleet, freezing rain, fog, high winds, and today if it ain't warm I don't ride. And I don't have to ride any more, just to get to work. For me, my motorcycle is pure fun.

irondad said...

Maybe I could find a way to hide the wires. Are you trying to imply I should be setting a good example? Warm IS nice. Your nurturing side is coming through in your comment!

I really applaud you for riding to work, especially for the short distance. Not many would think it worth the effort to gear up for it and would drive instead.

I've found that the area around 40 degrees can feel much colder. I think it's some sort of relationship between the temperature and the foggy moisture. Incidentally, I was born in Coos Bay.

Good to hear from you, again. Missed your comments. I'm with you. Neither of us have anything to prove anymore. We ride for whatever reasons suit us. More power to you.

Take care,


vaara said...

Actually, what prompted me to get the Gerbings was a trip I took down to Death Valley in October. It was part of a loosely organized group ride. The route was supposed to go through Yosemite, but it had snowed heavily the day before, and the passes were closed. So we made a big detour through South Lake Tahoe and into Nevada. By the time we got to Lee Vining (east side of Yosemite) it was already dark and the temperature was falling fast through 40 degrees. Our scheduled stop for the night was in Bishop - 80 miles away, over 8000-foot mountain passes covered in snow.

I don't think I've ever been so cold in my life -- and I once spent a February in Moscow. When we got to Bishop, it took me about 4 hours to stop shivering. One of the guys was gloating about his Gerbings and how toasty warm he had been... I badly wanted to punch him in the face, but ultimately I realized that next time I could be the gloater rather than the gloatee. :)

ps said...

I really applaud you for riding to work, especially for the short distance. Not many would think it worth the effort to gear up for it and would drive instead."

Well part of it is parking the bike 30 ft from the building instead of the car 4-10 blocks away where I can find a spot. And even if my ride only lasts 10 minutes, it is the highlight of my day. (Of course when it's above freezing my ride lasts a little longer.)


Conchscooter said...

Pathetic excuse for a motorcycle rider. I ride every day and never use electric anything except a headlight and that only because its hard wired at the factory.
On the other hand of course I do tend to whine a bit if it dips below 70 degrees.
My wife heats the seats on her convertible when temperatures drop below 80 (I'm not kidding), but I hesitate to accuse you of being as bad as she is.

irondad said...

I've had those runs down a mountain before. Got caught with too little gear for the cold. Frozen so much I can hardly move. I remember feeling the air get warmer a degree at a time on the way down and being thankful for each and every one. Never been to Moscow. That would be cold, if you believe the stereotype!

Amazing how the ride home takes so much longer, isn't it? Happened to me today. 30 miles suddenly became 75. How in the world does that keep happening to me? Sounds like you might have the same affliction.

Ouch! Just rub it in. We probably won't even see 70 degrees for another few months. I think I'm going to go take a hot bath, now! Right after I go online and order a heated seat, that is.

Take care,

David said...

Dan, there is a line that I love, "Too soon we are old and too late we are smart." One more word... Hypothermia. Go for the electrics. The warmer the blood in your core, the warmer your brain. Get your brain too cold and you know how it affects your decision making. Why, you might forget where the nearest Starbucks is located and waste precious fuel getting a cup of coffee. ;)

Seriously, there is nothing wrong with being warm and comfortable when the conditions are bad. Do you keep your home at 50 degrees in the winter to toughen yourself up? No, I'm sure Katie wouldn't put up with that. Keeping yourself in top condition while riding will keep you alive. Cold hands and feet don't react as quickly as warm ones. So wearing the electrics means you're safer. I think there is a blogger who preaches safety... ;)

Ride well, and ride safe.
Dave T.

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

"Are you trying to imply I should be setting a good example?"

No implying about it. You do set a good example. (Does that cause a grimace similar to "I think of you like a brother"?) ::grin::

"Your nurturing side is coming through"

::Pooh voice::
Oh, dear, you've learned my secret. Now I must kill you.
::/Pooh voice::

Seriously, though, I've been hypothermic to the point where I stopped shivering & couldn't move my fingers. Annoying while kayaking, very well fatal on a bike.

Use what you can to stay warm. As Dave pointed out, keeping warm literally keeps your head in the game.

And to keep fingers working if you don't have heated grips (or it's colder than that), put small chem packs in the cuffs of your gloves / jacket, against the skin inside the wrist. For feet, inside boots on the ankles is good.

Karl just got a newer bike to upgrade the sidecar, and it'll have a heated seat (and grips, and LOTS of power for electric clothes).

I know I'm not a whimp. I don't care what [most] other people think of me (see my suit?). I'll do what I can to be safe and have fun, and when I can't, I won't ride.

This weekend it's supposed to get into the mid 30s, so we'll be out riding.

irondad said...

Ok, you caused me to be scared straight with that Starbucks comment. See my next post.

Thanks for calling me a good example. That doesn't happen very often! No grimacing occurred. I really like Pooh but somehow never thought of him as a killer.

Take care,

Steve Williams said...

I put off electrics for a long time and this Christmas I received Gerbing Gloves from a friend. They do keep my hands warm but not toasty when the temperature is below 20 degrees which is common around here. But I am glad now that I have them.

I'm curious about your statement concerning needing the controller for the vest to work. I was told the same thing by the dealer concerning my gloves and my friend Paul said that was crazy -- just plug them in. I did and they work fine. Full power all the time but that's what I need anyways.

And I heard someone post once that you need to have the controller so you don't get burnt. Tee heee heee. That's rich.

Anyways, have you just plugged the vest in? (I'm sure you must have being the rebel you are)

Anyways, while electrics sort of grate on me the same way cell phones and email do I grudgingly accept their utilitarian use.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks