Sunday, August 17, 2008

The century mark.

We almost made it three days in a row with temperatures at 100 degrees (f) or more. Yesterday topped out at about 98. Close, but no cigar. Not that I was cheering for that to happen. When it gets this hot riding becomes more of a challenge. Not just being on the bike, but riding in the first place. Ok, let's pause right here. I can hear some of you in certain spots shaking your heads. Yes, I can hear it, things up there are starting to rattle, you know.

I know that some of you live where it's hotter for longer. Come ride with me in the rain and the dark all Winter. Then we'll compare notes! The exception is those of you under hurricane watch right now. Another one getting ready to pound the Florida Keys. That has to be a source of anxiety. You have my utmost empathy and best wishes.

Being the person of questionable mental health that I am, I've been riding in the heat. Yesterday I had a task to perform for our training program. It was in Beaverton which is a large city just to the East of the Big City, Portland. For me, it's an hour and twenty minutes one way. Our program has an internal quality control arrangement called a Site Compliance Audit. My task was to hang out and watch some riding and classroom time. The class was being held at Portland Community College's Capitol Center campus. I don't know who's crazier. Me for riding with full gear, the riders I saw with no gear, our students learning to ride in the heat, or a guy riding a green scooter wearing nothing but a thong. Yep, you read right. More on that later.

Yes, that's Sophie and not Elvira. And, yes, that's a Ducati 1098 snuggled up beside her. We were trying to take advantage of the shade in this spot. I activated the date stamp on the camera. It's sort of the credibility thing. Yes, the bike was really in Portland on this date. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll see the name of the college on the door. Anyone can look up the temperature for Portland these past days. These aren't recycled pictures from past days. Not that I feel like I need to prove anything, mind you. Just in case you were wondering, though!

I'm having a little trouble letting go of Sophie. Elvira and I are dating but have yet to fall in love. I'm going to do a post on that subject by itself. When it came time to pick a bike early in the morning I drifted toward the ST.

Early morning rides are such a pleasant way to start the day. Rolling away from the homestead at 5:30 AM, we enjoyed the cooler temperatures. This is that time of year when the early morning air is just cool enough to be refreshing. Instead of closing your jacket tighter against the cold, you feel like opening it up even more. Like cold iced tea on a hot day, the wind is refreshing. Even the bike seems to be finding it's own enjoyment. The denser cool air is being gulped into the carbs like lungfuls of energy. Sophie feels strong and powerful beneath me.

This early on a Saturday morning, most folks are still in their beds. Are they lazy or am I crazy? Either way, it's so peaceful. Not as quiet as a Sunday, but still nice. The frenzy of a Saturday filled with shopping and chores is still a few hours away. Where I'm usually stuck in packs of cars, this morning we have great stretches of the freeway to ourselves. I especially appreciate this part. Between Tigard, Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Portland, there's over 800,000 people. Most of them haven't stirred from home, yet.

Sophie and I arrive at our destination a little before 7 AM. Yet, again, I've watched the sun come up from the seat of a bike. This time the sun was a huge pinkish red ball of fire. Farmers have been busy harvesting the grass seed crops and baling the straw. Dust hangs heavy in the air. Thousands of cars have left their pollution in the sky. The hot weather has the area under a smog advisory. I'm told the reason the sun looks so red is because it's shining through all this junk in the air. Even so, it was beautiful to watch. By now there's a hint of the hot temperatures to come.

This is after lunch when it's time to go into the classroom. During the morning I'd been parked near the place we keep the bikes. After lunch I parked right next to the door. Campus Security is good about letting bikes use this spot. That's the owner of the Ducati coming out. His wife and daughter are taking the class and he's stopped to visit. Lucky guy got to go ride the Duck while I had to go into the classroom. By now, though, it's ninety some degrees. Even at that, though, riding a Ducati 1098 anytime would be a great thing, I think!

These are the afternoon students in the beginning stages of learning to ride. They'll be facing a hot time. They're not crazy for being out in the heat. They're just doing what they have to do. Students sign up for classes well ahead of time. Nobody really knows what the weather will be like when the time actually comes. Around here it's a crap shoot. We could have a heavy rain as easily as a heat wave. Instructors are real good about urging students to stay hydrated and getting them cooled off on breaks. I feel for the students but if they find even a part of the joy I've found in riding it will have been a worthwhile thing.

This is my old friend Mike Karr. The fact that there's a sign in the photo warning of a speed bump is just coincidence. Mike is no speed bump. He's got a form of leukemia. Yet, here he is, still giving of himself to do something meaningful for others. The guy's got a great attitude and deeply cares for others. I'm proud to be his colleague.

Around 2 PM it was time to saddle up Sophie for the trip home. By now it's in the upper nineties. Every vent in the 'Stich that will open is being used. I opt to hit the freeway again. Even though I've elected to ride, I'm not too keen to extend the travel time more than I need to.

There's a stretch of 185th to negotiate before I can hit the Sunset Highway. I see a kid on a sport bike wearing flip-flops and gym shorts. Legs and chest are bare. I'm thinking he's really crazy until I see a guy on a scooter pass me in the other lane then hang a left into a group of apartments. I'm shaking my head wondering if I actually saw what I think I did. My brain hits "instant replay" and says it's true.

It was an old man on a pea green scooter. On top of his head was a chrome half helmet. On his body was a bright pink thong. And, umm, nothing else. His skin was the color of coffee with just a hint of cream in it. Wrinkles are everywhere. Instantly I was reminded of the time I had the bright idea of transporting a suit on my bike by tightly rolling it into a toiletry bag. I'd read about the technique in some magazine although it had to do with air travel. Let's just say it didn't work on the bike like the guy who wrote the article described it.

Was the old man crazy? Did he have a flash of exhibitionism screaming to express itself? Had he lived long enough that he just didn't give a rip? I had to reluctantly admire his spirit even if the sight of him made my stomach want to empty!

I saw a lot of riders on the freeway. With one exception I was the only one wearing a riding jacket. The other rider with a jacket was in jeans. Here I was with the full 'Stich. Was I the only crazy one? Who would ride in hundred degree heat with full gear, anyway? I freely admit I was pretty warm. My good friend Laurie described it to me once as feeling like "a hamster in a hair dryer". Pretty accurate, I have to say.

If you're reading this you know I wasn't the crazy one. We know about sunburn, heat dehydration, and road rash. Don't other riders every think something bad can happen to them? It can feel weird, though, to be the only one with full gear when so many are minimally clad. Funny thing about human nature, isn't it?

In an interesting note along these lines, I read an article by Dr. Flash Gordon in Motorcycle Consumer News a few months ago. He talked about how someone can receive an injury to a vital area. That particular injury by itself may not be fatal. When there's other injuries, however, like road rash or broken limbs, the injury to the vital area may end up being fatal. Dealing with all the peripheral injuries in addition to the really serious one may require more resources than the body is capable of sustaining. Another reason to take advantage of the protection good gear can provide.

So that was my day. Is there a point to this post? I thought there was when I started it. Now I see it's just sort of rambled around everywhere. Must be the heat!

Miles and smiles,



Krysta in Milwaukee said...

When we had our couple weeks of Very Hot Weather [TM], I started getting to work by 6am so I could leave before it got unbearably hot midafternoon. Also, there's much less traffic both ways. Once in a while, I'd get on the road before the traffic lights turned on. (Went from blinky to regular.)

And when it gets above maybe 80, I've switched to mesh. First time I rode w/ mesh pants I giggled. Felt like riding in shorts, which I wore underneath.

A pink thong??? Why bother with the helmet if that's all else he's gonna wear?

-Tim said...

Nice write up. Living here in UT, having any days under 95+ in the summer are a blessing.
Still, full gear is a must...road rash, sun burn, and road debre are just not worth it.

Anonymous said...

This week, I too felt like the only rider out there who was apparently oblivious to the triple digit temperatures!
I was no more visible to car drivers, but I'm pretty sure every other motorcyclist I passed noticed me, and wondered why I was wearing so much gear!
You know it's hot when you ride at night, and are still sweating, with the mesh gear on.

Tinker said...

We have had 49 days of 100 degrees or higher, in the Central Texas area this year, and no, its not even cflose to the records (69 days, 1927).

It gets so you plan every thing around keeping low temperatures, either parking your car in the shade or taking special care, to stay cool while riding. I have a fully perfed jacket, in addition to my non-armored leather G2 jacket, which art the jackets I prefer to wear, but I also have those cooling neck deals, that are sold mostly to homeowners doing midsummer lawnmowing. They contain something like the granules used in disposable diapers, that releases water over 3 days, and that will do in june/july, but I am still looking for a good solution for August and September. I wear long sleeved shirts in a microfiber designed to wick away moistures (Heat Gear/Loose Gear, and that seems to help, and I wear wool socks, so that my feet stay dry (Cotton! Don't be foolish. Cotton absorbs water and HOLDS IT) The cotton socks are the last things to be dry in a dryer. You learn to cope, as you get a bit older, the key is staying dry, not necessarily cool.

And of course you need to drink lots of liquids, as the evaporation leaves you dry, so you need to take in lots of (non-Alcoholic) liquids.

I guess I need a vest, highly reflective on the out side, cool and wet on the inside with lots of airflow thru it. There are cooling vests, but the good ones are not cheap.

Bryce said...

Hot and humid, 38-40 degrees Celsius
That's horrible!
One of the big reasons I don't ride in the summer in southern Ontario is the humidity. When we get a humid summer, it is a wet heat, not a dry heat like Arizona. This summer has been the exception however I am not
riding as noted previously. I'd love a Stich if only because it works. And no 'Stich will ever fit!

However being a huge tall big guy, it is full leather pants and jacket and full face helmet. And perforations and venting on those same leather garments means I still
perspire. This cancer has messed up my coping systems for weather. Ideal riding weather for me is now about 10 degrees Celsius and no snow.

irondad said...

I only tried mesh once. Have you seen any data on how they hold up in crashes?

Why the helmet? Required by law around here. I'd think the law would also regulate the pink thong!

Ok, I'll quit complaining. We just get a few days over 95.

Steve L,
Just keep moving!

See my comment to Tim up above. Katie has one of those neck things. She says it makes a big difference.

We get the hot and humid heat, as well. I, too, have less patience for the high heat as I get older. What's the situation with the cancer these days? We're all mentally supporting you, you know. Hang in there.

Dean W said...

I've got a mesh jacket... You're right, they're only good for one crash. So is a helmet... And the mesh was a lifesaver last Monday, when I had the cornering clinic + ART to teach.

Dean W said...

Forgot to say- two reasons I don't wear the mesh much- one is that on long, hot days, they have too much airflow; and on the FJR, mesh pants will let all the nice hot air off the engine get to you- it's counter-productive.

Macavite said...

Yeah, we had organized a ride for Saturday, and of the 12 people that said they'd go, only three of us ended up riding. We went up to Eagle Crest via 503.

It was a nice ride, got up early enough to avoid the initial heat, then by the time portland heated up we were riding on lakeshores and up in the mountains, so things were peachy. The last 20 miles on I-5 on the way home were unpleasant however.

Up in the mountains at least half the riders we encountered were in full gear. However, once we got back into the city that ratio dropped right back down to near nothing.

I always say I'm less afraid of taking a shower than I am of a skin graft. Of course the very next day I was down at Bobs shopping for mesh gear.

Charlie6 said...

Dan, you're not the only one who's "feeling a bit warm" under the gear. We just went through a few days of high 90s here in Denver and I can only imagine the thoughts of the people who saw me ride by in full gear.

They of course did not know I'd soaked my shirt underneath prior to riding and it keeps me cool enough till I get home about 30 minutes from work. It sure makes a difference.

My kevlar mesh is cool enough when moving, sitting at lights though, I can feel the heat building up. In a happy coincidence, my acquiring the R80 lent itself to more air(hot as it was) flowing at me than when I ride my 1150RT with its fairings.

Oh well, better to sweat than bleed. Re your query re how mesh holds up in a crash, check out the info at

I wear their gear, crash-tested it as you know, works great. No connection to them, just a satisfied customer.

Redleg's Rides