Friday, December 04, 2009

More insanity!

The temperature is dropping. Snow is in the weather forecast for this weekend. Fellow FJR rider Stacy Zuber and I are teaching the last class of the year. Twelve people insane enough to be taking a motorcycle class during the first week of December. In a place where it snows during the winter. Twelve people being taught by two even more insane guys. Yes, I'll be riding.

This is from yesterday morning. My schedule changed at the last minute and I was back on the road for Eugene. Another 45 mile drone down the freeway. For once I didn't need to start at the crack of dawn. By the time I left the sun was shining. Cold and clear. Mmmm, my favorite winter weather!

It didn't last. I got on the freeway at MP228. By MP209 I was in thick fog. The temperature had climbed a whopping two degrees to 29 ( f ). Freezing fog. I hate it.

The ice forming on the bike isn't so bad. I like to set the windshield so that I'm looking over the top of it, anyway. I pulled off by the side of the freeway to take a photo or two. The pictures don't really do justice to the situation. This photo and blogging thing is as much of a sickness as riding, isn't it?

What worries me is not knowing when traction is going to become compromised. It depends somewhat on traffic and somewhat on geography.

Temperatures had been below freezing all night. The thick fog means there's a bunch of water in the air. Which, of course, means that the water turns to a light coating of ice on the pavement. Some of the areas along this stretch of freeway are open on both sides for miles. Perfect conditions for the wind to lower the temperature of the pavement even more.

Tire friction from heavy traffic can tend to keep the pavement warm enough to melt the ice. During this ride traffic was pretty light. I think everyone was saving the trip for the big Civil War game between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University later in the day.

What happens is that the ice melts and then refreezes. This time it's smoother and more slippery. Each stray car does its bit to add to the situation. Kind of like a giant Zamboni on an ice rink. Smooth the ice, put a little extra water on it, and get even better ice!

It's critical to ride prudently. We teach students to aggressively scan for differences in color and texture as they ride. You can believe that I was doing the same. A rider also needs to be as smooth as possible with all their inputs when dealing with questionable traction. Despite all my experience riding in adverse weather, seeing that sheen on the road reflecting my light back at me still makes me pucker a little.

We made it safely through to a spot where the fog had lifted. That's where I took all the photos but one. The second windshield photo was taken when I finally arrived at my destination. There was still quite a bit of ice on the bike.

The sun eventually burned the fog off so the ride home was easier. Still cold, though. We took the back way this time. After a quick bite at home Elvira and I headed in the opposite direction to go teach class. All together we amassed somewhere around 150 miles yesterday. We headed for the barn ( in keeping with the current blog theme, it seems ) at a little before 9 PM. No fog, but Elvira's dash showed 34 degrees. Maybe we'll go another winter without electrics. This time I hardly felt the cold. Must be getting numb!

I'll let you know how the class comes out. I taught the last class a year ago, too. Actually, I seem to be weird enough to do it every year. As well as the first one. These groups always seem to turn out to be pretty special. I'm especially looking forward to working with one student in particular.

He's in his 50's. He looks like the big, bad, biker dude. Long ponytail, ratty t-shirt, camo pants, big boots, leather jacket, and chains. He's just never ridden before. There's a '93 Sportster waiting in his garage. Contrasting his appearance, he seems to have a heart of gold and a great attitude. It's clear that he's here to learn and committed to the process.

Did I mention that the weekend is going to be cold? The National Weather Service is predicting lows in the mid-twenties each night. On Sunday the HIGH is predicted to be 36 degrees. Four degrees over freezing. By the way, just for good measure, they say there's a 20% chance of snow. We may have to dig out taller cones!

Miles and smiles,



Stacy said...

Is this class at LB? If so, I might stop by after our regular Saturday morning coffee.

irondad said...


I would love to see you. However, since I am actually at Chemeketa you would have to ride to Salem! We should be off the range by 11:30 but I'll be hanging around watching a retest until time to teach classroom at 12:45.

There is a class at LB. I believe Jacho Eaton and Doug Bailey are teaching.

Take care,


Jeffry said...

Wow, our last class of the season end October 18th. On the 17th, it was 28 degrees on the way to the range. It did warm up.

irondad said...


It seems like we no longer have an "off" season. Demand has been going up although next year looks a little lighter. We go as long as we can.

Being near the coast we are a little more temperate and can get away with it.

I feel for the students moreso than the instructors. Cold weather is rough on them.

Take care,


fasthair said...

Mr. IronDad: I just didn’t have it in me this morning. It was all of 15f here this morning and after riding home from work in the snow last night I just couldn’t muster the effort to gear up and ride to work today. As much as I hate it I have to face the fact that my riding season may be over. We’ll have to see if I feel better over the weekend but at the moment I’m feeling achy all over and very bitchy.

Not sure I should say this but it felt kind of good to jump in the big black Mercedes, flip on the seat heat and sip my chocolate milk driving to work. I’d almost forgot what a nice car it is. Even still as nice as it is I hope I can get a few more miles before the big chill hits.


Andrew said...

Pretty keen riding in that weather. I don't normally have to ride in that sort of weather here although have ridden in light snow and icy conditions.

Torrential rain and howling gales are a lot more regular...

Lucky said...

Say, what kind of gloves do you recommend for cold weather? I've got a pair of leather gauntlets that are just barely warm enough at 37 degrees...

Mike said...

"This photo and blogging thing is as much of a sickness as riding, isn't it?" I laughed out loud when I read that line. It's very true.

That last shot looks like just south of Coberg before you cross over the river. And man, it looks cold.

Dave said...

You know Dan this brings up some thing with regards to getting the word out on ATGATT

People respond to things in the here an now a lot better than some thing that may or may not happen in the future

I think we should be pushing the practical aspect of the gear as well .

The right gear will help keep you in your own Goldie Locks zone not to hot not to cold just right

In spite of the of what weather may hand out.

It can get you out earlier in the spring an later in the fall and in to winter
And a warm dry ride beats the hell out of a cold and wet one

Yea I know rider comfort is a safety issue we will just keep that one to are selves ; )

Then the fact the gears main thing is safety well that’s just icing on the cake


irondad said...


My intent is never to make anyone else feel somehow lacking if they are not riding in adverse weather. I'm only stroking my own ego by telling the stories, I fear.

Hope you're not getting sick. Isn't chocolate milk a little "plain" for a Mercedes?


Yeah, well, I've never had to dodge 'Roos at night, either!

Take care,


irondad said...


Here's what I've been using for the past decade with good results.

Tourmaster Polar Teks. Not saying they're the best and only alternative. Only that I use them and keep buying them.

Take care,


irondad said...


You've only just begun your journey down this evil road, Grasshopper. It gets worse.

You are correct as to the location.

Take care,


irondad said...


You speak very wisely as befits an old fart. I will let your comment stand on its own as it deserves.

Take care,


Charlie6 said...

In spite of the "wrenching lessons" I've had to master with Natasha, being able to look forward to snow...not worry when temperatures drop below freezing...can be quite priceless....

Btw, back before my sidecar days...the one time I found ice and went down while on two wheels the thermometer read 37 fahrenheit just before the rear wheel slid out from under careful when temps dip that low....and yeah, freezing fog really sucks specially when your visor gets coated with the stuff, inside and out.....

my accident

Keith said...

"This photo and blogging thing is as much of a sickness as riding, isn't it?" Also, made me laugh. I've never been much into taking pictures or keeping them for that matter, but since I've been commuting and reading certain blogs I found myself pricing a digital camera. Oh well, I guess I should have practiced save browsing. Perhaps I'm still immune, after all I haven't bought the camera.......yet :-)

fasthair said...

Mr. IronDad I know you never mean/meant to make people feel bad about not riding when it is beyond their comfort zone. And while 15f isn't exactly my comfort zone I too was just stroking my ego with the fact I rode in the snow yesterday :)

Besides I can think of worse things to have to drive then a big black Mercedes with heated seats, yes? And for your imformation sir while I'm not above a expensive cup of java I like simple chocolate milk too. It's the kid still in me I think. Would it have sounded better if I said I enoyed my drive while nipping on expensive European cocoa? :)


bluekat said...

Thanks for the inspiration to get out and go for a ride this afternoon. I fussed around all day...will it get warmer...I'll have to pile on a bunch of layers just to it worth it...then I got online, started reading your post, and said the heck with it, I'm going for a ride! Yeah it was worth it, and I even had one other rider out there to wave to.

Hope you and all your students manage to keep warm and safe this weekend!

Conchscooter said...

It was seventy two when I left work for home yesterday at 6 am. And that seemed bad enough, especially as in another month it will be down to 65 or 60 some mornings. I will soldier on regardless. Ice should be kept strictly in the freezer in my opinion. I rode in the snow as ayouth and didn't think much of it then and i don't propose to do that again. You'd die of boredom down here.

Anonymous said...

Numb bum, maybe numb hands, numb brain? Actually none of these are insurmountable. What is really bad is freezing fog, be it any form of transport. You never have any warning as to when your tyres will slip the other way.

Now we also have snow here, which adds to the exceitement. Usually snow first then freezing hard cold.

Not safe to ride regardless.

Krysta in MKE said...

Just today Karl picked up his new helmet (in high-viz) with - get this - a HEATED visor! Seriously, it plugs into the power socket. Keeps ice from forming inside, from your breath.

As for gloves, we both use IronClad Tundra gloves for winter. Aside from being wind/water-proof, & super insulated, they're gauntleted. The site lists them for much more than I paid at my local hardware store.

irondad said...


It's interesting how things like that stick in our heads for a while. I don't know if we get paranoid or just sort of "over-aware" of a new situation.

I can see what you're saying about the peace of mind with a sidecar. Priceless? Agreed!


Buy the camera. You know you want it! The fever builds.

Take care,


irondad said...


About the choice of beverage. I was thinking more of a Grey Poupon Latte. Or is that just for people being chauffeured in a Rolls?

This morning I would have given a lot to be in a big black Mercedes with heated seats!


I'm honored to have inspired you. Thank you for going out and spreading good cheer in the cosmic universe. I thought the afternoon felt somehow more joyful!

Take care,


irondad said...


I'm trying to feel for you but somehow can't quite reach. I would die of boredom, eh? Might be a warm and intriguing way to commit suicide.

Could I go ice skating in your freezer?


That freezing fog thing is pretty treacherous. I rode up the freeway this morning. I heard later that a man in a Mazda pickup lost control in the ice and slammed into a semi-truck parked along the highway waiting out the ice. It killed him. This was after I went through.

Was it the actual weather or the way the man was driving? My body might get numb but I keep the brain sharp.


A heated visor? Wow. Does it fry bugs that hit it, too?

I use a pair of Ironclad gloves on the range. I like them because Ironclad looks a lot like Irondad!

Take care,


Young Dai said...


I hope your weekend class went well, but with some trepidation I must question one of your photo locations.

In the UK we are taught that the most dangerous place on a Motorway (our Interstates) is stationary on the hard shoulder. So much so that if you are found parked for reasons other than an emergency, it is a non endorsable fine of £30 ($45- $55 at the moment I suppose).

When you get our traffic police telling war stories, the situations they hate most is attending the hard shoulder when the traffic is live and heavy. Even with light-bars lit up, there will always be someone who drives too close just to look at what is happening, then smacks into you at 70mph

As I said this is a UK perspective and things may be very different at the time and place where you stopped and I am sure you were aware of the risks and planned the stop accordingly. Just if you do ever come to UK don't try to make the same photo !

Has your bear recovered from his drunk yet ?

If the photo bug continues to bite deep perhaps you could carry other props around in the panniers to 'dress the set' to give the image more bit ?

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

You are out of yoir mind. To my way of thinking, there is no greater challenge than to drive in freezing fog, let alone ride. Every overpass, every expansion joint, every curve (with the wind hitting it) is a potential death trap with a sheen of ice on it.

Man you are one dedicatred rider. I have been out with the mercury pegged at 25 degrees, but it was perfectly clear and dry.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Sojourner rides said...

Love those cold weather pics! Thank you!

You're an inspiration. I'm still riding as the winter rears it robust head. It sure is sharpening my visual skills as I learn to balance studying the surface and watcgubg the road.

irondad said...

Young Dai,

The spot I pulled over at is wider than it looks. Even so, I have to admit that I was vulnerable. I should think about that more.

Haven't packed "props", yet, but thanks for the idea!

Take care,


irondad said...


If a man like you says I'm out of my mind, then it must be pretty bad!


I'm pleased you were inspired. I was just thinking on Saturday that I never really realized how many different colors there were in normal freeway cement!

Take care,


Kelsey said...

This brings back memories of riding in Korea. There were some mornings where my bike was totally encrusted with ice in the morning. I remember having to take a screwdriver to a few key joints just to get her moving.