'Extreme' Winter Motorcycle Riding
I’ve lived in MinneSNOWta all my life, 35 years as a biker. Winter motorcycling isn’t particularly fun for me, even with crazy PMS (“Parked Motorcycle Syndrome”) right about now. But if you simply MUST ride a motorcycle in the winter, here are our top tips for doing so.
Layer. Start with a long-sleeve base (such as Under Armor) that wicks moisture away from your body. Add an insulating layer (like fleece) and/or a heated vest with controller.
Your jacket is no place to skimp; get the best. Gore-Tex is popular for its breathability and waterproof features. Same with boots and gloves; add a neck warmer and a full-face helmet. Think like a snowmobiler but buy like a biker!
A motorcycle windshield goes without saying here, and extras like the Desert Dawgs Rain/Wind Guards and motorcycle hand guards or muffs are a huge help as well. If you’re able to install heated grips, they’ll go a long way toward keeping your hands warmer.
If your bike is water-cooled, make sure the antifreeze is fresh and mixed properly and that all hoses are in good shape.
Tires: make sure you have awesome tread if you plan to ride in snow. Check your tire pressure, as it can change with temperature swings. Also, be aware that cold motorcycle tires offer less traction.
First, the obvious: if it even remotely looks like ice, stay away! If you live in an area that uses salt on the roads (like we do), be very cautious; it can cause you to lose traction (just like snow can).
Also remember that snow, salt, fluctuating temps and equipment like plows can really do a number on road surfaces. I swear some of the cracks and pot holes around here are big enough to swallow a motorcycle!
Visibility and Following Distance
During winter riding, look further down the road so you can recognize hazards before they occur, and/or react to a potential problem more quickly. And give the vehicle in front of you plenty of space. You might not have the same space available for stopping (or avoiding) due to less traction.
Keep an eye on the forecast; if the weather folks are calling for multiple inches of snow, leave the motorcycle at home. And if you’re out riding and it starts snowing, get home. The white stuff can accumulate quickly and make for some seriously slippery conditions (even in a car).
If you’re really into winter riding, consider a snowmobile. Just kidding! (But you can buy studded snow tire kits here in the northland.) Riding a motorcycle in the winter can be challenging, but it can be done with the right attitude!
- Tracey Cramer
How to Get the Motorcycle Accessories you Really Want
Step 1: Know what you want
This seems straightforward, doesn’t it? And it’s easy for some people. But when it comes to owning a motorcycle, you’d be amazed what you can find to dress it up, or things to make your ride more comfortable or safer. So do a little googling. Check out a forum specific to your motorcycle and see what people are raving about. If you’ve got your heart set on something a little more complex (like, say, a motorcycle radio or a mount for your phone), do a little research.
Step 2: Know your Gift Giver
Bikers, let’s face it. Sometimes the person who’s got your name for Christmas is not a biker themselves. (Even if they are, they might not have the same interests as you.) And it’s not always easy for that person to get you that cool motorcycle accessory you’re lusting after. But if you’d rather get something for your bike (instead of a new shirt or tie), you gotta give them a little help.
Step 3: Be Specific
- Let them know the make and model of your motorcycle (ex: Harley Softail). Really. They all look the same to some people! It’s no fun to open a gift and discover it won’t fit your particular motorcycle (although our URBAN mounts are about as universal-fit as it’s possible to be).
- Instead of saying “I’d like a way to mount my GPS,” say “I’d like a chrome mount that attaches to my Yamaha V-Star’s handlebar that holds my Garmin Nuvi” (the words in bold can help them choose the perfect GPS mount!)
- Instead of saying “I want to get rid of updrafts” try: “I really want a set of soft lowers (Desert Dawgs) for my Kawasaki Nomad 1700.”
Step 4: Share your Interests and Passions
Do you like to video your rides? Let them know a mount for your camera would be awesome. Want to plan an off-road trip, or take that guided tour to Alaska? Let them know – Travel-related DVDs, books, guides, etc make great gifts.
Step 5: Be Obvious
Depending how well you know the gift giver, the best way to ensure you get what you want is to print off a description of the item with a B-I-G circle around it, and leave it in a very conspicuous spot (or text/email a link to the product you want)!
- Tracey Cramer
The Dreaded Updrafts: What to do About Them
One complaint we hear a lot is that updrafts come up under the windshield and blast the rider in the face. (In Minnesota we're usually concerned about COLD updrafts LOL.) If you can minimize updrafts, you’ll have more enjoyable riding not just later into the season (and earlier in the spring), but all season long.
The Desert Dawgs Rain Guards/Wind Deflectors do a fantastic job of repelling water away from your legs and feet if you happen to get caught in a rainstorm.
But did you know they also reduce updrafts and helmet buffeting? Instead of air hitting your legs and being redirected up toward your face, the Desert Dawgs force the air out and around (rather than up).
The effectiveness of the Desert Dawgs (or any lower deflector for that matter) varies depending on the motorcycle itself as well as on the windshield. For instance, I’ve noticed certain OEM windshields (such as some of the Yamaha ones) result in more wind in my face than the Memphis Shades windshields I’ve had on two different motorcycles.
Factors that can affect wind flow (updrafts):
- curvature of the windshield
- angle of the windshield
- space between the windshield and the engine guard bar
- rider foot placement and height
They are quite possibly the easiest and least costly way to protect your body. And because they are a cinch to remove and store in a saddlebag, you don’t need to keep them on in warmer weather (although they have no temperature restriction and can be used in warmer temps).
Read more about the Desert Dawgs - and check out Tracey's video about "the little things" - right here!
- Tracey Cramer
How to Tell a Story with Your Motorcycle Video
Have you ever thought about sharing your motorcycle “adventure vacation” video with others? Not sure how to make it interesting? (After all, after a minute or two, an unchanging view from the saddle becomes… well… boring.)
The answer? A little creativity while you ride, plus a little editing time at the computer later.
Here are some tips to make your video into a Story that others will want to watch.
- More than scenery. Capture the unplanned, such as a flat tire, a navigational oops, or your friend spilling his drink all over his bike at a rest stop (yep - seen it!).
- Multiple cameras and/or angles. Use the Swivel-CAM to place one camera up front, one to the side, and maybe a helmet camera (horrors!). Ride ahead and get off the bike to shoot the others coming toward you.
- Utilize a passenger. There's no limit to what you can shoot if you don't have to throttle, grip, brake, etc. (I'm not often the passenger on a motorcycle, but on this particular day we wanted to shoot some footage over hubby's shoulder.)
- Interview. Video others in your group talking about their experience or sharing their thoughts about your travels.
- Software. Use something simple and straightforward; after all, you’re not making a documentary for the Travel Channel.
- Shorter is better. Experts say today’s internet viewers have a max attention span of two minutes.
- Change it up often. No one scene should be more than 10 seconds long.
- Narration. You don’t have to be a professional voice-over artist. Just tell the viewer what you’re thinking and feeling.
- Use still images. Mix your video with photos you took on the trip (or find royalty-free images online).
- Add a little music. Google “royalty free music” to avoid any rights infringement. There’s plenty out there.
- Tracey Cramer
Phones on Motorcycles: Seven Tips for Choosing the Right MountI'm not going to tell you not to use your phone while riding. I think that goes without saying (unlike the guy below!) and if you're old enough to ride a motorcycle, you're old enough to make your own decision about phones and motorcycles!
I will just say this: do it the safest way you can! By that I mean, mount your phone securely (you don't want to be worrying about it falling off!) in a location (handlebar, brake/clutch, mirror, windshield, etc) that doesn't interfere with driving - and where you can easily glance at it.
To that end, we've tried to make mounting a phone on a motorcycle simple (in fact, it's less complicated than learning how to USE some of these phones!) by designing secure and classy phone mounts.
But how do you know which motorcycle phone mount is best for you? It's a good idea to decide what functions of the phone you are most likely to use when riding (this can help you narrow down your mounting preferences).Here are seven things to consider:
- Do you use the phone to see who is calling? Or do you wait until you’ve stopped to check? The answer to this question can affect your choice of case/cover as well as mount.
- Do you play music via your phone? If so, you may need to look into speakers or Bluetooth.
- Do you want to be able to take pictures with your phone as you ride? Then you’ll need a mount that doesn’t cover or obscure your phone’s photo screen.
- Do you use a GPS (navigation) feature on your phone? If you do, you might want to be able to mount the phone horizontally as well as vertically (which all our phone mounts can do).
- How often do you need to touch the phone’s screen? If you need to touch it often, you’ll want to make sure whatever mount you use makes it easy (and safe) to do so.
- Would you like to be able to tilt or turn your phone ‘on the fly’ if you get sun glare?
- Do you prefer to mount your phone in the ‘typical’ vertical fashion? Or is it easier for you to view features (such as GPS) in a horizontal position? Will you need to be able to change it from vertical to horizontal depending on how you’re using it that day?
I hope this helps get you started on safe and convenient phone use while riding!
- Tracey Cramer
Six Ways the Swivel-CAM is Better Than a HelmetCAM
OK, I admit it: there are times when a HelmetCAM can be an appropriate choice for shooting video while riding a motorcycle (we've done it exactly twice with a GoPro!).
That said, we’re not fans of the helmet-mounted camera for most motorcycle uses, and here’s why.
- You can't change the angle of the shot. Wherever you’re looking, that's what you're getting. If you look down at your gauges, so does your video. If you look behind you to check traffic, guess where the HelmetCam goes?
- You can’t easily adjust the camera. I once lost an entire sequence because I thought it was powered on when it wasn’t (I couldn’t see it up on my head!)
- Depending on the camera design, you may not have the best zoom function; you might find your target turned into a speck on the horizon.
Apparently we’re not the only ones who feel this way:
“Mounting a video camera on a motorcycle helmet is difficult. Modern helmets have all sorts of wacky curves, put there for either styling or aerodynamic purposes. The larger the camera the more difficult it is to mount on a helmet.” ~ WebBikeWorld Review
Our Solution? The Swivel-CAM Motorcycle Camera MountThe Swivel-CAM motorcycle camera mount solves some key problems that Helmet Cameras don't:
- Flexible mounting options. The Swivel-CAM is not limited to one location (helmet); it can be mounted on a handlebar, brake/clutch assembly, mirror stem and more (hint: buy extra base brackets separately to save costs and shoot from several different angles/places).
- Get almost any angle you want/need. The Swivel-CAM features multiple joints (which we call Ultra-Swivels) as well as 360-degree rotational ability at the tip. This is our ‘third generation’ design, arrived at after our own trial and error with other mounts; there are very few angles you can’t get with the Swivel-CAM!
- Different height options. The Swivel-CAM is available in a 'shortie' version as well as the 'standard' 6-inch height, so no matter what you’re riding or where you mount the camera, you can shoot over or around windshields or other parts of the motorcycle.
- Classy look. Let’s face it; a lot of motorcycle camera mounts are ugly. The Swivel-CAM’s slim rod and base look like they belong on the motorcycle.
- Anti-Vibration & Heavy-Duty Construction. We’ve done everything we can to minimize vibration, such as the anti-vibration ‘cushion’ found on each and every Swivel-CAM. Stainless steel and aluminum components also help minimize vibration and won’t rust or wear out (rubber or plastic is much more susceptible to vibration and wear).
- Works with almost any camera. The Swivel-CAM works with any camera that is tripod compatible (that is, has the industry-standard ¼-20 stud hole on it, or has a “tripod adaptor” in your kit). If you have more than one camera, or you change cameras, you won’t need another mounting system.
Can't picture it? Let us SHOW you the difference!
Quick Links: Universal Swivel-CAM Mounts | GoPro Swivel-CAM Mounts
- Tracey Cramer