'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
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
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!
- Tracey Cramer
Eight Tips for Defensive Riding
The best defenses when riding a motorcycle are training, caution and anticipation. Here are some general tips for everyday riding:
- Understand what constitutes a road hazard. Some bikers are unaware that certain things are hazardous for motorcycles. Don’t assume that you know all the dangers because you’ve been driving a car for years.
- Avoid heavy traffic. When possible, travel when traffic is light. That way, if you encounter a road hazard, you’ll have more room and time to maneuver. Look for less-traveled routes where vision is unobstructed.
- Don’t tail the vehicle in front. Follow vehicles at a safe distance (at least two seconds behind). Slow down if you see (or even anticipate) a hazard. Don’t ride in a car’s ‘blind spot’. It’s bad enough when a car driver doesn't turn and look when changing lanes in front of another car; worse when it’s in front of your motorcycle!
- Constantly survey the road and the surrounding area. Keep your eyes up and take note of everything: other cars, children playing, trees that might house small animals, painted surfaces. Change your speed or path accordingly.
- Plan escape routes. As you ride, think of ways you could evade a potential road hazard. For example, can you safely travel on a shoulder to avoid a large gravel patch? Be aware of what cars are around you in case you must swerve to avoid a squirrel or debris.
- Note hazards on roads you use. Make mental notes of hazards that you encounter on roads you travel. That way, you can anticipate problems or even avoid some routes at certain times or during bad weather.
- When it rains, wait. If possible, wait until the rain has stopped before you ride a motorcycle. If you must travel in the rain, try to wait until it has been raining for at least a half hour before you hit the road.
- Get skills. Motorcycle handling skills are often the key to safely navigating a road hazard (or surviving a skid, wobble, or dicey situation caused by a hazard). Get training on how to safely handle your bike, navigate gravel and ridges in the road, and what to do if your tires skid on slippery surfaces.
- Tracey Cramer
The Secret to Enjoying Cold Weather Rides
I saw a motorcyclist out riding this weekend. It was 42 degrees at the time.
It made me think about riding. More specifically, it made me think about riding in cold weather. Doing so can be less than enjoyable if you're not prepared. So what is the secret to enjoying cool weather rides?
Controlling wind chill!
When it's 40 degrees F and you're riding at 60mph (with no wind), the effective temp is only 25 degrees Fahrenheit (danger of frostbite in 30 minutes!). Check out the chart below showing just how much wind affects the ambient temperature.
Bundle up all you want, but if you can't get the wind off you, it's not a fun ride. Bundling up also makes it hard to operate the controls and isn't really all that effective if the wind is still getting through key spots on your body.
There is so much to say about this topic that we’ve broken it into several parts. In this post we’ll get started – from the top down (that would be your noggin for you southerners)…
In cold weather, there’s no way to get around the most common-sense item: a full-face helmet. You can keep your half-helmet or 'beanie' helmet for warmer weather, but make the investment in a full-face helmet if you expect to ride in cold or wet weather. Our advice: get one with good venting.
For those who argue that their full-face helmet fogs up in the rain or cold, we have a solution for that (and it's less than $20): get yourself an Anti-Fog insert. Problem solved.
Yep, this deserves its own category. Because when it gets down into the 40’s and you're going 70 mph, you don't want ANY skin showing. A neck warmer or balaclava is just the ticket. It will also keep rain water from sneaking down your neck. Simple but effective!
- Tracey Cramer