Monday, 18 January 2016

Blow & Snow - Some Winter Riding in Ireland

"Why be saddled with this thing called life expectancy? Of what relevance to an individual is such a statistic? Am I to concern myself with an allotment of days I never had and was never promised? Must I check off each day of my life as if I am subtracting from this imaginary hoard? No, on the contrary, I will add each day of my life to my treasure of days lived. And with each day, my treasure will grow, not diminish."
~Robert Brault

Glad to see the back of that week, after the storms we had on the lead up to January, January then has brought us the snow and ice. Last week saw a high of 7C and a low of -4C. On the grand scale of things we get it relatively mild, except unless you live on or beside a major motorway or national road then you probably are not going to see a gritter. So leaving our general attitude of "Why be prepared?, sure it'll be grand" to one side I will share some of my own observations about riding in these conditions.

Keeping the Rubber Side Down

First I would like to highly recommend that anyone who is anyway interested in learning or improving their riding skills to spend some time on the Roadcraft Nottingham Youtube channel. For this post I am going to include two of their videos below.

The first deals with how to deal with snow and ice.


And the next deals with how to deal with black ice.


I know many riders will not go out on a wet day, never mind when conditions get anywhere like this, but that does not mean you will not be caught out some time. I would also stress that when we carry out some planning and training it is amazing what can be accomplished, not just on two wheels, but in any endeavor you may find yourself undertaking in life. End of the day, preparation is better than relying on luck.

Dress for the Occasion

It goes without saying that if you are out in these kind of conditions you need to be dressed for it too. This is where the mantra of "be prepared" needs to kick in. With the right gear it really does not matter if your bike ends up being laid up in a hard shoulder. Any gear or clothing that can deal with -4C temperatures, and the additional wind chill factor of speed, is going to be able to deal with you walking (and getting very bloody warm) to the nearest safest location. This is also another good reason to be wearing some hi-viz.

The most basic way of dealing with these kind of temperatures is layering with base, mid, and outer-layers. Spending a little time and money on these items will give you a four season riding option. The stuff should also last for years if looked after. Any motorcycle outerwear that is waterproof can also deal with the wind as that will not be penetrating that layer either. What you need to do now is manage the heat coming from your body. This is where a tight fitting base, and good quality thermal mid-layer come into play.

This year I have also been experimenting with my first heated clothing, an EXO2 StormWalker 2 Heated Gilet. I should do a specific review for this item but my overall impression has been highly positive. This was my own first experience, after 19 years of riding, of heated clothing. Essentially you get to just wear a base layer, heated layer, then outer. Forget about the thermals, even take all your linings out of the outer. But my mistake was ordering the vest and not going for the full heated jacket. Your limbs end up so cold you still need to layer-up. So for anyone looking at heated gear for serious cold weather riding, do invest in the gear with heated limbs and torsos. The vest really are an Autumn morning/evening device.

Personally I am currently riding in some new gear from Rev'It (the Poseidon GTX Jacket and Poseidon GTX Pants). I have only covered a few hundred KM's in them so far and just in this cold weather. They are performing superbly so far and looking forward to some proper wet days to see how they hold up. But expect a full review in due course.

Positive Mental Attitude = Happy to Ride

Ride because it makes you happy, or if you are looking forward to it, but always try to avoid riding (or anything else which needs your attention for that matter) when angry, upset, or otherwise distracted. There is something called an OODA loop. Orient, Observe, Decide, Action. The action at the end may will be to re-orient (thus starting the cycle again). It is a good way to keep focused and to keep your head were it needs to be. If you are tensing up, unable to ride loose/relaxed, then you should pull in. If you are feeling the cold, then you need to warm up too. Trust your instincts, and if you treat riding more like chess then snakes and ladders, then what you get a lot more out of it.

And as always... peace and keep the rubber side down!