*Zero Below Zero Blog

Will an electric motorcycle work for everyday transportation all winter long in frozen Duluth Minnesota? We’re putting together a lightly winterized Zero FX, and some brave (or foolish) volunteers to find out. Subscribe at right for weekly updates by the test riders.
  • Spring is Coming!

    Friday going home.

    It has been snowing light, but steady most of the day. Now, when it is time to go home it is changing from a wintry mix to freezing rain. Fortunately I managed to get home before the freezing part took hold. Even so, I did have to wipe ice off my helmet visor several times and I locked up the back end while braking for the turn into my driveway. The weather gets steadily worse and I reflect on how lucky I was. If I had left 15-20 minutes later, it would have been a very challenging ride.

    2016-03-04 15.55.45 2016-03-04 15.55.38

    Sunday errands downtown.

    Everyone has heard the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes." That is very true for Sping time in Duluth. Saturday was an icy wonderland, but Sunday is sunny and 50° and the melt is on. Minnesota is land of 10,000 lakes and a new one seems to be forming in my back yard. And if my yard out back is a lake, the road in front is now a river. I really need to get some dedicated riding boots (CTB or Lites). The boot covers are great in a pinch, but they add an element of hassle in getting ready and they really aren't meant for as much walking as I do in them.

    Monday morning.

    Icy MorningThere is a layer of frost on the ground and this has me worried a bit as I slipped walking off the back porch. It turns out the roads are just wet; though some of the shady, less traveled spots look like they could be slippery. So far, the roads have looked worse than they actually were. The reality is this is the kind of weather that gets me thinking about starting to motorcycle commute regularly again. That urge is strong in me now considering the elements I have already ridden through this Winter.

    We are coming into the dirty, messy part of Spring. Any snow that remains along the side of the road is grey/black with a coating of salt and sand. The main hazard to watch out for on the road is no longer ice or snow, but sand; it is at every intersection and in every turn. This is always the case with my first rides in the early Spring, but I feel much better prepared for it because of the riding I have done through the Winter.

    I will be considering getting my own bike out soon. Trading the electric Zero for my gas-powered Yamaha, silence for the scream of an inline 4, the ease of twist-and-go for rowing up and down the gears. To be honest I have kind of missed the noise and work. On the other hand, I don't know that I would have made it through the Winter without the unplug-and-go ease of the Zero; it would have been just too much hassle.

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  • The New Routine

    The New Routine

    Not an exciting title but like Andy, Kyle and Bruce have touched on, the routine is setting in. The initial excitement and fear of the unknown is being replaced by the relaxed routine of Winter commuting.

    The first time you try something new and unusual, your mind tells you that the activity is overly risky. At least mine did. The first ride seemed as far out as if we were planning a 100 mile trek in the Arctic. Only somewhat unstable minds would consider such a foolish activity as riding a lightly studded electric motorcycle all Winter in Duluth.

    My initial feelings as I rode was that I was doing something strange, weird or wrong. Maybe all of the above. As I rode past police officers I felt somehow guilty and thought I would get pulled over and get a good talking to by an officer about my foolish and dangerous behavior. If I fell in traffic and caused a scene would I be ticketed?

    Leap Day ZeroWhen a car driver goes too fast on a snowy road and ends up in the ditch, police and first responders come to their aid. Usually no lectures about traveling too fast for conditions. Going into the ditch is just a part of what occasionally happens during the Winter driving season. Generally no one thinks of the driver as being irresponsible. My guess is that it is so common that people are just used to it and don’t react anymore. Would it be the same if a Winter motorcycle commuter had a fall in traffic and police and first responders were needed?

    Some years ago a customer who had ridden hundreds of miles in the Winter from Canada was on his way to visit us in Duluth and had a fall downtown on our bricked streets. He had navigated far more challenging road conditions for hundreds of miles and followed that with an easily avoidable fall. I know how it happens from falls during my road racing years. We get too comfortable at times and let our guard down so we don’t see the continuing risk or don’t recognize the risk.

    Bricks and studded motorcycle tires are a bad combination. I spun a tire on the Zero once when I thought I was only lightly accelerating. Once the traction breaks the studded tire spins easily on brick. If I had been leaning even a little, I could have gone down like our customer did. Winter riding requires a more careful observation of surface types than warm weather riding does.

    Fortunately our customer was not hurt. He needed rescue only because of a broken lever and gave us a call. I was the leader of our customer service area at that time and his call was transferred to me. We had an old lift gate cube truck at the time that could retrieve his motorcycle so I headed downtown to lend a hand.

    He had his motorcycle out of traffic and no scene had developed. We quickly loaded his bike and were off in less than 10 minutes. How is that for customer service! Back at Aerostich we put his bike in our garage and he made calls to get parts shipped to us for repair. It was one or two days before he departed in his Roadcrafter Classic to his next destination in the states. We do our best to take care of our customers as they are the reason we are in business and we appreciate them very much. Our garage has been used by riders many times for motorcycle repairs and was recently converted into a riders’ lounge that doubles as a garage.

    Motorcycles are legally licensed vehicles that have the same rights and restrictions in traffic and on roads that cars do. It is legal to use motorcycles and cars all year round. The range of conditions a motorcycle can be safely operated in however are not the same as a car. When I rode in a light snowstorm, I wasn’t comfortable in traffic as I couldn’t easily keep up with the cars and I had to concentrate very hard to keep the bike upright. It was a scary and adrenaline producing experience. At my level of riding skill, the risk was too high in my opinion. If we have another heavier snow storm, I will take the cage to work.

    My best estimate is that in Duluth you can safely commute about 70% of the Winter on a electric motorcycle. That is better than I had originally thought and certainly worth the effort of preparing a motorcycle. You need to be more aware of the weather conditions and forecast as you could get stuck at your destination due to heavy snow. If you have an important appointment, take the car that day. If you take out all the various unrideable days and circumstances where riding isn’t reasonable, you still have a significant majority of the Winter available for safe and fun commuting. Who would have thought!

    Highway vs Surface Streets

    Have you ever wondered if you get less wet when you ride in the rain at high speeds vs low speeds? Has anyone done computer modeling to find out the answer to this important question? A quick search shows that many others ponder this same question but mostly from a walking vs running perspective. The answer is complicated with many variables like wind speed, rain direction and raindrop size. Mythbusters says if you minimize the variables, you get wetter the faster you move through the rain. It's not an issue either way for me as my gear takes care of the water almost all the time.

    How about how cold you get on a commute? How does speed factor into the equation? I have some insight here with years of early and late season commutes in cold weather. A recent commute on the highway at 21°F produced hands that were much colder than a previous -2°F commute at surface street speeds. My time on the motorcycle was 5 minutes less on the highway yet my hands were much colder.

    Your body is limited in how fast it can create warmth in your extremities through circulating blood. The highway speeds and resulting high wind removes heat from your hands much faster than your body can replace it. At surface street speeds the heat is still being removed faster than your body can replace it but the rate of heat loss is less so your hands end up warmer at the end of your commute even though it took longer. Without hand guards to block the wind, the highway isn’t workable for me on the Zero in very cold weather. I have to stick with surface streets with our current Zero configuration.

    Glove Types

    I have tried three types of gloves so far and the best gloves are not the most insulated. Actually they are the least insulated of the three by thickness. The effectiveness of the insulation is likely playing a role here too.

    Due to the use of heated grips, a glove with a thin palm area allows for more heat to transfer to my hands. The gloves I am using now are older Olympia cold weather motorcycle gloves. They are an all leather version of our Cold Weather Waterproof Glove (#1489). There is so much gear accumulated over decades of time that I thought something I had would work for this project. If I do this again, I will invest in a new set of motorcycle specific winter gloves to avoid most of the frozen finger experiences. I hear from Bruce that a glove liner makes a significant difference. Layering works both for body insulation and hand insulation. Adding a glove liner for the below zero days should do the trick.

    A Longer Trip

    It was time to try a trip longer than 7 miles on the Zero to see what was like. A Saturday day-long retreat next to a local frozen lake 15 miles away was the perfect opportunity. The weather was warm at 43°F so I didn’t turn on the hand warmers as I wanted to experience the Zero’s range.

    With warm temps and clear roads, this was a typical ride in the Spring or Fall around Duluth. The sun was shining and I was grinning in my helmet within blocks of leaving home. The simplicity of riding the Zero makes the whole experience better. The throttle control for me is just so much fun! It is hard to describe why it is fun. The precision and linearity make you feel like you have more control than with a gas powered motorcycle. Sort of what I imagine it is like to fly a fighter jet. Extreme precision and control. It's a feeling of freedom.

    For the first time I got to see what it feels like at higher speeds as I reached 70 MPH. People have asked me what I think is the equivalent engine CCs of the Zero based on how fast it accelerates. My best guess is about 700 CC. It clearly out accelerates my DR-650 Suzuki and my NT-650 Honda Hawk up to 70 MPH. The effect of speed on power consumption is similar to my gas motorcycles as efficiency quickly drops off at higher speeds. At 70 MPH you can see the battery percentage click down in almost real time. I slowed down some as I approached my destination to make sure I had enough battery charge to make it home. I was at 57% remaining when I arrived so I felt I had 7% to spare on the ride home.

    The last block of the trip was on a slushy snow covered driveway leading to the edge of the lake. The very first part was quite steep and resulted in excessive rear wheel spin and fishtailing with little forward movement. There was too much potential for a fall so I decided to walk the Zero up the hill using the throttle to assist. I was a little winded by the time I got to the top of the hill but it worked out just fine. Try doing that with a gas powered bike while working the throttle and clutch for about a hundred feet uphill on snow.

    Slushy snow is the biggest problem for our Zero setup. There really isn’t a good solution available as there is no firmness to the surface that will accept force without moving. Packed snow or fresh snow that packs easily and isn’t too deep are both fine as long as the hill slope is reasonable. On this trip I had to compromise riding for a short distance but it wasn’t a big deal.

    On the way back to the road there was space in the driveway to build more speed to get up the hill but when I started going down the hill, now I couldn’t stop! I slid the locked up rear wheel down the hill and lightly used the front brake until I hit the pavement of the cross road where I could slow down. There were no cars on the road so things were fine but it was a little scary. If I had it to do over again I would have tried to keep my speed down earlier to see if I could ride down the hill with a controlled speed. Front end wash out would have been more likely so maybe my first instinct was the best choice.

    Real Roadgrime

    My Classic Roadcrafter has thousands of commuting days on it yet it looks pretty good. Seven mile short trips don’t build up layers of road grime and bugs like day long trips do. My suit is in “dirt stasis” where the rate of new grime accumulating on the suit is the same as the rate of grime leaving the suit. It happens in part when riding in the rain and part by the suit flexing as it moves and is taken off and put on. The bending of the fabric causes small bug splats to crack and fall off.

    The suit doesn’t reflect how often it is used and really hurts my street cred. It makes me look like a poser who rides occasionally on warm dry days instead of a rider who keeps detailed spreadsheets of every day of the year with notes on weather conditions and the ridability of each day. I shouldn’t care, right? The satisfaction of doing “the right thing” should be enough. Who cares if anyone notices. All true and yet the cleanness of this suit still tweaks that little bit of pride I haven’t been able to purge from myself.

    It has gotten worse since I added the Aerostich Road Grimed Astronaut patch to the left sleeve in all its white backgrounded splendor. Now the situation is worse as I have a super new looking patch on the sleeve bringing attention to the obvious fact that I ride so much that my suit look likes a Road Grimed Astronaut’s suit. But it doesn’t, the poser factor just went up.

    IMG_7562 IMG_7559

    Thankfully a leap day opportunity for real roadgrime presented itself when I rode to work on the Zero shortly after about an inch and a half of snow fell. It was warmer so the snow was mostly melted and the city road maintenance trucks had just dumped fresh salty ice melt on the roads. We refer to days like this as sloppy days in the Winter in Duluth. Everything gets covered in a layer of a mix of salt and sand. It gets so bad some days that it is hard to tell what color cars are. My Zero ride was during a mild sloppy day for Duluth but it still produced pretty good results on my suit.

    There were spots of salt all over my suit and Aerostich Dispatch Bag from the rear tire of the Zero and from passing cars throwing up road spray. The lower legs of my suit took the brunt of the spray with a great coating of real roadgrime. Finally some street cred!

    Bruce also let me try his Aerostich Electric Warmbib. I was impressed with how much heat it produced with very little bulk. I could wear it underneath my Darien TLTec Wind Blocker Fleece Liner and still have plenty of room in my Roadcrafter Classic. If my commute was double my current 7 miles I would use the Warmbib on the colder days. I’m seriously thinking of keeping one in my tank bag as insurance against unexpected cold weather any time of the year. The Warmbib packs very small.

    The Two Seasons: Winter and Road Construction

    That is the saying in Duluth. We have two seasons, Winter and Road Construction. Work has already begun filling pot holes that form in late Winter and early Spring. I took a new route to Aerostich on 4th street as I was getting bored with Superior St. 4th Street is in bad shape with a major construction project happening this year. It was a very rough ride as I was tossed in the air a few times as I rode over the “road” which looked like it was deserted for decades. The unexpected fun in this ride was seeing the surprised faces of our city road workers filling in the potholes. I was stealthily right in front of them suddenly as they couldn’t hear me coming. They looked up with a surprised look that quickly turned to a little grin like, “Ok, you got me. Nice joke.”

    The Zero would need suspension work to make it more suitable for cold weather commuting. Roads in Duluth are well known for being in poor condition as our infrastructure base previously supported over 100,000 people. Now at about 89,000 people we don’t have the tax base to support the layout of our city as well as we would like. Duluth is an amazing city on the edge of an inland sea with beauty that is world class. Come move here and help us finance better roads!

    My primary commuting motorcycle is a DR-650 Suzuki. Its long travel suspension is ideal for soaking up the rough road surfaces. It rides better than any 4 wheel vehicle no matter where I go in Duluth but I haven’t ridden it in temperatures like this ride at 9°F. The standard fluid in the forks and shock of the Zero gets too thick in the cold which results in a ride that feels like there is almost no suspension. They make specialized hydraulic fluid for aircraft that resists changes in viscosity caused by temperature. It is expensive but would be worth a try in the Zero as only a small quantity would be needed.

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    3/2/16 – Gearing up with extra layers under the Roadcrafter for the ride home has become pretty routine now, Warmbib, balaclava, silk scarf, insulated gloves or mittens, etc. The extra time it takes to add a few layers usually makes for a much more comfortable ride home. After walking out to the Zero, unplugging the charging cord and stashing it in the mouse-hole 2016-03-03 08.22.05opening in the garage door, I eagerly threw a leg over and twisted throttle to begin my trip up the hill. With ‘warm’ 25ºF afternoon temps, I didn’t even feel the need for plugging in the heated gear. The roads were dry and I was looking forward to a nice ride home. Increasing speed (and wind-chill) to merge onto the two-lane road that leads up the hill toward my house, it suddenly hit me. I had been so anxious to zip into my riding gear and get on the road that I neglected to use the restroom before leaving...and the large bottle of Gatorade I drank this afternoon, combined with some bumpy patches in the road, wasn’t helping matters. New plan – find the shortest, fastest route home. The normal route is about 5.5 miles, often stretched out to add an extra 3-5 miles to change the scenery. Today...4.5miles, and very thankful that the Roadcrafter zipper design is so fast and easy to use. Ten, maybe 12 seconds to zip out of my hi-viz one piece. Yes, today it was good to get home quickly.

    3/3/16 - After riding the Zero for the last few days it will be time to turn over the keys to the next test-rider today. Other than the remaining build up of hard-pack snow and ice in my driveway, after a recent warm-up last weekend, the roads are clear and dry. Pulling onto the dry road today, the temptation to twist the throttle for a little more speed was too hard to resist. Not having to stop riding this ‘season’ has meant none of the typical learning curves to reacquaint myself with riding fluency for Spring. This might create a slightly false feeling of confidence, but doesn’t prevent me from rolling a little harder on the throttle to pull into, and in front of, the rest of the traffic stream, creating a car-free buffer-space around me...at least until reaching the first of 3 stoplights along the way.

    As I approach, the light turns yellow, so I roll off the throttle and apply the brakes to come to stop as it switches to red. A jacked-up 4x4 pickup truck pulls along side me in the left lane. The light turns green and I silently accelerate forward, pulling away smoothly as the other vehicles get smaller in my rear-view mirrors...until the next light changes and I find myself waiting next to the same pickup truck again. The light changes and again I swiftly roll through the intersection and begin heading down the hill, this time noticing the truck is accelerating to stay about a vehicle length behind me in his lane. The third light stops us both again and this time as soon as it changes I hear him rev his engine and begin to accelerate more quickly. I never had any intention to race (or speed...), but something about the ride today did have me enjoying the feeling of the smooth, quick and easy acceleration offered by twisting the Zero’s throttle. Also, I’m not sure what was going through the mind of the pickup driver, maybe he was feeling a need to compensate for his big truck being out-run by a silent little motorcycle, I don’t know. Either way, as we both accelerate through the intersection, the competitive side of my personality shows itself just enough to quickly pull ahead of the truck, switch lanes to pass a slower moving car in front of me and then pull off on my exit to head to work. Nothing quite like fresh cool air streaming through my slightly open visor and a touch of extra acceleration to start the morning off feeling energized and ready for the day. I wonder if the pickup driver waved to me when he passed by as I leaned the bike onto the exit ramp? I know I was wearing a big smile under my helmet as I plugged in the bike and prepared to turn over the keys to Gail. Sure do like the smooth and zippy throttle response of the Zero FX. It’s going to be quite a shift (literally) when I start riding my own combustion powered moto again...though I’m sure I’ll adapt quickly to rowing through the gears and the noise of the engine. It’s a pretty zippy bike too, so I’ll still be wearing the same, big smile inside my helmet... How can a smile not be part of my ATGATT set up on every ride?! Good riding!

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  • Not Lost... 3/1/16 - 3/2/16

    Not Lost... 3/1 - 3/2

    Sometimes after arriving home after my daily commute, I’ll take a look at my phone and find a text message from my wife asking “Where are you?” or “Are you on your way?” or maybe even “Are you lost?”. Often these little prodding messages are well intended, meaning dinner is about ready (or the kids are bickering about something and getting on her nerves...) and she’s just trying to gauge if I’ve left yet or when I’ll arrive. Most times the delay from getting home at the same time every night is due to finishing up work tasks or a late meeting. But, also, there are times when I try to squeeze just a bit more riding time out of the standard daily ride. That was the case yesterday and today on the Zero.

    2016-03-01 16.32.51The ride home last night was my first time back on the FX since Feb 15th, and it felt great to be back on two wheels. With the sun staying in sky a little longer as we near Spring, the bright skies and dry roads beckoned for at least a little bit of deviation from the standard route today. Nothing too outlandish, as I knew dinner really was almost ready and I had to get ready for my son’s Cub Scout meeting this evening...but a change of scenery and a few backroads through other neighborhoods created a fun diversion and the opportunity to stay in the saddle for at least a few more minutes than usual. Noticed more drivers and pedestrians taking a longer look at me as I quietly rolled by or silently sat next to them in traffic this afternoon too. Several offering nods, waves and smiles of approval. Like a Spring flower emerging from the cold ground where only a short time ago there was snow, maybe seeing a motorcyclist is also a sign to them that warmer weather really is on the way. It is indeed...but it sure has been a great experience to be able to ride all winter long, testing the limits of both bike, gear and rider in all the cold, snow and ice that Mother Nature could muster.

    2016-03-02 08.18.01The morning commute today created the same siren call to seek a longer, alternate route. Who was I to not heed that call? With the heated grips turned on and my WarmBib plugged in, I was toasty warm despite the 15ºF outdoor temp, as the Zero buzzed south towards 40th Ave West. This stretch of road has been redeveloped within the last few years by blasting away rocks to create a wider corridor and a fun, twisty series of switchback like turns as the route makes its way downhill toward the lake. The exposed rock walls along the way are covered with impressive ice waterfalls this time of year, begging for a quick photo stop. This morning detour doubled my normal 5.5 mile direct route and provided some nice scenic vistas to enjoy before arrive at work to start the day. With a smile on my face and filled with energy and excitement from the ride, I plug in the Zero to the charging cord near the garage door and walk into the Aerostich factory to begin the workday...but already, thoughts are brewing about what the route home tonight might have in store. It might take a little longer to get there, but I won't be lost.

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  • Back In The Saddle

    Monday afternoon, 2/15

    After a week in Florida, it was a rude "welcome home" to sub-zero temperatures. Still, it has been a week before I was back on the Zero.

    While I was gone, I had a Road Grimed Astronaut patch installed on the front pocket. Ironically, my suit appears to have been washed during this process. Road grimed astronaut with no road grime! I can fix that. The roads were wet on my first ride home and my suit regains a little of the patina it had lost.

    Tuesday morning, 2/16

    25°F this morning so I decide to take the long (scenic) route to work. Traveling the winding back roads is rather treacherous this morning. There was a light dusting of snow last night and where there is no snow, there appears to be frost coating the road. s-m-o-o-t-h is the keyword. Traction is better than it appears and I complete my journey without incident.

    45 minutes and 20 miles later it is time for a hot cup of tea. A chill has certainly settled in my bones, but I didn't experience any of the painful fingertips that Randy and Kyle did on their sub-zero rides. After experiencing the sub-zero temperatures last week and getting thoroughly chilled, a body gets acclimated pretty quickly.

    It is important to have a routine, and especially so for winter riding. This morning, I was a little off my game. Did I buckle my helmet strap? Where are my glasses? What else did I forget? It is so much easier to get my courier bag on before I put my helmet on, but more than half the time I have my helmet on before I remember my bag. How many times have I forgotten to stand my collar up? Riding on the highway with an open collar feels like an ice dagger in the throat. Maybe with more practice I will get it.

    Friday morning, 2/19

    I have long wanted a bike like this to try winter commuting. So far this experiment has been bearing out my hopes. I notice very little difference between my ride in this morning and my rides in mid November. The cold might be a little more intense, it bites just a little more. But in the end I give no more thought to the question, "Should I ride today?" than I do any other time. Last night I rode home in a little rain and sleet. Nothing was sticking to the roads and it was an uneventful ride home. But I did find myself wondering what the morning would bring--would it all freeze into an ice rink? At this point I think only the ice or heavy snow would cause me to trade 2 wheels for 4. It warmed up overnight; the roads are wet, but not slick at all. Another wonderful day for a ride!

    I think the people of Duluth have been taking notice, too. I am seeing more waves, thumbs-up, and friendly honks on my rides of late. The guy pulling out of the Whole Foods does a double take when he sees me and gives me thumbs-up. A van turning on Lake Ave. gives me a wave as he goes by. Just another normal day in Duluth.

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  • The Fair Weather Rider finally takes her turn!

    It was a sunny 32 degrees day in Duluth. The roads were dry so I thought it was a great day for me to ride the Zero bike for the first time. The bike is a little tall for me so I was concerned about my feet reaching the ground and if I could hold the bike up. When Bruce dropped the keys on my desk I became very excited and nervous. It was time….

    Gail's First RideI was shaking as I put on my Roadcrafter Classic and went out the door. When I got on the bike I didn’t have enough weight and strength to move it off of its kickstand. The sidewalk had enough of an angle to it that I needed more power to lean it to the other side. I was really upset at the prospect that I wasn’t going to be able to participate in test riding the Zero. Bruce graciously moved the bike to the street where it was a flat surface. That made all the difference for me! I was off and running!

    I rode 2.4 miles around the neighborhood of Aerostich to get comfortable on the bike before I attempt to ride my 12 miles home. Even though the roads were clear from snow, there was a lot of sand left behind. As I turned a corner my back wheel slipped. The back tire grabbed pavement quickly and kept me upright.

    While waiting at a stop sign to take a left hand turn a gentleman got out of his car. When he noticed me he stopped in his tracks and looked at me. He then walked around to the back of his car and stood there watching me. After about a minute, traffic cleared and I was off. As I passed him I gave him a little wave.

    Riding in 32 degree weather was pretty easy to dress for. I had a lightweight jacket under my Roadcrafter Classic which kept me very warm. I had on insulated ski gloves and had turned on the heated grips. I had on my Areostich Trekking Socks with insulated hiking boots. That was enough to keep my feet warm. I was wearing my Aerostich Fleece Wind Triangle to help keep my face warm. I might have had a little fear and adrenaline going to keep me warm as well.

    As Randy has stated in a past post, one of the challenges of riding in cold weather is keeping your face shield clear. I have an open face helmet with a face shield. I had plenty of air flowing through my helmet however, every time I took a breath my face shield fogged up for a few seconds.

    I came back happy and more confident and handed the keys back to Bruce. I am ready to tackle my 12 mile commute home. On a nice day…

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  • The New Normal

    The New Normal - 2/12/16

    For the 7 years I have worked at Aerostich, winter conversations among riders around the factory always seem to weave their way to talking about motorcycles. From how late you rode into the Fall, to hoping for an early Spring and often concluding with dreams of riding in the Winter. The Zero Below Zero project has made that dream a reality this season for many of us. It’s notable how this went from an idea and dream to an everyday (and practical) reality. The first Winter ride on the Zero for me was filled with excitement, enthusiasm and more than a little nervous anticipation. The more I get to ride it, the easier it gets. Riding a Zero Electric motorcycle in the Winter in Duluth seemed like such an exotic, mysterious and dangerous concept only a few short months ago...but today it feels routine. Temps hovering above zero for the ride home today (6ºF) meant layering up and plugging in electrics, but with mostly dry roads, buzzing along in traffic felt pretty much like any other ride home, any other time of the year. With the right gear, mindset and motorcycle set-up, everyday riding – even in Winter - has become the new normal. I could get used to this.

    Just the Eggs - 2/14/16

    This was my first weekend to have the Zero and due to personal commitments, Saturday was spent shuttling my kids to soccer and volleyball practices. When my wife mentioned on Sunday morning that we needed to get eggs, I wasted no time to gear up and be out the door and hop on the Zero to run that errand. The local gas station is about a mile away and has the best price on eggs in town, so I stroll up to the counter with eggs in hand, still fully geared up. The clerk looks at me and asks, “Did you have any fuel out there today?”. I smile and tell him “No, I’m riding an electric motorcycle today”, to which he replies “Cool, I guess you don’t need a carwash today then either”. Nope, no carwash today, but this spur of the moment opportunity to ride is not to be squandered. It’s a comfortable 13ºF out, I am wearing my WarmBib and chopper style mittens, combined with the heated grips I’m comfortable and warm. Yes, I think I’ll take the ‘long’ way home.

    2016-02-14 11.35.162016-02-14 12.02.08 HDR2016-02-14 11.29.36

    The eggs are placed into the Aerostich LP Bag I keep in my Roadcrafter cargo pocket, I put on the backpack straps and after a quick photo stop next to the Electric Vehicle Charging area it was time to ride. Light fluffy snowflakes had just started to fall as I pointed the Zero down the hill and toward Lake Superior and Canal Park. Time for a few quick photos in front of Duluth’s iconic lift bridge and then back to the ride. The snow is coming down heavier now and beginning to accumulate in a slushy mix on the roadway, but the bike charges through without incident. The whole trip lasted about an hour start to finish, and the 19.9 miles covered was my furthest personal ride on the Zero to date. The battery indicator had run down to 58%. The cold doesn’t seem to be having too much effect on the overall distances, since the Zero brochure lists the combine range for this FX at 49 miles (82 miles City/35 miles Highway). If the snow hadn’t been coming down heavier and accumulating, I would have tried to squeeze every last mile out of it. Sounds like another challenge for another ride day.

    Fresh Snow and Back to Work - 2/15/16

    2016-02-15 08.23.012016-02-15 08.12.282016-02-15 07.56.11

    Looking out the window for the Monday morning commute and there is several inches of fresh, fluffy snow that fell overnight. Before gearing up in the Roadcrafter and riding down the hill, it was time to fire up the snowblower and clear the driveway. The snow plow had already made a pass though the neighborhood, so the roadway was mostly clear for the ride to work, with a navigable mix of hardpack, clear and slushy spots. After clearing the snow off the Zero, it was time to navigate the side streets down the hill to the factory. There were a few slushy spots along the way, but the further I rode down the hill, the more the roads just became wet instead of a snow mix. I savored the quiet ride through the back streets, realizing this would be my last ride on the Zero for more than a week. I pull up in front of the building and snap a few photos quick. After parking the bike this morning and turn over the keys to Bruce, it is time for me to pack up my bag and take off for the Aerostich Las Vegas Pop-Up event. At least the weather forecast looks nice for Vegas this coming week, but I’ll miss being able to ride. Looking forward to meeting and greeting lots of riders at the pop-up. I’m sure I’ll swap a few stories about winter riding on the Zero too. Stop on by and visit us in Vegas!

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  • Hurry Up and Ride!

    It is getting warmer by the minute...

    Never did I expect there would be a time in Duluth, Minnesota when I would be rushing to get out and ride before it got any warmer. My wife was wondering why I had an urgency about getting ready this cold morning. I told her, “I have to get this ride on the Zero done while it is at least a couple degrees below zero. It is getting warmer by the minute so I need get going soon.” She laughed and rightfully so.

    What the heck was going on? What kind of thinking leads a rider to hurry up and ride when it is below zero? The Zero Below Zero project kind of thinking. After all, that is the name, Zero Below Zero. Riding a Zero motorcycle in below zero temps. And to date all my rides have been well above 0°F. How can I say that I had the full Zero Below Zero experience without a below zero ride.

    Sure, we have had many rides below 0°C but in Duluth, Minnesota that doesn’t count. We know the difference between below freezing and below zero well. Commuting in below freezing temps is common among the riders at Aerostich. No big deal. Happens every Fall and Spring.

    It makes me think of the words Paul Pelland said when he visited us. “I should have said kilometers!” If he had it would have saved him about 378,000 miles of riding on his quest for one million miles of chasing the cure for MS.(http://www.longhaulpaul.com) But when Paul reaches a million miles he will have the satisfaction of an amazing accomplishment that will inspire others with MS into the distant future. Hitting the “real” below zero mark was like that for me on the authenticity side, although at a MUCH lower level of difficulty. Keep it up Paul!

    The real challenges of cold weather commuting have been visibility and hand warmth. My previous commute home was at 10°F at night. Roads were clear with no traction issues. I tried an Anti­Fog/Anti­Frost Gel by Sven Can See on my face shield before the ride home. At 10°F it worked well and I was able to keep my shield closed for almost all of the trip while also being able to breath normally. You learn many techniques for controlling the flow of your breath when trying to keep your shield from fogging up while riding in the cold. So far I have been able to make it work mostly by opening my shield at each stop. The Anti­Fog allowed me to skip opening my shield for most stops which did help keep my face warmer.

    I was using mid­weight Winter leather gloves for the 10°F ride home but they were not enough. Even with the heated grips, my finger tips were fully numb by the time I got home. A quick dismount of the Zero and trip to my kitchen sink with warm water produced weird sensations of cold that turned to pain as the feeling came back. My fingertips hurt the rest of the night so I experienced mild frostbite. My toes were a little cold too as I was wearing an older pair of thin leather street boots.

    Tomorrow morning was going to be much colder so I dug into my gear shelves and pulled out my Aerostich Combat Lite boots, my Aerostich Triple Digit Raincovers and a pair of heavy Winter leather gloves. I tried different combinations of gloves with the Triple Digit Raincovers pulled over them but I couldn’t really move my hands well enough. I would need larger raincovers to make it work. I decided to just use the heavy Winter gloves and hoped they would be enough. My forehead was also cold on the ride home so I planned to wear a fleece headband in the morning.

    So far I still haven’t used any electric gear inside my Roadcrafter Classic. I tried to use my Aerostich Kanetsu AirVantage electric vest under my Darien TLTec Wind Blocker fleece liner but my suit ended up too tight and restricting so I stayed with just the liner. At 7 miles, my commute isn’t long enough to lose too much internal body heat even in below zero temps. Just 3 more miles could change the equation. If I kept up this foolishness for an extended period of time and wanted to try some longer Winter rides, I would use the Aerostich Kanetsu AIRVANTAGE Electric Liner by itself or add an Extended Gusset to my Roadcrafter.

    Garage Temperature Gauge 02-12-2016As I left home to commute to Aerostich the outside temperature on my garage thermometer with external sensor was at -2.4°F. I tried another video with the prototype smartphone sleeve velcroed above the left logo pocket on my Roadcrafter with the expectation that my iPhone would get too cold and shut down during the ride. The roads were clear and traction was good for the uneventful but windy ride through Duluth’s downtown. I also learned the limit of traction for the studded rear tire as at one point I spun it while accelerating on the downtown brick road surface.

    Face shield visibility was an issue almost right from the start. I was determined to keep my shield closed during the trip but breath freezes instantly on the shield in below zero temps. Breath control and sunlight allowed me to keep the shield closed for the whole trip. The sun was bright and hitting my left side. Amazingly it was just enough to keep the frost at bay. For 80% of the trip I could see only out of the left side of my face shield which made a merge to the right tricky towards the end as I listened for cars and tried to make out the street by looking through the frost.

    As I arrived at Aerostich my fingers were just getting too cold at my fingertips. Much better than yesterdays ride home even with the temperature being 12°F colder. My feet were fine as the heavier construction of the Combat Lites provided sufficient insulation. The fleece headband kept my forehead warm.

    The iPhone surprisingly was still on. As soon as I stopped the video it immediately shut down. I had to warm it up inside to get it to turn on again so I could take a picture of the temp and dash gauges on the Zero for the record. The key to cold weather use of smartphones for taking video is to start with a full charge and warm phone and let the current draw of shooting the video help keep the batteries warm enough. The neoprene sleeve for the prototype smartphone holder also helps keep in some heat.

    To make commuting in below zero temps work long term some changes would need to be made.

    1. Add hand guards to the Zero or use electric gloves. My DR­650 has guards and I can commute with regular Summer gloves down to about 32°F just by blocking the wind.
    2. A heated face shield or goggles and a neoprene balaclava with no face shield. The local fat tire bicycle riders all seem to use goggles and covered faces in the Winter but they are not traveling very fast. I haven’t tried a two layer face shield yet but expect breath to still freeze in below zero temps. Snowmobile riders have this all figured out already.

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  • Thirteen below zero. Cool...

    Ride Back Up and Thirteen Below - 02/10/2016 - 02/11/2016

    2016-02-11 08.12.13I was happy to get the keys back for another ride on the Zero tonight after nearly a week hiatus from being in the saddle. Having stayed a little later to get some work done this was my first time riding after sunset. The Zero headlights throw an adequate beam to see the road ahead of me, but like many bikes (my Kawasaki Versys included), stock lighting could always be enhanced or improved to be brighter. But, overall my route home is pretty well lit with streetlights and the lights of surrounding traffic, so nighttime visibility is not an issue. Outdoor temp was 7ºF for the ride home on mostly dry roads, making the heat from the grips and my WarmBib appreciated. The road into my neighborhood was mostly snow covered and there were a few instances where either the front or rear started to lose traction and slide out a bit, but balance was quickly re-gained. Parked the Zero outside the garage door and plugged in the extension cord to charge it up for the night.

    Thirteen Below ZeroThe next morning was the start of another cold spell here, with the outdoor thermometer at my house reading -13ºF as I was gearing up in my heated gear, Roadcrafter, balaclava and insulated ski gloves. The temperature gauge on the Zero read -3ºF, but we’ve noticed that it tends to read a little higher than the ambient temp because of ‘heat pollution’ from the custom battery warming blanket installed on the bike. This is the coldest temperature I have ridden in, so I was glad to be bundled up as I twisted the throttle. Noticed immediately that helmet visor fogging was going to be an issue. Opening the visor a crack to let some air flow helped clear up the fogging from my breath condensing inside my helmet, but also resulted in wind hitting my exposed nose and cheeks with what felt like razor-like slashes, even at low speed. I decided to stick to the side streets today, to minimize the wind-chill factor. Dealing with the visor fogging consisted of switching back and forth between a slightly cracked open shield with stinging-cold air, and closed for a warmer reprieve, but rapidly dissipating clarity of sight. I might have been able to do this dance for the entire commute down the hill to work, except after about 3 miles my fingers were cold to the point of being painful. The insulation of my ski gloves and the heat from the electric grips was not enough to combat the cold air leaking thru the seams. Ok, time for plan ‘B’.

    Since this route happened to bring me right past my in-laws' house, I figured this was a good opportunity to have a quick visit and show them the Zero. Not to mention, I knew my mother-in-law would have the coffee on and I could warm my frozen fingers! After a hot cup of joe and a few cookies my fingers had warmed up and I was ready to finish the commute to work. Gearing back up I remembered that I had my Triple Digit Glove Covers in the right thigh pocket of my Roadcrafer, so I slipped them on over the top of my ski gloves. The remaining 3-mile ride to Aerostich was uneventfully quiet. One thing I did notice after traversing a few rough, pot-hole laden sections of street (a not uncommon occurrence in Duluth), was how stiff the suspension was at this temp. Riding last week it seemed a little stiff, but this morning was like sitting astride a rock when hitting the bumps. I wonder if a different type of oil in the forks would make a difference? Another noticeable difference was how much warmer my finger were with the added layer of wind-proof protection from the Triple Digits. I guess they were just the trick to keep the sub-zero wind from getting through the seams on the gloves, allowing me to arrive at work with chilled fingers, but with enough feeling and dexterity to plug in the charger, take a photo with my phone to document mileage and temperatures and remove the keys from the ignition. Time to go in and share ride stories with my co-workers and write a blog post. Thirteen below zero. Cool...

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  • Oatmeal


    Executive summary: Two items.

    #1 – Riding in lower temperatures has become routine. In the beginning it seemed unusual to be out on a motorcycle at fourteen above, or three below. I was self-conscious in traffic, looking paranoidly at drivers sitting inside their warm cars, and at others all bundled up on the sidewalks. Now it feels almost normal. Before we started this Zero ‘experiment’ riding anywhere was a big deal anytime it got near or a bit below freezing. Now it’s not…you just put on your gear and go. Part of this is due to some unique and unanticipated aspects of the electric Zero (see item #2) and part involves how my Aerostich gear works.

    Having my gear logistics now fully worked out and being fluent with the required dressing and undressing rituals makes a huge difference. No hunting around for what to wear or awkwardly combining things that don’t quite work together. For me this partly involved having a second wardrobe: My boots are old insulated felt pacs from Sorel, and my Aerostich riding suit has been custom-alt modified (#203 $75-$190) to be a roomier version of the R-3 Light I normally wear, with just enough additional space for some medium-weight goose down and fleece layers inside. The rest of my gear is the same as usual.

    #2 – For this kind of urban winter use our borrowed Zero is a huge improvement over my internal combustion motorcycle. And every other gasoline burner. There’s no starter to crank and nothing to warm up. It’s always ready to go -- No fiddling around. Just unplug and ride off. It’s as simple to use as a refrigerator. (You want cold food? Open the door and the light goes on. Select your food. Close the door.)

    You just get on this bike, switch it on and go. All you have to remember is to unplug it before taking off. It is by far the easiest-to-use motorcycle I’ve ever experienced. Apparently the most maintenance-free, too. No tune-ups. No oil changes (EVER!) No warm-ups. No vibrations. No smells. Less pollution. It just goes wwwhhrrrrrrr…down the road, and you listen to the tire tread blocks softly thrumming against the road surface and hear the wind curling around the bottom of your helmet. Wheeeee!

    Fairly soon it seems like drivers will want to have at their disposal two quite different vehicles. One 100% electric, to use for around town mobility, and another with some internal combustion component for longer distances, only because of the shorter refueling time. Two minutes for combustion vs. several hours for electric. Cost-and-environmental-differences-be-damned, this is mainly a refueling-time issue.

    If (when…) electric cars come to prevail in cities, and you happen live on any busy street, much of the ambient noise you’ve become accustomed to will probably go away. If you happen to be young and are employed in the auto-parts or car repair field, things are likely to get a little tougher, employment-wise. Not so many refrigerator service technicians are needed out there.

    Imagine the reassuring vibratory thrums of combustion vehicles standing out starkly in silent electric traffic streams as a nostalgic exception. Combustion vehicles universally provide a symphony of audio accompaniment to our motion and most will miss that, but not enough to put up with the rest of the BS that goes with it…Not anymore than people today miss having huge blocks of ice delivered weekly to provide food refrigeration. “Loud pipes” will become far more ostracizing and uncool.

    A few notes about this Zero: It continues to ride really well, except for it’s too-stiff-at-low-low temp suspension…anything below about 25ºf. It’s amazingly peppy right off the line,…Last week on the way home one night it was fun to torque smartly away from some sleepy kid in a raspy Subaru WRX…who had no idea. From 0-30 mph the Zero jumps right out and then runs up to about 70 fairly quickly. There’s a lot less snap the rest of the way (to a top speed for this model somewhere north of 80), but it does get there.

    When I was a Boy Scout with a Ray-o-Vac ‘Sportsman’, all flashlights were crappy. Even the very best of them. And it seems like only yesterday…My first camp out flashlight consisted of a corrugated chromed metal tube with a little sliding off/on thumb switch and a ‘flash’ button. Both ends unscrewed and inside were two carbon-zinc C (or D, if you had the bigger model) cells. Up front a dim tungsten filament projected a yellowish white beam for a little while. You used it sparingly. Sometimes this device would suddenly dim or even go out and you needed to bang it smartly against your palm to encourage a better electrical contact inside because those heavy batteries were free to move about a little bit. (Of course at the same time we also did our school lessons on the backside of a coal shovel by the light of a fireplace and walked ten miles though deep snow to school, uphill, both ways.) This Zero electric motorcycle takes me to and from work, or wherever else I want to go, at five above…No problem. Humpf.

    Friday January 29, 2016

    Out the door at 7:10 AM to a spectacular sunrise. The sun’s just coming over the lake-sky horizon. From the side of the hill where I live which is a few hundred feet above lake-level, the edge of the world is maybe twenty miles out. Now the eastern third of the sky is on fire, the air is crystal clear, windless and it's 17ºF. A perfect, gorgeous day for a ride.

    When I rode the Zero home last night it was actually raining because of a ‘January thaw’. While the rain rinsed all the main streets and roads clean it was also left every driveway and sidewalk treacherously coated with slick sheets of window-clear hockey rink quality ice. Residual road salt had kept everything liquid on streets, but it was contact-freezing to all sub-zero frozen sidewalk and driveway surfaces. Not good if you live on a hillside. In these conditions people choose to walk the clear traffic lanes and risk being hit by a passing car rather than taking their chances on the icy-slick sidewalks. Everyone does this.

    More StudsYesterday we added another 25 studs to the rear tire and about 30 more to the font, bringing the total for each wheel up to 125 (rear) and 135 (front). These added carbide tips were positioned slightly off-center, so we now have two rings of continuous studs on either side of a mostly rubber center tread with only a single stud about every three inches, thus when you ride in a straight line you hear one kind of soft wwwwwwrrrr-clicking sound, and when you slightly lean to turn either way that pitch changes as the more closely-spaced side studs come into contact with the road.

    On my now ice covered slanted driveway the bike walked right into it’s parking spot without a slip or spin, so maybe this setup is closer to an optimal compromise for our situation. But overall traction limits are still far below those of an ‘all rubber’ summer tire or an off-road knobby-with-500-studs–per-wheel. I have yet to learn if this bike is flat-track slidable with this tire/stud setup but it sure feels like the answer will be ‘not very’. Before winter ends I’d like to find out (…hopefully without breaking my neck or the bike) on a frozen lake or parking lot.

    My destination this early morning was the once-a-month 7:30AM meeting of Duluth’s parking commission. I’m one of eight commissioners. If you want to try something that can be good for motorcycling in your town, see if you can get appointed to your local parking commission…if there is one. Then see if you can do anything as a commissioner which might benefit your fellow bicycle and motorcycle riders. (Find information about motorcycles and parking at www.ridetowork.org ) The streets were already full of early commuters, and last night’s rain had left everything clean and dry, so riding was delightful. I’m getting used to the Zero’s bumpy-stiff frozen suspension and just relaxed and enjoyed the sunrise.

    DPD_ParkedAtCityHallHalf of my fellow commissioners were already in city council chambers as I walked in wearing my gear and carrying my helmet. Most turned and looked at me and one said “Did you ride your motorcycle?” (…as if that wasn't obvious). “Yes, I did.” I replied, while placing my helmet on the shelf above the coat rack and unzipping the R 3. The fellow just said “Wow”. Here’s where I parked. Someone unknown actually took this photo and it was posted to the Duluth Police Department’s Facebook page. And yes, I did plug that meter.

    An hour and a half later I was back in the saddle enjoying the freshly rinsed roads under a bright sunny sky with temps already a couple of degrees warmer. Then back at home I made a nice hot bowl of oatmeal (adding blueberries, maple syrup and some butter). There’s no substitute for hot oatmeal after a morning ride like this. Then it was time to ride the little Zero to Aerostich.

    By evening it had started to rain/snow again, this time a little heavier. My fiancee Shirah was out driving slip-sliding around in her Jeep and had called to see if maybe I'd need a ride home (?). “Heck no.” I replied “With these studs I’ve got more control and traction than you do.”

    “Well, I’m about five minutes away and if you are ready to go now, I could stop by and you could follow me home, just in case.”

    Ice-glazed fenders“Ok, let me shut things down here and I’ll be outside in five minutes.”, which I was. The Zero was encased in a glaze of frozen rain which was pretty neat looking, but it was dark and I was in a hurry so I just jammed the key thru the ice-covered slot, flipped the power on and unplugged the cord. I also flipped the heated grips on, knowing they’d remove the ice skin there in a moment. No point in brushing anything off the saddle…I just threw a leg over and sat down on the glaze, which audibly went ‘crunch’ beneath me. Then moving forward toward the nearby idling Jeep I briefly stood on the pegs so whatever was left there could fall away. Those ice-glazed fenders sure looked neat.

    The ride homeward through the falling snow and sleet was uneventful. My helmet face shield was warm enough so the moisture hitting it stayed liquid. The streets were all sloppy and icy, but not difficult to handle. At one stoplight some teenage kids were crossing on the sidewalk and I overheard one say to his companions: “Brave.”, which I assumed referred to me. Conditions looked that bad, risk-wise. Everyone in cars was just creeping along to avoid an unintentional slide, and those teens had to be walking pretty carefully, too. After I got home I could see reflected in the door storm window a cool-looking glaze of frozen raindrops all over the surface of my R 3 suit (link) and realized I’d just ridden home in conditions that would have been highly dangerous and extremely uncomfortable just a few years ago. Yet here I was dry, warm and comfortable.

    One thing that stands out as a pain-in-the-ass: gear storage. Over the years I’d developed equipment storage procedures to support my riding which centered around a garage space. Things set up like some kind of personal Bat-cave: Helmet on a shelf here. Motorcycle leaned against a wall there. Riding suit hanging there. Gloves there. Garage door opener remote here, here…and another one here (one button on the wall, one button on a keychain remote hanging from the shelf where my helmet rests and another button on another keychain remote carabinered to the shoulder strap of my daily (…‘EDC’, hipsters) backpack.

    With the Zero sleeping out in the driveway every night and the plan being to come and go only through the kitchen, where do I keep my gear? The bulky R3 drapes over one of the dining room chairs and my helmet and gloves are on the sideboard looking out-of-place next to a potted plant and candle holder. With my heavy boots are on the floor right beneath them. Nothing is where it belongs. It all looks wrong.

    Everyone I know who uses their bike transportation has developed some sort of handy gear storage system. Our experimental keeping-the-Zero-outside-all-winter throws a wrench into my garage-based organizing but on the other hand now the garage space is cleaner, warmer and drier for other winter projects. We are learning unexpected things about everyday A to B riding, which was the whole point.

    Other Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday random notes.

    • Some stranger took my photo today in traffic. I was waiting at the stoplight on Third and 12th Ave E, and in my rearview mirror I watched a car pull to a stop a few feet behind me. The driver seemed to be holding their smartphone directly in front of them and against the steering wheel. For a moment I wondered if they were texting or reading or what (?) and then there was a flash and I knew I’d been photographed. A day or two later a coworker came up to me and said one of their friends had taken my photo riding the Zero a couple of days ago. Gotta love this small town life.

    Later that same day when I was out on the freeway for the first time since we started riding the Zero everything was fine bike-wise, but the 70 mph wind-chill hitting my chin was a lot sharper than I’d been experiencing on the surface streets which are my normal route. If I was commuting via a high-speed I’d be wrapping a bandana, Wind Triangle (#511 $22) or Silk Scarf (#1549 $27) around my neck every day.

    • Saturday was super warm and sunny here. Near-record warm. High in the lower thirties. Instead of motorcycle fun riding Shirah and I drove over to an annual dog sled race about forty miles away ( http://www.beargrease.com ). Several thousand people, lots of outdoor excitement, food vendors, excitedly yapping dogs, busy mushers and helpers, and even someone with a camera drone making aerial video. (About five minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2xhnROVU9w ) I made my own 15 second roadside iPhone video here.

    • Before this year my previous experiences with winter-studded motorcycle tires date from about twenty years ago, first with a set of home-made tires using the sharp-edged heads of sheet metal screws for bite, then a few years later with some factory-studded knobbies made in Sweden by the Trellborg tire company. Both sets of tires were intended for off-road snow and ice use only.

    My dry pavement riding on those tires was very limited, probably less than ten paved-road-miles altogether spread over several years, because they were so completely unacceptable for that. The carbide tipped studs and the mild-steel sheet metal screw head stud-to-road contact points both provided nearly zero grip. Pavement riding on those tires was scary. It always felt like tiptoeing or balancing on a slack line. Against pavement mild-steel sheet metal screw heads wore away very quickly, too.

    But off-road both setups worked phenomenally well. The sheet-metal screw tires had 3 or 4 screw heads across each knob, and the Trellborg’s had a half-inch long carbide tipped spike projecting from each knob. There was tremendous bite…enough so it was easy to ride with a great deal of control and confidence on frozen lakes and snow packed trails.

    With the sheet metal screw headed tires there was a footprint of about ten sharp edges cutting into the ice almost simultaneously. The Trellborg’s fewer carbide-tipped spikes penetrated deeply into both hard ice and packed snow so flat track-style slides were luridly long and fast enough to be called 'epic'. These generated charismatic rooster tails of shredded ice thrown high into the air and it was all tremendous fun long before it became easy to video-record such antics. You have my solemn word.

    StudsThe Zero’s stubby little street-compatible studs are far less effective. In fact, they work like crap compared to those off-road studded tires. It’s difficult and scary to ride the Zero across ice and thru snowpack. You’ve got to be tender with control inputs. Each Zero tire only has about 125-130 studs (versus about 500 for the sheet metal screw tires), and the maximum penetration is roughly an eighth of an inch (compared to about half an inch with the Trellbogs) so in both number and depth-of-penetration our half-half-dry-road/half-snow-and-ice compromise tires provide lot less grip in EVERY situation. The Zero just doesn’t feel fantastically secure across any surface compared to normal summer or spiked off-road winter-prepared bikes.

    Not that it is in any way unrideable. It’s fine. None of us has fallen yet and the tires are manageable on both dry and wet pavements as long as you are mindful of the lower frictional limits of the ice-cold rubber and the reduced tread contact area where each low-profile stud forces the surrounding rubber slightly upward and away from the pavement.

    You worry that if the bike goes over very far you'll lose the whole thing. Flat-tracking riding heroics seem impossible, or at least beyond my ability, and this situation is further complicated since the icy surface you are putting your ‘inside’ foot down on to help gauge your lean angle is so slippery your boot sole finds no resistance. Which feels a like you have a miniature flying saucer strapped to the sole of your boot.

    On the plus side, we've been discovering that winter roads here are clear and dry much more often than I realized (this year anyway), so year-around riding for transportation is doable, except on days when there is a lot of fresh ice and snow. Then, traction is nearly nonexistent and riding is riskier and lots of hard work.

    IMG_6424 IMG_6428 IMG_6409

    Despite all our climactic abuse, this Zero has been working perfectly amid ever present winter road filth. My extra dressing rigamarole feels absolutely normal and routine now.

    Fancy word(s), not used in this blog post:
    Cryophilic (Adjective) def: Preferring or thriving at low temperatures.
    Cryotolerant, def: Species that can tolerate low temperatures.

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