Monthly Archives: February 2016

  • 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.( 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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