Winter riding update

Randy Grein randygrein at
Sat Dec 22 11:16:08 PST 2007

It's been three weeks of long distance commuting, long enough to have  
a solid opinion on much-needed upgrades. The problem: an 80 mile round  
trip for work, typical Seattle winter weather and traffic. Typical  
aging issues - slower metabolism and arthritis in my hands - make the  
cold more of a problem than it was 20 years ago. I could just take the  
car every day, but I'm too stubborn - and I lose out on the benefits  
of HOV lanes and general biking goodness.

Givi 760 windscreen. Outstanding. The flyscreen I had previously took  
a tiny bit of pressure off my chest - OK for around town but  
insufficient for comfort. The Givi provides total torso protection and  
takes most of the blast off my hands and arms. The mounting system  
allows considerable adjustment, and after a bit of testing I found  
that more angle smoothed out the airflow, cutting wind noise and  
helmet buffeting over 70. Heavy winds and high speeds (95 briefly)  
show no tendency to destabilize the bike. I'm not concerned with  
looks, but I have received complements on that score as well - drawing  
attention to the dented tank. Time to get busy repairing it...

Gerbing Electric liner, purchased at the Seattle bike show. Why did I  
wait so long? This solves SO many problems I've had with cold! Exposed  
neck, too-thin insulation, minor leaks of air and (occasionally) water  
in my outer jacket are just a bad dream. The recommendation is to  
remove the outer jacket liner, but testing showed both liners retain  
enough heat for comfort in 35 degree rain and improve hand warmth.  
It's a bit bulky with both though, and unnecessary at 50 degrees. The  
sales guy was right about wanting the thermostat instead of the on-off  
switch. It's not uncomfortable at full blast but the nice baking  
feeling is accompanied by vague concerns about the electrics.

Frogg toggs rain pants, also purchased at the bike show. My current  
riding suit handles light rain well, but like any suit more than a  
couple years old springs embarrassing leaks
in heavy rain. These polypropylene babies are not pretty, but cheap  
and waterproof. Breathable, too. Did I mention cheap, like under $30?  
My previous rainsuit was also inexpensive, black with reflectors and a  
bitch to get in and out of. It's now relegated to racing-only. The  
Toggs fit either under or over the cold suit and don't collect body  
moisture like the sealed clothing does. Oh, and they fold up to  
absolutely nothing. A friend who uses them every day says he gets  
about 2 years out of the pants, more than most completely waterproof  
systems. The extra barrier also cuts leg chill under 40 degrees, the  
only remaining cold spot.

Headphones, purchased at the apple store. Yeah, yeah, I know -  
illegal. The law is stupid and doesn't match reality. Keep the volume  
down and pay attention to the road it doesn't interfere. I wanted  
something to cut down the remaining wind noise, and while earplugs do  
the job it's nice to have music or discussion while driving the  
superslab. Problem is finding ANYTHING that fits inside a helmet. I've  
tried a number and found they all tend to get dislodged when putting a  
helmet on. I wanted noise canceling headphones (they don't attenuate  
sirens or car horns, but do cut wind noise) but would settle for  
anything that fit. Enter V-mode. These are similar to many other in- 
ear systems but small - small enough to fit entirely in the ear,  
probably due to their metal (not plastic) body, they stay inserted  
with just a tiny bit of care when slapping a helmet on. A sharp- 
looking anodized red with red cables they stand out less than the ever- 
present apple white headphones.

These mate up nicely with my existing setup - A Fieldsheer 2 piece  
riding suit, Olympia winter gloves and Alpinestar touring boots, all  
with gore-tex. Sound system is an iPod Nano which carries a decent mix  
of music and podcasts (MotoGP, politics and network professional stuff).

I still need a few upgrades. I've reluctantly decided my hands are  
still a bit cold at times - glove liners added enough bulk that the  
extra insulation was largely negated by pressure on the fingers, and  
while my hands stay dry in the rain the gloves get soaked. Rain mitts  
or dirtbike-style hand protectors would solve both problems, otherwise  
a set of electric glove liners. I need to get a thermostat (another  
$70) to better control heat and absolutely essential if I go with  
electric gloves. I can live with the cold spots on my legs, long- 
distance touring isn't too likely but it does point out that I need  
looser riding pants unless I permanently maintain competition weight,  
a drop of 25 lbs.

Randy Grein, WMRRA #41

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