Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Riding a Motorcycle in the Cold

cold cloudy motorcycle riding
Climbing one of the mountains along I-8 Eastbound
Riding the cold temperatures can be a bitch, but somehow I've been able to deal with it.

I mean, OK, I don't exactly get much opportunity to ride in very cold temperatures considering this is San Diego County.  It's not like  Minnesota or something.  Most of us riders here stay in the lower elevations where the coldest it gets is in the lower 40s.  And much of that area is in south east county, way out in the "Rez".

It's no wonder why the U.S. Government moved all the Indians out there. It's always cold, windy, mountainous, and the ground is full of rocks. White man can't really do much with it. Yet the natives managed to find a way to survive thanks to casinos and a State Law that gives them exclusivity on gambling.

And so when those of us in San Diego decide to head east into the warmer climates of the desert, we have to endure the miserable cold, windy, mountainous, and rocky netherparts of the Rez.

I watched the air temperature gauge on my Honda ST1300. As the elevation reached 4,000 feet along Interstate 8, and we got closer to the cloud layer, the numbers dropped. 50 degrees F. 46 degrees. 43 degrees. 41 degrees.

I looked in my mirrors for Sash to see if she was still behind me. Yup, she was. She'd actually pull up next to me a few times and gave an "OK" sign with her fingers. We had gotten through the coldest part of the trip, passing the Golden Acorn Casino, where all the windmills are.

It was 41 degrees F.  At 80mph, the wind made it feel like 20.

And then I realized Sash was wearing her summer gloves the whole time. I felt worried for her. Her fingers must have been aching.

Myself, I had on only my leather jacket and winter gloves. Otherwise, I was riding in t-shirt and jeans.

Unprepared? No, I expected it.  Crazy?  Yeah, a little.  Do I like to punish myself?  Actually, there's some of that too.

But much of it is my own demons.  It's the voices of my mother, father, kids I grew up with, and old co-workers, either writing me off as eccentric, telling me that I can't do it, or relegating me to the more remedial tasks.  I often overextend myself to other people just to get their praises.  These days I throw myself into the fire just to prove that it's all just demons.

My therapist says that it's a dissociative disorder.  That throughout my growing up, my mother insisting I keep my mouth shut and stop my whining over the threat of physical punishment, I learned to keep my feelings bottled up and hidden down deep.  I feared her anger, the swat of her stick and the solitary confinement of the closet, that I learned to remain in my intellect, cut off from my emotions.

riding motorcycle in the coldIt's the emotions that make the bitter cold so unbearable.  The more you whine and cry about it, the more traumatizing it becomes.  Granted, there's a temperature point where the body will go into shock.  But the mind can still overcome the pain in the process.

I intellectualize the cold by looking at the temperature gauge and know that it's still not cold enough for frostbite to set into my fingers.  That gives me confidence to push on despite the chilling ache in my hands. I tell myself that shivering like this will boost my metabolism and help me burn fat.

And in some strange twist, I now look forward to riding in the cold.  There's comfort in that old familiar feeling of solitude, staying in my head and removed from my heart, and some warped idea that I'll become a better man and burn a couple pounds of fat in the process.

By the time Sash and I got into the desert, we pulled into a Del Taco in El Centro for a quick bite. The temperature had risen to 70 degrees F. She pulled off her summer gloves and revealed a layer of thermal glove liners.

Ironically, I felt relieved, even if I wasn't feeling anything for myself.


  1. Steve:

    wished we had your cold. 40's would feel good, right now we are below freezing around 18°F forecast for tonight

    I keep thinking that you should have helmet communicators. Would be safer than having to speed up and make hand signals, or to stop along the side of the road in an unsafe position. Then you could chat whilst riding. If you get the Sena they can pair up to 4 units, and then I could talk to you "one day"

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. I used to have a Bluetooth with a 1 mile range for helmet-to-helmet. But I'd take calls and place calls on it through my cellphone. You could actually expand that 1 mile helmet-to-helmet limit by just calling another rider on cellphone instead. After two years of using it, I realized I preferred not talking to anyone.

  2. Hahaha... that is funny! Sash having a liner underneath her gloves. Women are resilient in a lot of ways. After reading some of Sash's anecdotes, she's a real trooper... someone I could enjoy hanging out with and not worry a darn thing :) Love you guys! You guys are the best I have ever read on blogs. BTW... I also enjoy the cold weather riding most of the time... even when it gets bitter or me. However, I am not one to judge what bitter truly feels. I have read some pretty chilling stories on other forums. I wish all maps look like yours :)

  3. I have learned that riding in 40 to 50 degree weather is a lot more enjoyable than riding in 90 plus heat. I always ride with motorcycle jacket, full face helmut, boots, jeans, and gloves and the heat can be suffocating.

  4. I have become a weather weenie over the years. We live in the 44th parallel and lately we've taken to calling it Ride44 as in ride 44 degrees and above.

  5. Steve, I know that the mind is very powerful and can help push us farther than most think possible but be careful when riding in the cold. When our bodies start to shiver they may be burning calories but their also trying to stay warm. Shivering is a sign of the onset of hypothermia..and that can be dangerous because at some point your body starts shutting things down to include rational thought. I know you know this, but felt it should be said so that someone trying to emulate you doesn't do something crazy and get themselves into trouble.

    I enjoy riding in the cold nut I'll have to say I also enjoy my heated jacket liner. :-)

    Live Free, Ride Hard. Be Happy


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)