Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding, Day 8

cold weather motorcycle riding
Snowing in Poncha Springs, CO
Our push north through Colorado has been all about the weather thus far. The scenery is beautiful, but with 60mph winds, rain, snow, hail, and freezing temperatures, have made it a big challenge.

And to look back on this, now that I'm writing this on a comfy hotel bed in a warm room, I realize Sash has barely a 1 1/2 years riding experience, with only a little in the cold and rain.

We didn't make it to Denver like we had hoped. We got as far as Canon City instead. All we had to do was ride north along US-285 from Monte Vista, and it would take us right into Denver. But even though we bundled up with all sorts of cold weather gear, we could only ride in this stuff for so long until it bore into our psyches.

Leaving Monte Vista in the morning, we rode up US-285 with 60 MPH winds hitting us on the side, causing us to ride leaned over. The temps were in the mid-40s.

By the time we got to Poncha Springs, temperatures dropped to 34 degrees F, and snow was falling nearly horizontal in the wind, though not yet sticking to the ground. We pulled into a market/deli to get some hot tea.

"We just came from Fairplay", one of the other customers said. Fairplay is a town about 60 miles further north on the US-285. "It's about 10 degrees colder there, and the snow is blowing even harder."

We decided taking US-285 was no longer an option.

Poncha Springs was right on the intersection of US-285 and US-50. We could take US-50 east to the I-25, and ride the interstate up to Denver, which should be a little warmer. So that's what we decided to do. But we found more snow fall, more chilly temperatures, and more wind. We got as far as Canon City, and decided we had had enough.

In my college days, I used to ride a motorcycle in 40 degree temperatures. I remember hugging my motor at stop lights to warm my hands. I remember years ago riding through the Sitgreaves National Forest in March, in 20+ degree temps, and feeling my hands on fire. I remember riding the ALCAN under a heavy downpour for some 100+ miles, soaked through my gear, just to get ahead of the storm so that I could set up my tent before it caught back up to me.

I had become used to riding in the cold and wet. I don't enjoy it any better, but I've learned that it's always temporary and that somewhere ahead is a warm dry place, even if it's a mummy bag inside a Coleman tent. And when I look back through my life, I've always saw it as trying to prove something to myself, if I couldn't prove it to others.

But this is really the first time Sash has spent some significant miles through bone-shivering weather. And she took it like a trooper, taking on fierce crosswinds, snow flurries, rain, and even some hail, while also dealing with a sour stomach from a bad meal at a restaurant in Monte Vista.

However, it's not to say that she got through it unfazed. It wore her out. It wore us both out. There's an emotional toll to it as well, and it really tested the bonds we developed over our three years together thus far.

The women at Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit really helped her through it, however. Thus far on this road trip, she's shared her experiences on their Facebook Group, and received overwhelming support and encouragement to keep going.

So tomorrow, Day 9 of this journey, we head into Denver via US-50 to the I-25.

saguache colorado biker
Sash bundling up at a Conoco station in Saguache, CO
US-285 colorado
Looking at Hunts Peak, Red Mountain, and Bushnell Peak, US-285, Colorado
poncha springs gas station
It's snowing in Poncha Springs, Market/Deli
US-50 arkansas river colorado
US-50 eastbound along the Arkansas River


  1. I like that first pic of Sash. She doesn't not look amused, but also seems to be smirking. Intriguing.

    Glad you guys didn't push all the way through. I've been worrying about Sash's fibromyalgia with all the riding in the cold.

    Fingers crossed sunny skies are ahead for you.

  2. I've only ridden in snow once (it wasn't sticking) but have had to suffer a lot of wet, cold rides over here that result in painful fingers and toes. I've found there is a magic point in a ride where my hands go from chilly to hurting in less than 2 minutes. Once I've crossed that threshold I become full-on miserable and hateful of the world.

    One thing I've found that helps to keep core temperature is to wear a garbage bag as a vest -- just over your base layer. It helps trap heat and block out wind. That and drinking lots of hot tea (which warms you up and forces more bathroom stops, which also warm you up).

    You guys are bad ass. I know y'all don't like being told to ride safe, so ride warm.

  3. I also like the expression in the first picture. It says "We're having fun, right?"

    Heated gear (and a sidecar) do wonders for riding in the cold. I rode all through last winter as long as it was above -20F and more than a few times colder than that. Pretty scary story riding through the storm.

  4. Steve:

    Doesn't appear that Sash has that many layers on by looking at that denim sleeveless vest. Luckily you are taking care of her and riding shorter days. Of course as you get older you have less tolerance for the cold, or inclement weather so it was just wiser to stop.

    Love the photos of the snow coming down. It must have been very chilly. You are both adventurers . . . so lucky to have each other

    A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

  5. Riding in the Colorado mountains is an iffy proposition until June at least. One of the worst snow-driving experiences I've ever had was coming down from the Eisenhower Tunnel in mid-June.
    Your Wednesday weather will only be marginally better. After that it looks nice for a few days. Good luck.

  6. Steve, there's cold and then there's COLD. Whenever it's snowing outside I'd say it's pretty darn COLD. Sorry you guys got stuck in it but it sounds like you both made the best of it. I'm glad you're both safe. Oh and that first pic of Tina, I think she's trying to tell you, "Never again". :-)

    Stay warm and toasty,

  7. In my experience cold is WAY harder than heat. I was once riding in California in March crossing the mountains north of Redland and it got so wet and cold I couldn't operate the levers any longer and had to stop. I will still ride in the cold, but don't think I could hang in the conditions you've ridden in the last four or so days. Sash is a tough one for sure to push ahead!

  8. Sash is doing extremely well considering her experience on a bike. You go girl.
    Hope the weather turns good for you guys. The photos are spectacular though. Loving your trip reports.


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...)