Let’s face it, there are some things that differentiate motorcyclists who live in the snow belt—say, the Upper Midwest, for example—and those who enjoy nearly endless summer, where snow is a once-in-a-decade thing and it falls, melts and is gone before you can find a carrot for your snowman’s nose.
Weather in the Midwest can be a real rollercoaster and it recently occurred to me that it might be fun to have a look at those things snowbelt riders might do that vary from most everybody else.
So, here we go—you might be a Midwest Motorcyclist if…
- You check the snow depth as part of your pre-ride checklist along with motor oil, tire pressure and so on.
- You automatically calculate the wind chill factor when you see the air temperature before a ride.
- You think about pavement temperature not for tire adhesion in hard corners but for the likelihood of black ice.
- You tend to put a little gas line antifreeze in the tank with each fill-up.
- You wonder if anybody else has noticed how hard it is to use the shift lever with those giant snowmobile boots on.
- You never buy motorcycles with lots of fancy touchscreen controls and little buttons because they are hard to work with your choppers on if they work at all in the cold. (For those not familiar with Midwestern slang, “choppers” aren’t a group of customized motorcycles; they are large, clumsy fingerless mittens, usually made of leather, worn in bitter cold weather, usually the hand protection of choice when chopping firewood or ice).
- You have to choose between riding with your full-face snowmobile helmet with heated dual-lens face shield and your “summer” helmet which may or may not work out ok for adequate warmth and shield fogging.
- You tend to buy helmets at least one size larger than your actual size so there’s room for a balaclava.
- You see insulated Carhartt coveralls as a one-piece riding suit.
- You are thankful for the folks at Aerostich who actually build riding gear designed for tough, cold, wet riding conditions. Take a look at their product and you’ll agree “build” is the right word; they are headquartered and manufacture their gear in Duluth, MN. It is a place that can put even the stoutest riders and gear to the test.
- You receive Darrell Broten’s great motorcycling newsletter, “Midwestern Motorcyclist,” available here: firstname.lastname@example.org or have read his book, “A Midwestern Motorcyclist.”
- You think first of protection from frostbite when buying riding gloves.
- You do a fall oil change to the lower-viscosity oils recommended in your owner’s manual to make for easier winter starting.
- You tend to hear the question, “A little chilly for motorcycle ridin’ ain’t it?”
- You tend to answer, “It’s warmer than snowmobilin’ weather, though.”
- You go to pull your bike out of the shed and forget to unhook it from the battery tender at least once a winter.
- You get more excited about blue skies and sunshine in January than July, even though it might be twenty below.
- You do fall color rides with gusto, even though you know what comes next…
- You look at tread patterns for potential performance on snow when buying new motorcycle tires.
- You live by the mantra, “If it looks slippery, it probably is.”
- You know full leathers work great for sliding on hard-packed snow from first-hand experience.
- You wonder how many parts from your old snowmobile are interchangeable with parts from your old motorcycle.
- You own or plan to own a snow-cycle of some type—one of those TimberSled set-ups for your dirt bike, or a Sno-Runner, for example.
- You wonder if Bridgestone makes those Blizzak tires for motorcycles. Or if Dunlop’s new Mutant all-season motorcycle tire will be just as good in snow.
- You wear your snowmobile gear on your motorcycle about as often as on your snowmobile—maybe more.
- In spring, the first rides include extreme vigilance for sand on the pavement at corners and intersections left over from winter road crew sanding and you always wash your bike after those first rides to get the residual road salt off.
- You have actually taken your motorcycle ice fishing.
- You know that hard-packed snow in temperatures below 20°F has traction almost as good as hard-packed dirt and snow with air temps above 30°F has traction about as good as hog-snot on a wet marble.
There are, no doubt, many more. But you get the drift. No matter where or what you ride, here’s to a safe and prosperous New Year with many happy miles.