On Winter Riding

If I’m honest, there’s definitely a part of me that has been feeling the winter blues. For the last 3 to 4 weeks here in Northern California, it’s been cold, wet, and cloudy just about every day. Since we generally have so many great days to go riding, it’s easy to forgo your motorcycle, and the weather isn’t “perfect.” I’ve often said I’m willing to be cold or and willing to be wet on my motorcycle but definitely not both.

I was at Costco Optical last night picking out new glasses for this plan year. I wasn’t sure if I should get transition lenses. The person I was working with didn’t have strong opinions. However, when she walked away, I asked the other associate, “I ride a motorcycle, often going between light and dark quickly. Will transition lenses work well for me?”

He instantly lit up! “YES! I get transitions in all my glasses, and I ride all sorts of motorcycles.” Well, that was easy :-)! We continued talking about bikes and each of our favorite places to ride in the area. He’s more of a track guy, and I’m more of a street dude – but hey who’s counting? I wonder if the winter doldrums sparked a bit of interest in him talking about motorcycles during a wall of wet weather.

Costco Optical has good glasses at a reasonable price – far better than the pricing at the local optician that marks glasses way up so insurance marks them way down. The net is almost always better at Costco (and I save enough to pay for the membership). They recently started taking VSP in the past few years.

This morning I was reading the latest issue of “Rider Magazine” and stumbled into Eric Trow’s column “Riding Well.” Each of the columnists this month gave their take on winter riding. Eric had a practice with another rider friend to ride 100 miles every month. He remarks that it’s easy in the summer. It’s not so easy in the dead of a Pennsylvania winter.

The article got me thinking that it was time to go out on my motorcycle! We had our first clear day in weeks, and while colder than I would like, the high 40s/low 50s were doable with a heated vest. My gear was way tighter than I wanted it to be, but not unexpected for a post-holiday January ride. Letting the clutch out and feeling the cold wind on my neck and the warm embrace of the vest on my trunk confirmed that it was a great day to go riding.

I had about 90 minutes with my motorcycle. During the pandemic, my extended family started a tradition to meet every week over Zoom to stay in touch. Time was of the essence.

The hills were gorgeous as the steady rain brought vivid green throughout the landscape. Unlike most places, “winter” brings lush landscapes all across the Bay Area.

As I was riding, my mind drifted back to Trow’s column. His practice of riding 100 miles every month was not only about his motorcycle practice but his experience of riding every season. Winter riding wasn’t summer riding, cold edition. The winter truly is different.

Yes, it’s cold, and that comes with a host of topics: heated gear, awareness of hypothermia, and proper hydration. Winter also means shorter days. Once the sun dips behind the trees, it gets cold fast. It can mean heavy rains in Northern California, which bring about mudslides. As I was coming around a corner of my standard loop, the last rains dumped mud all across one of the straightaways. The steady dampness brings moss and many of the shadowy corners. Ice is a rarity but sometimes shows up here.

Winter also brings about pleasant surprises. In December, Santa often rides his motorcycle all over the Bay Area. The toy ride is one of my favorite December traditions. Because it’s been so wet, many bikes were out today to take advantage of the sun. Everyone smiled a bit longer and waved more boldly as our community was again together – out on the road.

These warmer, sunnier days remind me that spring will eventually be here. For now, it was great to enjoy the winter from the seat of my motorcycle. Maybe one of these days I’ll go out riding in the rain (by choice)!

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