1.30.2008,7:49 AM
Brave or stupid??
'Hmm.... Ride the bike or drive the truck?'

The wireless thermometer in my house indicated 24 degrees F outside at 4:15 this morning. The first thought in my head was to drive the truck. That was immediately overridden by 'Nnnnno'. But it was a slow 'No'.

The typical cold weather attire was topped off with a wool blend longjohn shirt and silk glove liners underneath the Triumph gauntlet gloves. I allowed extra time for the bike to warm up. Then geared up completely in the house before plugging the Wider vest's electrical coil into the Powerlet socket on the fairing. Turning the thermostat up to '5', the highest yet, I waited until I was wheeling down the drive to turn on the heated grips.

Not bad for a frigid morning until my fingertips started to get too cold. I flipped the switch to high for the fist time since the heated grips were installed over a year ago. In half and hour or so the grips were almost too hot, but my finger tips were not in danger of freezing anymore. Keeping a relaxed grip on the bars kept me from burning the palms of my hands.

With the balaclava pulled up over my nose in the helmet the visor had to be cracked open to avoid fogging. On the highway at speeds near 70 mph the wind into the helmet was enough that I could fully close the visor which kept my face warm.

As usual on my commute rides I kept an eagle eye on vehicles around me. Driving behaviour can reveal much about the driver's inherent personality as well as driving ability and conditions. I tend to mentally and systematically profile any driver near me that demonstrates aberrant driving behaviour. Why? Because I can strategically adapt my defensive driving when near them.

For instance, a truck in my lane in front of me this morning periodically veered over the dividing lines with one or two wheels. One time is excusable if overlap is marginal and quickly corrected. But several times rings alarm bells. After the second time wavering on both sides I concluded he was not attentive to his driving. Cell phone? Applying make-up? (yes, I have seen this more than once) Tuning the radio?

I increased following distance between us. When he changed lanes to my right without signaling I watched for the opportunity to roll the throttle open and pass on his left, keeping him in my peripheral vision. I cautiously passed him on the far left side of my lane and sure enough, he was wandering into my lane as I completed the pass.

I glanced inside the driver window to see an older Hispanic man with both hands rigidly placed on the steering wheel and facing straight ahead. Extrapolating from the condition of the truck -old, beat up, worn tires- I suspected he may not have a driver's license and/or insurance. The latter is very common here in Texas; the combination can be disastrous. "Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!"

I was concerned about drain on the battery with all the heated gear running at high, so I turned the vest off several miles from the train station and then the heated grips as I exited the highway. This reminded me of the need for a voltmeter on the dash to monitor battery charge and discharge. I've read that most bikes don't efficiently recharge their batteries until 5 rpm or over. I would like to monitor my battery status with all the modifications on my Whee. A voltmeter is on the list.

I sat on the bike waiting for my train with all gear on including my helmet with visor closed. It completely fogged up and all the lights in the dark looked like alien eyes with huge round and diffuse pupils. I snickered at this image with the cars entering and jockeying for parking spaces. Aliens with huge eyes running amok.

On the train one of the routine commuters tapped the armor inside my Joe Rocket Ballistic touring jacket and called me 'Ballistic Transformer'. Then he said, "I don't know if I should call you brave or stupid riding a bike in this damned cold weather."

I'm still trying to figure that one out myself.

Labels: ,

posted by Macrobe
Permalink ¤