By on November 22, 2016

2015 Kawasaki ZX-14R, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

For the time being, we can still call it “Indian Summer.” Maybe not for much longer — my alma mater, Miami University, bent the knee to social-justice pressure on this issue a few years ago. We had been the Miami Redskins, but after a prolonged siege by the forces of manufactured outrage the university agreed to change us to the Miami Redhawks. It is worth noting that the Chief of the Miami Tribe in no way objected to the old logo or name; he thought it was used in a reasonable and dignified manner. But when faced between the choice of respecting the opinion of an actual Native American or listening to the incoherent babble of their own privileged white-girl hearts, Miami’s students of course chose the latter.

I kind of like the bird they chose — it looks angry, although to my mind it is not distinct enough from the Bowling Green Falcon, and that’s a shame because BG is an emphatically third-rate university and Miami is only second-rate. Angry is good. It’s easy to picture such a red hawk flying above the muted palette of the Ohio late fall forest, two-lane roads with orange and red leaves disconnected from stems by a killing morning frost then resurrected in impromptu whirling whorls set to spinning above the tarmac by the Vettes and ‘vertibles of all sorts, the lumbering Harleys and white-trash sportbikes and adventure-cuck bikes taking brief but permitted nonsense trips to nowhere. We can get these magical weekends every once in awhile, right at the end of the season, and this past Saturday was the perfect example — 76 degrees and a panoply parade of pleasure vehicles out for the last sorties of the year.

Now it’s 28 and I’m the only bike on the road to work this morning, flash-frozen on the freeway, every joint hurting and the tires chilled to a sort of bitter truce with the road surface, chittering at the hint of a lean.

It’s only stubbornness that drives me; that, and a desire to save $18 a day in downtown parking fees. Maybe I’m an idiot for insisting that I ride to work in the winter. Certainly I have a limit; as soon as there’s ice on the ground, it’s time to drive a proper snow-tire-shod car. I no longer leave that up to chance, or up to friends. I’ve had snows for both the Accord and Fiesta waiting and mounted for that moment.

My friends and co-workers don’t hesitate to share their opinion of my wintertime riding with me, and it’s never complimentary. We’ve never quite extirpated that self-flagellatory impulse from the American psyche, but in our Godless present it can only be accepted when it presents in certain palatable forms. If I told my co-workers that I’d signed up for a “tough mudder,” to run through steaming, bacteria-and-feces-laden muck in the cause of adding imaginary dignity to what would otherwise just be like the 5k races that I used to do most weekends before my knees signed off for good a decade ago, they’d certainly approve of that. But the idea of deliberately subjecting myself to a frozen 40 minutes, to get on the bike knowing that I am going to suffer — that upsets them. Without the secular god of Physical Fitness to bless this sacrifice, it starts to seem a little unsettling, more monastery than Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy. What if I am spending some of that time thinking about my sins in this world? Wouldn’t I basically be Osama bin Laden at that point, only in the service of the somewhat less acceptable religion of Christianity?

I should tell them that freezing your quadriceps to 28 degrees for half an hour has been proven to build dense muscle fiber. Then they would accept it, unquestioning. The next week, we’d see a line of motorcycles outside the office. Then we’d probably get CrossFit involved somehow. We could all post personal records. It would be great. We could do a “color run” together. There is no activity in 2016 that is entirely safe from the infantilizing influence of feminine consumer culture. Pretty soon the Marine Corps will have to put strings of light bulbs up in the barracks like they do in the Lumineers videos.

Yet for all my sullen kvetching, I must admit that it’s perfectly reasonable to not ride a motorcycle below, say, 50 degrees. Maybe even 60. What bothers me is this: This past Saturday, I saw dozens of motorcycles, hundreds of coupes, convertibles with the tops down, that sort of thing. Yet my commuting experience in July is often much like my commuting experience in January; I’m the only motorcycle on the freeway. When I take my Boxster and put the top down, I’m almost always the only person doing so.

The Midwest buys a lot of bikes, a lot of convertibles and a lot of sports cars. But you never see them. You can drive through the neighborhoods around my house and see anything from an old 911SC to a brand-new Z06, all of them used for the same purpose: impromptu garage shelving. They sit thick with dust and neglect, or buried beneath car covers. While the fellows who own them are sitting alone in their Grand Cherokees or X5s, stacked with five other fellow-travelers in the line for Starbucks.

I am not ignorant of how this happens. My father once told me that “you make your habits, then your habits make you.” He was just trying to explain to me why I shouldn’t sleep until 11 on the days I didn’t work, but there was a larger message behind it. If you make a religious habit out of exercise or helping the homeless or knocking out 5,000 words a week, you will have inertia on your side. You will keep going until you are stopped. This is how successful people become successful. As my favorite blogger, “The Last Psychiatrist,” once said: If you want to know what you are training yourself to become, look at your watch. See what you do with your time.

So the motorcycle and sports-car owners of the Midwest spend all winter training themselves to drive an SUV. Then they realize that spring has come and it’s time to drive the Porsche or ride the Ninja. They make a plan to do it. But something gets in the way. And before you know it, we’re looking at June or July. It gets hot here. Uncomfortable. No reason to fire up the Vette right now. Wait until fall. Then it’s October. No sense getting all that stuff off the car just to drive it for a month.

Then that one weekend arrives, the 70-degree gift. Everybody panics. Swap out the battery, wipe off the cobwebs, inflate the tires. Get out there and drive, ride, enjoy yourself, compress the whole year’s worth of driving days into a single weekend. Then pack away for the winter and start training yourself to be an SUV driver again.

On those fateful Saturdays, I can allow myself to feel something other than alone. I am in the kinship of car people, bike fanatics, a whole world of people for whom wheeled transport applies to the soul as well as the body. Then I wake up the next day and it’s as if that holiday never happened.

We can try to convince ourselves that automotive enthusiasm has a future in the electric, autonomous future of the car. And there are moments where it feels like that might indeed happen. But it’s only that Indian summer, you see. The future is anonymous, anodyne, androgynous. Modular. Agile bench seat depersonalized. I see it coming but I have no plans to go quietly. You’ll continue to see me on the road. I hope to see you out there as well. Wheel up, rev limiter, top down, full throttle, in that summer state of mind.

[Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars]

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88 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: The Final Flurry After The First Flurries...”


  • avatar
    pragmatist

    I’ve got a 47 Jeep CJ2A, no top, windows or doors. I understand.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Thank you for this – really, this resonates today, and I needed to hear it. I recently turned 40 and the normal depression bit harder than usual. Genetics can really suck sometime. I’ve been trying to figure some things out, dig out of few holes of my own making, and learning to do something other than work. Trying to find pleasure and purpose has been elusive for a long time. Setting goals has never been a strength. Your words mean a lot for me today Jack. Its taking that first step, repeating, and than having that “inertia on your side.” Be well.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    Guilty. My Miata has been nothing but a shelf for over four years. Kids, rust, work, a small electrical fire..yeah, all excuses.

    $250 and a day of archaeology would probably get it back on the road. I need to dedicate a few weekends this winter to it.

    Unless you’ll let me borrow the Boxster…

    • 0 avatar
      qfrog

      My NA is a bit less roadworthy than yours. I’d probably trade places with you if I had the chance. I’ve tasked myself with installing a stock fuel tank bubble with NB sheet metal (can’t buy an NA piece) due to the previous owner’s speaker box living where the fuel tank belongs. Fear not, the fuel tank became a 15 gallon ATL unit installed with four 6mm screws in the trunk, where the floor was. Naturally dynamat & drywall screws were used aplenty. The install was so well thought out that the soft top didn’t close all the way and the fuel filler opening had nothing to prevent water from just draining into the trunk. SMRT vry SMRT. I had to design a new trunk floor in CAD and LRB was kind enough to water jet my design into existence. This weekend I’m going to try to finish installing the bubble over the tank so when it warms up I can install the LE5 engine swap. I’ve owned the car since Apr ’15 and never driven it, probably because I bought it without an engine to do an engine swap because that sort of thing ticks my boxes.

      I see no reason why you shouldn’t finish first.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    The old saying rings true, “If you have to explain WHY, they won’t understand the answer.”

    I used to ride my street bikes for as long as possible. My last dirt bike was street legal and ice racing tires meant that it was used all winter long. It was fun to race sleds or ride on a sled trail along side a highway and keep up or pass traffic.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    A fine piece afflicted by some thoroughly unnecessary discordant notes:

    – Defensiveness over a mascot change that was the only minimally civilized thing to do, and resulted in a better mascot in any case (and please look around a bit more with respect to Native American opinions of “redskin”).

    – “adventure-cuck”: What is this even supposed to mean, other than “I read Breitbart and think it’s cool?”

    – “in the service of the somewhat less acceptable religion of Christianity”: Sure, whatever. The country’s dominant religion, practiced by a large majority, is less acceptable than the views of a guy we spent some millions to kill in a bunker half a world away. Seriously, the whining and victim complex have gotten way out of hand.

    A shame as both the point and the rest of the writing are excellent.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      adventure-cuck: a motorcycle owned because it is acceptable to your wife. Typical features: low-power engine, upright riding position, no chance of attracting thong-wearing skanks at Daytona Beach.

      I don’t think Andrew Breitbart rode a motorcycle.

      As far as the Redskin mascot change, that was ridiculous and represents cry-bully culture to the fullest. What’s going to happen when people start identifying as hawks outside cosplay? Will we have to change the mascot again? Will we be just the plain “red”? But won’t that offend people who believe in the divinity of Mao?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Andrew Breitbart, who was genuinely egalitarian if often wrong in other ways, would have been horrified at the racist and anti-Semitic cesspool that his site became under Steve Bannon’s leadership. If you don’t think the site’s frequent use of “cuck” (which gave rise to all the other uses of the term today) has a racial subtext, you’re not paying attention. Milo, who really popularized it, admits to being racist.

        And your slippery-slope argument on the name change may be the least convincing I’ve ever read. Hawk cosplayers can get back to us after most of their number have been killed or enslaved by a colonizing power.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I think the thing with the team name is not liking it when it’s changed because someone got offended on someone else’s behalf.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            And if Jack looked at a representative sample of Native American opinion on “redskin” rather than just one guy whose view he likes, he would have discovered that those affected directly were complaining just as much.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          “Milo, who really popularized it, admits to being racist.”

          Please provide 1oz of evidence that Milo “admits being a racist”

          Repeating posts from TPM website is not proof….

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’m not going to link to Breitbart, but Milo himself spent pages defending naked white supremacy as “natural conservatism” in his alt-right apologia earlier this year. If you admit to white supremacist views, you’re admitting to racism.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          “I’m not going to link to Breitbart, but Milo himself spent pages defending naked white supremacy as “natural conservatism” in his alt-right apologia earlier this year. If you admit to white supremacist views, you’re admitting to racism.”

          Total nonsense, Please stop with the slander, you don’t like Breitbart, we get it but the stretch to “White Supremacy is totally ridiculous…..

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The entire thesis of Milo’s article is that white people have been prevented from coalescing and advocating for communities that reflect their values at the exclusion of others, and that that’s a bad thing. If that’s not white supremacy, then you’ve dumbed down white supremacy to nothing, or maybe to a few irrelevant people dancing around in sheets.

            It simplifies without omission to “white people have better values and should be allowed to enforce them.”

        • 0 avatar
          raisingAnarchy

          “Cuck” is definitively NOT a racist term. Why is everything racist now? Every action or use of language that could be considered offensive is racist, even when a specific race is not targeted.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            ‘“Cuck” is definitively NOT a racist term.’

            Well, yes and no. It’s not a racist term, but it’s a term oft used by racists. If I hear it used by someone, it’s a great canary for that person’s being either a burgeoning or fledged Nazi.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            So not admiring cowed white men is now an act of racism? Is that how sorry progressive reasoning has become? What if it is a black man that doesn’t like cucks? Is he racist?

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “So not admiring cowed white men is now an act of racism”

            That’s missing the point. “Cuck” isn’t racist, but it’s a term used almost exclusively by bigots. Like “SJW”, it pretty much allows the listener to disregard the rest of the person’s argument.

            You used to be be able to do this with “Nazi”, but now that we have actual, heiling, booed-Indiana-Jones Nazis strutting, err, goose-stepping in Washington, it’s no longer the rhetorical canary it used to be.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “Cuck” as it’s used by these people originated from a subgenre of porn where stereotypical white men get humiliated by stereotypical black men. The term is inseparable from old-fashioned racial attitudes.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        “It is worth noting that the Chief of the Miami Tribe in no way objected to the old logo or name; he thought it was used in a reasonable and dignified manner. But when faced between the choice of respecting the opinion of an actual Native American or listening to the incoherent babble of their own privileged white-girl hearts, Miami’s students of course chose the latter.”

        Right – b/c one or some native Americans speak for all the others (many who are offended by the term); sure you can find African-Americans who don’t object to the N-word, doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive or have a negative connotation.

        On its face, the term is offensive, just as the term “blackskins” would be.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “adventure-cuck” – I thought that meant “pr!ck on an adventure bike”.

        “in the service of the somewhat less acceptable religion of Christianity”

        I take that to mean that with the advent of rampant political correctness, every belief/religion rates higher than Christianity when it comes to rights.

        BUT ” is less acceptable than the views of a guy we spent some millions to kill in a bunker half a world away” is incorrect.

        Anyone who spends any time trying to understand the mess involving the Middle East and Islamic fundamentalism knows that the USA for the most part contributed to creating the mess and then made it much worse. This goes back to the early 1950’s in Iran.

        • 0 avatar

          Sayid Qutb, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, visited the United States as a student in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and was appalled by what he considered lewd and licentious behavior (at a church social in Greeley, Colorado of all places – and his comments about blacks can only be described as racist). Islamic fundamentalism predates the CIA engineered coup against Mossadeq in Iran.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “Islamic fundamentalism predates the CIA engineered coup against Mossadeq in Iran”

            Inasmuch as the smouldering ashes predated the gasoline poured on it.

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          Since you are so worldly and knowledgeable, please explain how a coup in a Persian country in the 1950s caused Salafi in the 1700s. You are aware that Persians and Arabs are not the same thing, nor are Sunnis and Shia Muslims, correct?

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Unnecessary indeed. Nevermind debating the whether the content is offensive, it’s too much of a tangent from the point of the story. You could delete the first two paragraphs and make no other changes, and it would be a better piece of writing.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    My biggest problem with riding my motorcycle to work in the winter was that Texas winter is lame… It will be below freezing in the morning, and like 70 in the afternoon so I end up with a backpack full of warm clothing on the ride home.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Givi topbox on a rack off the tailpiece. Works wonders.

      I’ve usually found that winter morning clothes can be quite bearable in the mid afternoon by the judicious opening of a few zippers. Usually, those at the sleeves and opening the neck about six inches.

      I do find it annoying to have to pack two different sets of gloves every day, though.

  • avatar
    analoggrotto

    My sports car : 10k miles
    My pickup truck : 110k miles (its about a year newer)

    But there are some solid reasons behind this. So, no bike for me.

    Nicely written article.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I don’t ride much to work because my choices are either:

    1) Take I-94 through the city of Detroit, which is suicidal on two wheels and I don’t have the stones, or

    2) an alternate route around the city which can nearly triple the time it takes for me to get to/from work.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    When I live in the midwest I rarely took my bike or convertible out because the roads there are flat, straight, and lame.

    Now that I live someplace interesting I get them out much more often because there are fun and interesting roads that run everywhere. A jaunt to the grocery store is a curve extravaganza.

    Bikes on the freeway are no fun when it’s warm, and even less fun when it’s chilly. If I’m going to be on the big roads I’ll just take the car where there is a radio, a cup holder, a roof to keep the rain off, and a comfy seat to lean against. I don’t care if this makes strangers think I’m soft.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I don’t mind riding on the interstate. I’m able to cut a good amount of time out of my commute on the bike just from not having to wait behind anybody. Plus I have nice squiggly bits at both ends. Chicken strips = nonexistent.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        I also have a ~1.5 mile commute with free parking, so it’s truly faster to take the car because I don’t have to bother with helmets and gear.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          At a mile and a half, I’d have one of my Raleigh 3-speeds out instead. At that distance, internal combustion is totally optional.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Indeed. Hell, for a healthy adult male that’s a 20 minute walk. I think I walked more on each leg of my NYC subway commute.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Yep. I walk the 3 miles to and from work fairly often. (Although I have good sidewalks the whole way and it may not be as safe for everyone.)

        • 0 avatar
          baggins

          you drive 1.5 miles each way everyday? I’d think walking it (30 mins each way) or riding a bike (8 minutes each way at a leisurely pace) would be preferable,at least for the majority of days

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    Most excellent.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I don’t blame them. I ride about 5K of the 20-25K miles a year I travel on the road, and I enjoy it, but only because I have the commute of the gods (choice of an interstate or several back road adventures) and a good 9-10 month long riding season. I have too much stuff to do on the weekends to go for a ride to nowhere, and if I did I’d rather do a track day. If not for the stars aligning for me in this way I’d have sold the bike long ago.

    The question ultimately is: is there an inherent value in making a point to drive a sports car? In my experience, no. A sports sedan is pretty fun and way easier to live with on a daily basis, and most people have crappy commutes + no time for “Sunday drives”.

    FWIW my low temperature limit for riding is ~50. Thankfully parking at my job is free.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Not an alum, don’t live in Ohio, so I’ve got no skin in the deal, but Miami at Oxford is ranked with some pretty stout names in this list:

    http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/undergraduate-teaching

  • avatar
    Syke

    Thanks for making me feel like a wimp.

    At 23 this morning I decided at the last minute to hell with the winter riding gear and took the Fiat to work. To the derision of a couple of my co-workers who were expecting to see the Triumph Sprint I picked up over the weekend, even trading my Honda Super Hawk for it.

    OK, back on the bike tomorrow morning. It just didn’t feel right today to take a car when the roads were clear and the sun was shining.

    Besides, I was feeling smug after this weekend. Finally, another T3 Triumph to replace the one I lost two years ago T-boning that deer, and I finally figured out how to mount Givi bags on my Harley Superglide. Which means I can swap setups between the Triumph and the Harley as needed.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Dude! I’d have made you an offer on that VTR.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        I’ll keep a watch on it. It was a trade to an old riding buddy who, back in ’98, with myself and another lady were the only people in the Richmond area riding Hinckley Triumphs. He’ll hang on to it for a short while, do an insanely anal tuneup and checkover of it, and then quietly put out the word that it needs to make room. After all, it’s not a Triumph.

        29k on the bike, I was the third owner, and until this past Friday it had never left the Honda/Yamaha dealership when I still occasionally work.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Best of luck ever getting winter tires on a bike. Do any dark siders (or whatever the term was, not a biker) use a snow tire on the back?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

      While I’ve ridden with 1/2″ of sleet on the windscreen, I’m still watching the road surface to ensure its wet, not frozen. There’s no effective way to keep two wheels up on ice – and if you do hit the occasional icy patch your only alternative is back off the throttle beforehand, lock the elbows so you’re going straight ahead, hold your breath and stay still as you cross the patch.

      And try not to piss yourself.

      Ice racer tyres are for madmen. And ice racers. Same difference.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        While I hope to do some ice racing on four wheels if nearby lakes freeze thick enough, doing the same on two just sounds like a great way to dislocate all of my most expensive joints.

        Plus, riding a motorcycle with such heavy nuts as would be required does not sound comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Ice racing is a blast. Properly set up, you have better grip than on dirt.

  • avatar
    ajla

    It is 76 degrees here right now.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Our Indigenous persons week of warm fall weather, came about 2-months ago and I got a couple last of the season rides in on the old FJ1200. About plus 7C is as cold as I’ll go now, as I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on clothes to extend the riding season by maybe 1-week on either end. The wife would be quite happy if I replaced the FJ with a Miata, TR6, convertible Mustang. But a bike is a bike and a car is a car (some might say cage).

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Yep. Which is one of the reasons why I got so quickly disillusioned with my Solstice. It was inferior to my 924S, and even with the top down it was no motorcycle.

      And having finally gotten a roadster and discovering the above, that urge was out of my system forever. The current Abarth cabrio does the job well enough when I either need or desire to drive four wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      You ever decide you want to sell that FJ, you let me know, alright?

  • avatar
    stevelyon

    I ride all but about three months out of the year, when the roads here are too icy or sand/gravel covered. I’ve got 4 motos of various types, and I’ll ride in any weather. I’m thinking of putting studded tires on my Honda Grom so I can ride that in the off months.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    This article hits home for me.

    Back when I worked an office job, I had no car, so for as long as the weather allowed – and by that I mean when it was legal to ride a motorcycle (March 15-December 15), I did. At the limit once I came out of work to find my TL covered in snow. Had to borrow a friend’s snow brush before I could make the highway commute home during a snowfall. At one point, upon pulling away from a light, I gently fed in the clutch, only to find out it was fully engaged in first gear but the bike was still stationary. Between the complete lack of traction, and the inability to see through a frozen visor, I learned that I’d pushed a little too far.

    But otherwise, cold, rain, and rush hour traffic didn’t stop me from taking my sport bikes to work. When I got the VFR with its hard bags, ABS, and automatic fast-idle, I thought I was living a life of luxury. Coming to work soaking wet occasionally didn’t bother me much. There’s something to be said of being forced to feel a little uncomfortable once in a while; it teaches you that the small stuff really isn’t such a big deal.

    Now I have a winter/beater car, and I only drove even my convertible 2k miles this year. What Jack says about habits is spot-on.

  • avatar
    mustang462002

    Thanks Baruth what an excellent piece. Been thinking of riding for a long time, but always been scared. Might be the right time to do it.

  • avatar
    tbone33

    So what’s the bike? I love the analog-heavy gauge cluster. Does the LCD panel also give you the cockpit’s interior temp, or just the outside temp?

    People that don’t ride in the winter are wimps. No matter how cold it gets, I’m a year-round rider here in San Diego.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “Outside” temp is funny, right?

      Sir, that motorcycle is my new baby, the indomitable “zef” chariot, the Kawasaki ZX-14R.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        oh, man. so much nicer than an “eye abuser” , good for you man.

        ive learned “ride your own ride” i caught lots of crap 30 years ago riding an 80cc honda that did just fine- so fine i bought a $300 salvage and rode that for a couple years.

        ive had honda helixes, a suzuki burgman 400, and a yamaha TMax500 that is more fun than anything.So comfortable and stable.

        Ive also owned an EX500 Kawi that i miss a lot. no storage but more fun and 14 awesome years.

      • 0 avatar
        tbone33

        Great choice! I’m not a modern Kawasaki fan, but your new bike is a lust-worthy exception.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    First, I’m a motorcycle rider too, and I try to extend my riding season as much as possible by using heating grips and a heated liner. To me, the limiting factor isn’t the cold..it’s the tires.

    Which is why I find your article and riding when it’s very cold odd. Didn’t you nearly kill yourself and some loved ones in a winter car accident with a car that had tires ill suited to the job? It would seem that you’d have intimate insight i0nto how tires begin to perform poorly as temps drop. This seems more so with motorcycle tires, even with the best sport touring tires on offer. I thought because of your past experience you’d be in a better position to save you from yourself. I guess not.

    At least in Europe, you can buy winter scooter tires that are very much like our car winter tires. I wonder if more sizes of winter tires for motorcycles will be on offer here?

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    Here in Maine I saw a MINI Cooper with the top down a couple of weeks ago at 40 degrees. Windows up, probably with the heater blasting.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      i used to roll my 81 VW rabbit convertible with top down, windows up, heat blasting down below.

      so nice to know you can. its a great choice. its like being able to see the world with a snugli blanket down there

  • avatar

    A convertible you say?

    The machine shop says the block for the Elan’s Twin Cam is rebuildable. The goal is to rebuild the engine while taking the body off of the frame and doing other stuff that doesn’t cost money. I’ve done the math, a running Twink with Webers is worth $5,000-$10,000, and it won’t cost me anything near that to do the rebuild since I already own it (having paid $1,500 in 1974 dollars for the whole car). Since I can’t be upside down on it, I’ll put the money into the engine. Once the engine’s done, as long as the frame is straight, I’ll try to get it back to running, not restored condition. Maybe I’ll be finished in time for my older grandson to drive. He’s 4 1/2.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think it’s just part of getting old.

    When I bought my Triumph Spitfire 20+ years ago, I drove the wheels off the thing from the time the roads finally cleared in March until nearly Christmas, here on the coast of Maine. And at one point 10-12 years ago I owned three convertibles, the Spitfire, an Alfa Spider, and a Saab 900T. But I just have less and less interest in open air driving unless conditions are perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. The Spitfire left the garage maybe 10 times this year. Partially due to an extremely busy work year that kept me far from home way too much, but also just because if it is too hot or too cold I just don’t find it enjoyable anymore. I’ll always have a convertible, and plan to keep one at my winter place in FL too once that plan comes to fruition, but the days of using one as a general daily driver are probably behind me.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    What a great read Jack ;
    .
    I’m well pleased to hear that your knitted bones don’t hurt too much to allow riding in the extreme cold .
    .
    I don’t know if it was habits or just old age and too many injuries creeping up on me but the pains all over began to make Winter riding too painful so I slowed down then stopped .
    .
    I still like to drive with the window open but 50° F now means no Motocycling for me that day .
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      nate- you really might want to try scootering. japanese scooters are worth a look. ive owned many from mostly honda, but a suzuki and a yamaha as well im currently riding.

      bikes are overrrated.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        _Maybe_ .
        .
        The tiny wheels used in Scooters makes them inherently tippy and dangerous .
        .
        I’ve known about way too many accidents .
        .
        I have and enjoy riding, Tiddlers ~ I have quite a few old Honda 90 C.C. models I love to ride, they all have 17″ wheels .
        .
        I’ve seen some Scooters (? Yamaha ?) that had two side by side front wheels… odd looking but the Rider was grinning like a bird fed cat .
        .
        -Nate

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Been there.

    Three days ago…on the V-Strom. Sudden snow showers when riding through Bonner on Montana 200.

    The weather here has been colder but dry, the local brief whiteout aside. But…my years are adding up and my resources are shrinking. Riding as transportation is one way to combine fun with pleasure, frugality with sport. No, one doesn’t save gobs of money by riding. But when one DOES ride, the rider DOES save money by actually using his equipment.

    My cutoff has become ice on the pavement. Freezing temperatures are annoyance; but far greater, in this university town, is the annoyance of the mindless, faux-California TRAFFIC, all out of proportion to our population.

  • avatar
    don1967

    With help from a batwing fairing (it’s all about the knuckles) my riding season continues for as long as temps remain above freezing and there’s no white stuff on the ground. Sadly, I ran out of both this week so my Yamaha has been tucked away.

    Glad to see leftists finally being called out on their overuse of “ist”, “phobic”, and other PC labels as a means of shackling every debate. Strawman arguments and ad-hominem attacks are not signs of intelligence; they are signs of laziness.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I could’ve taken the bike today, it was a pleasant 35 degrees as opposed to 27 this mourning, but my car needs an oil change and I need to pick up packages. Grrr, its already gotten a dusting on it too, time to put it away. I live in Mass and I don’t have a garage at my apartment, so I’m not seeing that thing until next April.

    I didn’t realize it till I read some of your other articles but I got the same bike as your wife, a blue and white R3, my first bike in August and I love it. Same performance roughly as my Challenger and still highway usable but with a low ceiling on the bad idea speed. And much much more comfortable to sit on than the Ninja 300.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    While out running on a beautiful day with moderate temps and sunshine I am always amazed to see so many convertible drivers leaving their tops up as they go by. Why pay extra for a rag top if you almost never put the top down? When I had my Corvette convertible the top almost never went up – it was particularly exhilarating to go top down with temps in the 20s-30sF – just crank the heat and side windows up and enjoy the nature!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Reminds me of my childhood: We had a Welsh psychiatrist living down the street from us, his daily driver was a mid-60’s MGB. With tonneau cover. My father would be amazed that he never put the top up, even in Johnstown, PA winters.

      Many years later, having had multiple occasions to help put up a MGB top, I understood the reason why.

      In the summer, he’d switch over to a Honda 305 Dream. Which he use to jump the stream in front of his house and cut thru the front yard, as taking the driveway was the long way around.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Day later follow-up: Properly shamed by Jack, I’m back to the scooter for work (I discovered long ago that as long as you don’t have to go faster than 55mph on the daily commute, a motorcycle-class scooter beats a real motorcycle six way from Sunday). Happily discovered that my new winter jacket does just fine in 24 degree weather at 50mph. The lighter pair of overpants still do their job (if I had one of the three motorcycles, I’d probably have worn the heavier bib pair), and the new gloves are OK . . . . . little bit of frosty fingertips by the shop parking lot. Will have to check later today at employee pricing of pair of electric gloves. Add a balaclava under the full face helmet, and everything’s fine.

    Bring on winter and dry roads!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I rode a 150cc scooter for about 2 years when I had a 20 mile round trip commute. Did it everyday unless it was raining or snowing. It get’s dang cold in NM.

      Props to Syke for still doing it. It’s definitely not something you do to impress other people, it’s something you do for love of two wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        ” It’s definitely not something you do to impress other people, it’s something you do for love of two wheels.”.
        .
        _This_ ~ I used to always take New years morning rides into the local Mountains because the roads were always empty .
        .
        As I’d shiver along the road I’d always ask my self ‘ how much do I really like this, no one here to impress ?’.
        .
        “Hippo Hands” (I have copies) look goofy but really help.
        .
        -Nate

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Our HR Director drives a previous gen 200 convertible every day to work and the top is almost always down and she leaves it down all day parked as well. If it rains she does make the effort to put the top up, but that is rare.

    I drive the Cobra to work on nice days when I don’t have to drop the kids off at school. I have also driven it on the mountain roads with snow on the side. One year a friend was up from Oklahoma and we went for a ride. It was a slow ride since it was snowing pretty heavy and there was already 4″ of snow on the road. No plows or salt yet that day but it was cold.

    I have not ridden a motorcycle on the road in snow though. Off road it can be a blast until the front tire rides high on the snow and washes out.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I fully intended to let this article inspire me to drive the S2000 this morning. Even parked the DD off to the side so I could get the S out of the garage. Alas, it was about 35 and raining today in Chicagoland, and I still have the Direzzas on the S. So it stayed in the garage. I’ll take it out this weekend if the rain goes away.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    While I could do without some of the silly pontification at the beginning, the overall theme of the article is on point. Between 2006 and 2012, I was riding my mountain bike at least 2 days a week and up to 5 days a week depending on schedule, weather, etc. I became a dad, moved, and work started piling up from 2013-2015. I was making it out a couple times a month during the summer and fall seasons only. This past year I decided I was going to start riding again. I don’t let imperfect weather stand in the way. I have a bike for basically every scenario so I can cook up some hours in the saddle even if time is tight. I’ve averaged 2 rides a week, covered over 1300 miles (900 miles since August), and climbed Everest 3 times between my mountain, gravel, and road bike. I threw the lights on the mountain bike last night and rode 1.5hrs in temps that started in the low 40s and ended up in the high 30s. And I loved every minute of it. The big test will be ensuring that I can maintain this pace through the dead of winter.

    Of course, I drive my FR-S 5 days a week, too. The 4Runner gets hauled out when the cargo or grip capacity exceeds what the FR-S can offer. I could definitely see myself falling into the trap of driving the SUV all the time and the fun car collecting dust. That is why that +2 part of the FR-S was important to me.

  • avatar
    John

    I’ve found an electric vest really, really helps when riding in sub-freezing weather.

  • avatar
    Whittaker

    The most interesting subtext of TTAC these days is how long Jack’s writing skills will delay his banishment at the hands of the perpetually offended warriors of tolerance.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Stupid “warriors” who feed him ammo with their clicks (special one-time dispensation for me).

      Let his writing die in a wheelchair abandoned in a corridor like his admirers soon will.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    So I have a choice today. I can either spend a few hours doing battle with a bunch of racists who don’t have the balls to admit they are racists, or I can spend time with my kids going t…

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Dad updated his Instagram today with pictures of the studded tires on his R1150GS. Now he’s ready for the winter. (above the arctic circle) he hasn’t owned a car since ’94, but he has three bikes (two GS’s and one RT) and a sailboat. He does own a tiny RV to function as a base in the summer when he tours the various mountians and dirtroads of the EU.
    He did like cars when he was younger but a car can apparently never give you that same ‘true’ experience. Although I do agree, I also hate wearing heavy motorcycle clothing and a helmet just to go for a drive, so I still dream of a roadster. Preferably a model A with an angry smallblock but i guess a super 7 style car or even a 356 replica on a beetle chassis will do.


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