Sunday, December 27, 2009
Speed Trials and Cold Finger Experiment #2
Thanks to warm temperatures and an overnight rain, I awoke this morning to find most of the foot of snow Mother Nature dumped on us last weekend gone. Plus, it was about 50 degrees and partly cloudy - with January a mere five days away, how could I not take my Yamaha out for a ride?
I called my CMA brothers Cameron and Duke to see if either one wanted to join me for a ride, but I couldn't reach either one. If I was going to ride solo, I at least wanted a destination. I thought about riding to Ocean State Harley Davidson in Exeter, but, after checking online, learned that they're closed Sundays.
So I decided to ride to Home Depot in North Kingstown (exciting, huh?). Although it was close to 50 degrees and I was wearing my insulated leather riding gloves, my fingers started to go numb and turn white after about 20 minutes of riding.
My purpose in going to Home Depot was to buy some "HotHands-2" hand warmers, the packets that you put inside your gloves or mittens. After taking them out of the packaging, you shake the packets, and then have to wait 15-30 minutes for the heat to activate. There is a Dunkin' Donuts next to that Home Depot, so I went inside and drank some hot chocolate while the HotHands heated up, and my fingers thawed out. Once I was ready, I put the gloves in my tool bag, and put the HotHands packets inside some insulated mittens.
The black ski mittens I had picked up for $10 won't win any style awards or "cool points" on a motorcycle, but if they keep my fingers from freezing, I'll deal with the geek factor. Besides, I felt like the Maytag repairman of motorcyclists today, since I saw not even one other biker during nearly 70 miles of riding today - well, unless you count the other kind of 'biker' (cyclist) who nodded at me.
For this "cold finger experiment," I wore no glove liners, only the mittens, which were plenty roomy enough for the heat packs, which I placed on the top sides of my fingers. I could feel some wind infiltration through the mittens, so I was pessimistic at first. But I was pleasantly surprised as my fingers, although not toasty warm, did not go numb or get cold for about one hour of sustained riding (at highway speeds, no less). I rode north from Route 102 in North Kingstown, to Route 2, Route 4, Interstate 95 and Interstate 295, finally getting off the highway at Route 7 in Smithfield, before getting back on the highway to return home. I really had not planned on riding that far or long, but the mittens/heat pack combo worked better than expected.
My thumbs were the first digits to get cold, and I began to get some numbness/whiteness in my fingers after 75 minutes of riding, but that's a lot better than only 20 minutes of useful riding time with my so-called winter motorcycle gloves. If the mittens were made of heavy leather or suede, I think they would be even more effective, especially in combination with some thin neoprene glove liners (perhaps for my next experiment). By the time I finished my ride, the temperatures were in the mid-40s.
For a change, my fingers were not the weak link in the cold this ride - it was my legs. It was kind of damp out, so the moisture didn't help. I do have leather chaps, but I have never worn them - for me, they conjure up that "Village People" image I can't wrap my mind around. It's amazing how deeply the cold penetrates your leg muscles when you're only wearing jeans. Thank God my apartment has a gas fireplace; I pressed my thighs and calves against the glass of the fireplace for a quick thawing out. I may follow up with a hot shower for good measure.
Today's ride was also a test of the fuel system cleaner, Sea Foam, I put in my bike's gas tank a few days ago. Until today, I had not had a chance for a real test ride, although I did notice on the day I added it that it improved my bike's rough idle. As soon as I began to ride my bike, I noticed that it ran as smooth as glass, and had better acceleration, even by my "seat of the pants" dyno.
Whereas before, my bike would only reach a top speed of about 65-70 m.p.h. and seemingly took forever to get there, today, it accelerated to 75 mph more quickly (heck, I was even passing cars while going uphill on I-295), and topped out at 80 on level stretches of highway. That's a 10-15 m.p.h. improvement in top speed from just one tank of gas treated with Sea Foam. This stuff really is as good as they say. And I've read a second tankful produces better results. I'm sold already.
So all in all, it was a good day riding, and the experiments with my bike and riding gear were fairly successful. Next time I go out, though, I will wait until the roads are dry. I wore a full-face helmet and kept having to wipe my face shield due to drizzle kicked up by the cages, so visibility was definitely a problem. When I stopped to get gas, I left my helmet on, and just before I got back on my bike, I grabbed one of those squeegees with windshield washer fluid and used it on my helmet's face shield, while it was on my head. I hope nobody captured that on video and put it on YouTube ...