NOT MY THING

By Gerde Applethwaite

gold-spray-paintWhen I was a kid my dad had this thing with gold spray paint.  His version of a clean tidy look for many of his tools and most of his garden equipment involved a drill with a wire brush attached and some sort of degreasing agent – all of it topped off with his can of gold spray paint. We had a gold lawnmower or two, gold shovels, gold hedge trimmers, a gold sledge hammer (just the weighty end) and on. On a warm Saturday, late morning, we would often smell throughout the house the second pot of coffee on the brew followed sometime not long after by the distinct noise of the spray can rattle – then the coffee aroma would be overwhelmed by the spray paint. I didn’t inherit his penchant for spraying everything up. My shovels are all a bit rusty on the blade ends and his looked like he had just come back in from a groundbreaking ceremony.  Not my thing.

Choppers and bobbers are not my thing. Scooters are also not my thing. I will support your right to ride a bobber until they pry the angled digital tire gauge out of my cold dead hands. Bobbers look comfy to me and I respect that – comfy works for me. Choppers simultaneously shout “hey, look at me” and “hey, what are you lookin’ at?”  The thing that I respect about choppers though is the amount of real fabrication craft on display with most of them. Scooters just scare me – those small wheels. I lean in another direction.

One of my favorite bikes is a custom made machine by O.Ray Courtney using a 1930 Henderson as a base. It is a jaw dropper of art deco excess and I saw it on Bikeexif a while back. What an incredible piece of sheet metal sculpture. I also like the looks of an old Parilla 250cc race bike for pretty much the opposite reasons; it is spare, cut down and devoted to nothing other than the race. The stuff, any of the stuff, cranked out by Germany’s Kaffeemaschine is fine by me. They specialize in, among other things, turning Tonti-frame Moto Guzzi’s into exquisite cafe bikes. Some will disagree. The thought of turning any Guzzi into a cafe bike sends them into paroxysms of spew.  To each their own.

On the West coast fabricators and the mechanically inclined have been puttering away in their garages all year long but in the East and Mid-West they have recently dug out of a cold tinker-inhibiting winter.  It’s time to get out the box of sockets, the angle grinder and the (god help us) can of gold spray paint to start modding out your ride. I like sitting out at a picnic table with blank paper and a sharpened pencil to hand, a cold IPA within reach and good company to tell me what they think I should be doing to the bike instead of whatever it is I have just sketched out. Good times.

Watch out for bloody knuckles. Do not reach for the spray can until you have found your dust mask, make sure your bike is properly propped up and most of all have a good time.

Gerde

 

 

SPRING BE SPRUNG

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Buy the gear, scooter people.

scoot1

In my neck of the woods the riding season really never ends but the warm weather has just now come on with a vengeance. The streets are filled with bicyclists, motorcyclists of all stripes and of course scooter people. Birds are chirping and squidly guys with yoshimuras are sending out their mating calls. Its time for me to do my yearly get-your-bike-ready post but before that a post with my obligatory quasi-rant about the under-clothed.

Not so long ago there was a guy in my neighborhood who rode a beat up old ninja. He sported tank top t-shirts  and a chrome beanie helmet. His major claims to fame were not his wardrobe choices but the fact he couldn’t seem to go for too many blocks before he popped a wheelie. He got quite good at it. He would go for blocks and run through lights. He isn’t around anymore. I don’t know where he is but my first guess involves a prone trip to the hospital.

Glaringly obvious to me as I wander our local highways and bi-ways are the number of scooter riders who are wearing no other safety gear than the mandated helmet. The scooter people by and large do not get it.  The vast majority of powered 2 wheel accidents occur at an overall average of 35 miles per hour. You are more likely to experience an unwitting and unwilling mating with someone else’s sheet metal if you are riding on the urban/suburban streets.

A scooter’s smaller wheels make them more skittish on the road than your average motorcycle.  Add to this the fact that idiots are still going to text their way into your scooter with their 4,000 pounds of steel – this trend shows no signs of diminishing. If you are out sooterating in your sandals and t-shirt and shorts you are just asking for it. It is at this point that I would inject my usual rant about the gear but I will forgo it for now because I bore myself with it at this point. Those of you who are out there riding free likely have more than a vague idea of the hazards. So, let’s just assume for a moment that I just gave you 5 or 6 well reasoned arguments to invest a little money in a jacket, gloves, pants and boots.

We have a nice assortment of these things and heck you’re here anyway – take a look

Gerde

SPRING THING

By Gerde Applethwaite

There are ritually repeated memes in moto blog posts; there are oil threads and there are tire posts and there are others of the same ilk that seem to keep the moto blogosphere arguing with itself about the proper course of action. They are well known enough that they are usually qualified with some eye rolling and apologies before the original poster commences. In a minor constellation there is the thread about whether or not to wash your bike. Welcome to this year’s celebration of Spring. Herein I will lean into the wind and signify next to nothing. Let’s commence.

wash2

I come down somewhere in the middle of the great unwashed thread. The anti-washites state that you are likely to contaminate your oil system by forcing your soapy water onto and into your bike’s parts. They also mention the likelihood of tweaking something in your electrics. Good points. The washists will tell you that dirt on your motor inhibits your engine from radiating out heat and adds to ongoing corrosion – oh, and it makes your bike look like crap. I agree that you should never take your bike to the wand car wash. The pressure is too great and you are likely to mess something up. Sure, take your dirt bike there and get the grunge off of the wheels and the frame of the bike but spray carefully when you get around the wheel bearings, the engine and the electrics. I use the common garden hose and a bucket of soapy water. I have never had a problem with this method but I am careful.

California is in the midst of a drought so there is yet another reason not to wash your bike at all. I think my compromise on this is going to be to ride out to a friend’s place in the near burbs, park the bike in the middle of their lawn and wash the thing with a green soap that the lawn will not dislike.

I have a project bike with a sad seat. It is in need of a reupholster but for this season I think I just want to get it back on the road and I will deal with the cosmetics bit by bit in the latter part of the season. My seat is not at the point where the foam beneath is being shredded but the vinyl is torn in places. Sewing up the seat while the seat cover remains on the bike is beyond my skill set. I have heard that they make a vinyl, adhesive backed, repair tape. I think that might be the ticket for right now.

I don’t mess around with tires. I mean, I don’t push it. When the tires are starting to go I put on new set. When I was a young, stupid and impoverished student I ran the tires on my CL77 down to the threads and lived to tell the tale but I am no longer young and (arguably) less stupid.  I don’t want to drop a lot of money into tires on the project bike and I have been told by other CB350 cultists that there is an inexpensive Shinko tire getting surprisingly good reviews. It will give me piece of mind to get these old tires off the Honda.

Wheel bearings and steering head bearings are a lot cheaper if you go to a bearing shop rather than the dealer for your parts. Some of the bearing shops will not sell you anything if you tell them the parts are for a motorcycle. Why? Dunno – maybe its a fear of being embroiled in some sort of litigation if you put them on incorrectly and then get into an accident. My steering head bearing is notchy – has to go.

I am going with a heated gear setup on the touring bike this fall and I am not sure that my alternator is sparky enough to keep up. This has led me to investigate LED headlights and taillights. The market is growing every month and an upgrade to LED’s is in my future. Check your state’s rules before you spring for an LED headlamp as some do not yet allow it.

I have just adapted my first aid kit to fit under the seat of the CB350. There is much less room  there than in the Flying Brick so I had to divide it up into two segments. I was still able to get it all under the seat.

Springtime is the official beginning of bike tinkering season.  I live for this time of year. Get on out there.

Gerde

 

Helmet Designs for Tomorrow – Today

By Gerde Applethwaite

Bell recently announced that they are designing a helmet with an EPS liner that can be custom shaped to your individual head. I do not know whether or not this will be more comfortable on a long ride but intuitively I would think so. It also seems that in the event of a crash it would distribute and cushion the impact across your head better than a traditional unit. This got me to thinking about the future of helmet design and what we might have in store.

I like the idea of a custom molded helmet liner but more than that I would like to have an off the shelf helmet with a D3O or Sastech liner. The molecular armor would be more effective than the ubiquitous EPS foam in helping insulate your head bone against the shock of an impact, albeit a bit more expensive. D3O makes a helmet liner but I have never seen one in a helmet.

Reebok is making a small electronic device called the Checklight that installs into football helmets. It determines the shock force of an impact and reads it out. That’s clever. The notion of having some more objective way to evaluate the extent of an impact after your crash might be useful to the folks in the ER and it also might give you pause to think before you jumped back on your bike after what you thought was a small get-off.

Fighter jet style heads-up displays are already being designed for motorcycle helmet use. They are an interesting idea but they are not for me. I don’t want anything in my visual plain that will in any way distract me from scanning the road although I would consider one that displayed a visual warning if, say, the oil pressure dropped suddenly or the water temperature rose suddenly on my bike.

Photochromic face shields are available on some new Bell and Shoei helmets and I intend to test them out sometime this Summer. I like the idea of a shield that will change its shade in response to the light but I don’t believe that the current photochromic shields are polarized. I would like to see the polarized shields become more available across product lines.

The state of helmet communications systems improves with every season. Not that long ago they were scratchy and sounded like a bad walkie talkie but today the sound is markedly better and you can also hook up your phone and music devices. Things will rapidly change and become more even more innovative with these systems – and quickly at that.

Helmet shell plastics technology only gets better with every passing season.  Carbon fiber and Kevlar are still only available in the more expensive offerings but as the manufacturing techniques develop further we will see carbon and Kevlar migrating into lower priced helmets. New types of helmet shell materials are right around the corner and these new materials make my first helmet seem like a real antique bucket.

If you have an older helmet I recommend that you take a look at some of the newer helmet designs – whether it be comm. systems, drop down inner shields or pinlock setups the future is now… or at least soon.

Gerde Applethwaite

New Gear Learning Curve

By Gerde Applethwaite

honda_classic2_CB125A neighbor on my block just bought a bike. Its his first bike and he chose well. The vintage Honda 125 will be perfect to allow him to build riding skills without worrying about the weight of a full-sized machine.  He goes to college and his rides will be a combination of commutes to school, trips to the store, to see friends and also rides in the hills. Rides to the gas station will be few and far between which is smart considering his student budget.

Here in California you have to wear a helmet so he popped for a flat black open face unit because he likes the retro look of the open face. He is talking about cafeing out the bike and the helmet will be part of the look. At some point down the road he wants to swap in a bolt-on cafe racer seat kit. Its going to cost him a bit over $200.

He rides in a denim jacket, jeans and street shoes. I have forgotten what he is using for gloves but if I recall when I last saw him ride off he wasn’t wearing any.  He was stoked about getting some retro goggles to help complete the whole cafe look.

He is a new rider and he is young. He doesn’t want to think about riding gear, he wants to think about the paint scheme for his cafe racer seat.  He is going to have to make a choice. Does he go for the cafe seat kit or does he delay that and go for a jacket and some riding boots? You know where I stand. One crash and he could be out not only the bike but the balance of a semester. The gear makes all the difference.

We have jackets, gloves and boots that will not break the bank and they will go a long way toward helping to keep you out of a cast. As you get more experience (and a bit more cash) you will want to upgrade your gear — get some armored riding pants that zip to your jacket or step up to a different jacket with, say, molecular armor. If you are a new rider you owe it yourself when you are out zipping around to talk to the other riders that you meet about the gear they ride with and why they chose it.

Gerde Applethwaite

Get-Offs In Slo-Mo

By Gerde Applethwaite

A guy falling off his motorcycleI was watching the Olympics a while back and the crashes of the downhill skiers caught my eye.  The slo-mo replays of somebody biffing it on a downhill run have some resonance with a motorcycle get-off. You got to see the way in which the body automatically, in the absurdly brief time available, attempts to set up for the fall.  Arms and legs splay akimbo but there is often just enough time to put out your hands or feet in a defensive posture.

The yootoobz be full of slo-mo viddys of motorcycle get-offs. They run the gamut from CCTV of Chinese scooter accidents on busy streets to wobbly Isle of Man TT high-sides or the fixed camera setups of weekend riders who go wide out of a turn on Mulholland. There is a similarity between many of the bike get-offs and the downhill skiing fly-offs. Basically, in both you have yer low-sides and yer high-sides. The low-side skiers (if they maintain consciousness and are fortunate enough to remain unbroken) are attempting to push against the slope in a braking maneuver. The high-side skiers, when slowed down enough, often have the look of an old slapstick cartoon where the poor boffo is swimming in air.  Also the high-siders will put an arm down to broach the distance between themselves and impending doom. Its an automatic reaction – skiers do it, skateboarders do it, bicyclists and motorcyclists too. If you watch professional football you will all too often see a receiver on the edge of the field catch a pass and then step one foot out of bounds to maintain balance. The pass is ruled ‘not a reception’ because you need 2 feet inbound at the time of the catch. The better players have trained themselves to drag that second foot keeping 2 feet inbound and just taking the fall. It is counter intuitive to just take the fall. The football players earn 6, 7 and 8 figure salaries and train for this sort of stuff constantly but on the day they will still, instinctively, put that foot out to brake the fall or prevent it.

I recently wrote a post about road rash and one of the pieces of information I decided not to include in that post (not because I deemed it uninteresting but in a rare attempt at keeping the post brief) was Dr. Flash Gordon’s* information about the ways in which infection can cause serious permanent damage to your body.  If you have a full thickness road rash on your hand or you have torn up the area around a joint be very careful; infections consequent to this can cause permanent damage to your hand.  So there you are in mid-air in the midst of your soon-to-be expensive high side as you and your CBR part company and you reflexively (in the micro-seconds afforded to you) stick one or both of your ungloved hands out toward the approaching pavement. You snap a wrist or two, tear open the skin and then pivot onto your t-shirt covered shoulder; some sliding …. and you stop – let’s say partially under a parked car. Just for the purposes of full disclosure I should say that something similar happened to me. The details are a bit different: it was a parked semi-tractor trailer, it was raining, and I was all ATGATT’d out but the sense is the same – one second you are riding blissfully along and then somehow you are the star of your own brief, slo-mo, get-off cartoon.

In a low-side you will quite often not have time to pull your leg from between the side of the bike and the pavement. This is an ugly sandwich. Its the luck of the draw whether or not you break your ankle and mangle toes. It really depends upon where your leg just happens to be, the shape of the bike, the terrain of the road bed and, not least, your foot wear. The skiers often have time and free room to do that kicking, braking, steering motion but even if you could it will be of little avail to you with one leg trapped under your bike. Maybe in your low-side the bike slides out ahead of you or off to the side – that could be lucky. You see it on the race track frequently enough – Rossi slides on his back at 80 MPH and lives to sign autographs later that day. I mean it could be lucky if your chosen path did not lead toward an impact with something that will mangle you. Good luck. I find it somewhat comical when I see a guy on a sport bike wearing shorts and a t-shirt but he has frame sliders installed on his bike. He is aware that a crash might happen and he has taken the time to install something that will help minimize the damage to his costy fiberglass but he has thought not one wit about what will happen to his body in the same scenario. DOH.

Women, you’re not out of this either. You think your jeggings and cute boots will protect you in a crash? It is to laugh. The pressure on women to look good while doing anything and while being anywhere is crazy-making. It discombobulates any reasoned approach to the purchase of riding gear. When I commuted to work by motorcycle I wore an old Air Force flight suit, helmet, gloves and boots. I kept a pair of shoes at work. My commute was fully suited out in protective gear but underneath I wore my work clothes. A Joe Rocket Survivor Suit is my current kit and it does the same duty. I really didn’t care all that much how I looked on the bike although I like the look of the Joe Rocket.  I wasn’t out there to look gooey nectar on my commute. These days I am astonished at the number of women who wear clothing that will do them less than no good when they are riding. She wears the helmet and a pair of leather garden gloves and no other protective gear. Believe me they will cut those pricey jeggings off of you in a heartbeat in the ER.

I used to like one particular Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach. The first time I showed up there to meet friends I was confronted just inside the front door by the maitre d’ who politely explained to me that there was a dress code and that my flight suit was not appropriate. I laughed and told him that I expected to check it and then started to doff the suit. Underneath I was wearing clothing acceptable to management and everybody was happy.  It is possible to plan an evening out on the town and still wear riding gear that will help keep you safe – they are not mutually exclusive. The maitre d’ got to know me and would make a comic flourish out of welcoming me when I came in. It was fun for us both.  Yes, my boots were a bit out of the norm but it became my look. Trust me, you can wear your motorcycle boots to the opera and as long as everything you are wearing is black you will get away with it just fine (note: boots with lotsa buckles can make a sound that is annoying to those sitting next to you.)

Take a look at the online videos of riders going down and make some reasoned decisions about how you want to look when you are the one staring up at the sky after a crash. Do you want to be she who is wearing very little riding gear and has to be carted off to the ER or do you want to extend the chances that you will not be carted anywhere and wear the ATGATT? There are ways to wear the gear that won’t inhibit your social life or your look.

*Note: Dr. Flash Gordon’s book Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists is available from White Horse Press.

 

Gerde Applethwaite

IJMS Conference – 2014 in Colorado

By Gerde Applethwaite

The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies is a group of folk who roll around in the research and the writing centered around things motorcycle [not to be confused with the International Journal of molecular Sciences – they do something on a quite different scale.]  If you go to the IJMS main site you will see all manner of really intriguing papers written by riders, some academics – some not. It is truly great stuff. Its not just for motorcycle journalists, the topics vary widely. I have burned up hours and hours reading really fascinating papers gathered under the IJMS rubric. I recommend it to all y’all.

This year the 2014 IJMS conference is going to be held in the States, in Colorado. If you can carve out the time in mid-July to make it to the conference I will see you there. I will not be presenting a paper (BTW, final submission date is march 1st)  but I will be attending as many panels as I can.

Check it out:

http://ijms.nova.edu/

https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1309315

See you in Colorado Springs,

Gerde Applethwaite

Road Pizza: A Most Unwelcome Roadside Treat

 By Gerde Applethwaite

“Once again I race toward Dr. Flash Gordon’s brilliant motorcycle
first aid book entitled Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for
Motorcyclists.  I suspect it is no coincidence that his first chapter
starts with road rash, pavement dermatitis.”

The Weather on the Left Coast at the time of writing is still mostly dry and mostly warm. In other parts of the country the cold havoc reigns supreme. The scooter evolution is in full swing here and for reasons somewhat beyond my understanding scooter riders seem to have a penchant for Teva’s and cargo shorts. The vast majority of motorcycle/scooter accidents occur at under 30 miles per hour. The bi-product of the under dressed and the over-accelerated is road rash or as we affectionately call it – road pizza (you will know why if you have ever seen it.)

Once again I race toward Dr. Flash Gordon’s brilliant motorcycle first aid book entitled Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists.  I suspect it is no coincidence that his first chapter starts with road rash, pavement dermatitis. This is a really common condition for the under dressed who ride – whether it be on bicycles, skateboards, scooters or motorcycles. What I wasn’t aware of were the complications that can ensue from an improperly treated road rash. Yeah, you should wear the right clothing and we sell the right clothing but for right now let’s just focus on a few select notions from Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear.

(Picture Taken from Wiki How)

You need to get as much of the dirt out of the wound as you can. Any leftover dirt can produce scarring at best and complications from a serious infection at worst. I knew a guy in high school who did a face plant while on his bicycle; he hit a poorly designed road grate. They didn’t get all of the gravel out of his road rash wound and years later you could still see the occasional dark bits of gravel on the side of his face. Sometimes a little chunk of gravel would work its way to the surface causing intense itching until it finally broke loose of the skin – some bits stayed where they were. The broken skin is incredibly sensitive to stuff like Betadine or even tap water. It alone will send your nerve endings howling. Saline solution is better.  Contact lens solution is actually good. I now carry a bottle of it under the seats of both bikes, along side the small first aid kit.  Again, this is thanks to having read the Flash Gordon MD. book/s. Read them – no foolin’. The idea in this first phase is to get as much of the dirt and germs out of the wound as possible. The longer the microbes party in your road pizza wound the more you will pay for it later. If all you have is tap water then use that – get the wound clean.

Yes, the next phase is to protect the wound. Dr. Gordon no longer recommends antibiotic ointments like Neosporin for this. I didn’t know this. I knew enough to try clean the wound but then my first reaction would have been to slather it all up with something Like Neosporin then put down gauze 4×4′s and finally pave it all over with tape. Wrong. The wound needs to be cleaned but not dried out. The ointment will actually dry out the wound. You have a couple of ways to go here.

One is something called a semi-occlusive dressing like Tegaderm or Opsite for example. You apply the film onto and around the wound. It adheres to healthy skin around the wound both protecting the area and allowing the wound to breathe. This can be packed into your first aid kit as well as the saline solution and your other stuff. It really doesn’t take up that much room and if you don’t need it for yourself you may one day need it for someone else.

An alternative means to protect the cleaned wound site is to spray on some stuff out of a can that films over and will rapidly give you some protection. The products noted in Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear are 3m’s Nexcare or something called Medi-Stat. I have the Nexcare in my kit. I haven’t seen the Medi-Stat in my local pharmacy. Gordon mentions that the added advantage of using the spray is that if you are the wounded one and you find yourself without help you will have an easier time of it by spraying something onto the wound site than you will applying a sheet film because you can one-hand it. Good tip.

You’re not out of the woods yet. You still risk serious infection and the potential consequences of infection turn out to be more than a little startling. I’m not going to go into it here because I want to keep this piece brief. Read the book (have I said that already?) or at least go online and do some research. At some point, either at the time of the initial accident or later when you suspect infection you may need to seek medical help. Do not hesitate to get it.

Finally a word, directly from my experience, about hospitals. Not all hospitals are created equally. I am given to understand that ambulance crews are not obligated to take you to your hospital of choice – they are obligated to take you to the nearest hospital. Now its roulette. If you are unfortunate to be taken to a crappy hospital or to one that has an overburdened emergency room (often one and the same) then you are really at the mercy of the fates. I happen to live in an area where the local hospital — the one that I would be taken to in the event of a neighborhood accident — has a stupefyingly poor reputation for everything except gun shot wounds – they appear to be good at that and they get a lot practice. If you show up with a road pizza shoulder and/or face you could realistically wait for 12 hours before you are seen depending upon who got shot before you showed up – or while you waiting. Do you want to risk that just so that you can feel the warm breeze blowing up your cargo shorts? Buy some riding gear, fool!

Gerde Applethwaite

The Hi-viz Conundrum

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Why wouldn’t you wear hi-viz? After I bought a Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest for a friend as a Christmas present I got to thinking about hi-viz…..again.

I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest because it is my favorite amongst our hi-viz vest options. My pal’s gear is pretty much all black and I thought It would be smart to help make him more visible on the road. He thanked me for the present and then made a self-deprecating joke about his reluctance to wear it not because of some sort of fashion choice but because its just too visible. Yeah, we both cracked up. This lead me to wonder about what keeps people from buying hi-viz gear. I see more and more folks kitted out in hi-viz every day especially bicycle riders. Whether on Motorcycle or bicycle I only wear hi-viz these days.

For a mere $60.00 you get an instant upgrade for your lo-viz jacket or suit. For me this is a no-brainer yet there are plenty of folks out there who do not see hi-viz as a viable option. I am sure that moto gear manufacturers take this into account when designing their new gear. How they go about this I do not know. I imagine gnomes in Alpen caves looking into vats of bubbling future-predicting goo to suss the trends for the latest Alpinestars lineup. Who knows? I guess they hire fashion consultants (who may or may not ride) in order to get input into the designs for the latest looks. If you read my stuff at all you know by now that I constantly rant about the cluelessness of gear manufacturers when it comes to both hi-viz and reflective tape use. This seasonal design thing quickly becomes an odd game of cat and mouse though: when does consumer desire tilt the scales for manufacturers and when do the fashion mavens wholly dictate product design? Mostly I suspect it is the latter.

The fashion bonzos are not asking questions like: “What percentage of cage drivers who strike motorcyclists say to investigators “Golly, I just didn’t see him.”  Instead I am convinced they are saying stuff like “if we add the farkle X graphic scheme to this helmet how much can we expect it to bump up our sales in the 18-24 demographic or ”Sure we have to put some reflective stuff on jacket Y but “If we only put a little bit of reflective tape on this jacket we can save an extra .02 cents per unit.”

Another way that might work in the effort to coax manufacturers toward the bright would be to have insurance companies offer riders a discount for wearing hi-viz clothing and helmets. It would certainly be to their advantage but I don’t know how you would enforce it.

I am convinced that unless the push comes from the consumer side my vision of a hi-viz option in every part of a manufacturer’s line is a very long way off. The next time you go shopping for riding gear think for a moment about that half-wit in a cage texting his way down the road – right toward you.

Gerde Applethwaite

Hypothermia: The Chilling Truth

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: T’is the season to feel the brunt of the cold weather on your weary bones. Here’s the quick low-down on Hypothermia.

I have been really cold on several occasions, of note are: once while surfing in Northern California’s 53 degree water while clad in a completely clapped-out rental wet suit, once in Amsterdam on Sint Niklaas Eve while wearing ridiculous shoes as I trudged through the snow on my way to a party (doing my best, quite unintentional, imitation of Hans Christian Anderson’s  The Little Match Girl) and a few times while on the motorcycle – most often while wet from a rainstorm. On all of those occasions I got so cold that I got the shakes and I couldn’t stop them for quite some time and I guess it is important to note that it was all user inflicted. I mean, had I taken the time to dress for the weather and the environment I could have avoided all of it.

Infants and seniors are more vulnerable to Hypothermia as are people with heart conditions and folks who are taking anti-depressants, anti-psychotics or sedatives. My intention here is to give you an overview of Hypothermia and hopefully inspire you to go researching on the intertoobz at your convenience (see the reference note at the bottom of this article.) I cannot give you credible medical advice but I can certainly steer you toward those who can. If you live in a cold climate or plan to spend any time in one you should really get to know the information and advice surrounding Hypothermia. Be advised too that it is possible to suffer from Hypothermia even if you are not resident in what is considered a cold climate. Seniors die in their homes every year because older people’s natural body temperature monitoring senses become less useful to them and they do not realize how cold they are – then the addled brain syndrome, so much a part of Hypothermia, sets in and damage or death follows.

History is littered with folks who have learned the Hypothermia lesson hard way. The most infamous of which is Napoleon Bonaparte who decided to go after the Russians. It didn’t fare well for Napoleon or his 500,000 troops. Various Polar explorers, prepared as they were, learned the hard lessons of Hypothermia as have many climbers and Sherpas on missions to summit Mt. Everest.

Napoleon smashed his way, in mid-1812, toward Russia (can you hear the Tchaikovsky cannons in the background) with the simple mission to convince Alexander the First not to support the Brit’s. by buying British goods through proxies. Seems like a small thing right, but Napoleon brought his half million with him to help with the coaxing. The Russians played an effectively brutal game of cat and mouse with Napoleon that extended the time line and turned out to be increasingly catastrophic for both sides. Bonaparte started out in Spring but the thing dragged out into November and the Russian winter.  Russians were forced by their leaders to flee their cities ahead of Napoleon’s advance and forced as well to leave no food or supplies behind them. By August Napoleon was near Smolensk and after a great deal of back and forth the Russians fled the city but not before destroying supplies that would be useful to Napoleon. This caught Napoleon and his gang by surprise and further diminished his capabilities as his re-supply lines were already under constant threat from raiding Cossacks.  – an army of 500,000 needs its supply lines. Soon one of the key elements in the Russian victory would come into play: Hypothermia. The French troops were not prepared for a Russian winter and tens of thousands died of the cold. By the time it was over Napoleon staggered homeward with just 27,000 fit troops and a cadre of wounded. The painting at the top of this post by Adolph Northen is the most famous of those that depict Napoleon’s ignominious retreat.

For an extraordinary documentary about one tragic attempt to summit Everest you can do no better than to watch the 2008 PBS piece by David Breashears entitled Storm Over Everest. If this documentary doesn’t make you want to go out and buy heated gear before your next cold weather ride then you have ice in your veins.

Hypothermia and Hyperthermia are two different things, they are opposites and some folks confuse one for the other. Hyperthermia is the state of having a fever (which can be caused by disease and/or environmental factors) while Hypothermia is a substantial drop in body temperature and that’s what i’m talking about here. There are 3 stages of Hypothermia (some say 4 stages and add a final stage called Profound Hypothermia): mild, moderate and severe. I will only speak to mild Hypothermia here.

Most of us will only experience mild Hypothermia but mild as it may be it is certainly enough to kill you. In mild Hypothermia your body temperature is in that range from just below your normal temp. down to 96 (some readings say 95) degrees Fahrenheit -  it only has to drop below 96 degrees Fahrenheit before you enter moderate Hypothermia. When you are in the mild zone your ability to use to your hands and feet in a coordinated manner diminishes and you will at some point start to shiver — most importantly your mental faculties are now no longer reliable. If you are out on your bike (adding to the potential complexity of the mix is the fact that its already a challenge to drive in rain or ice or snow) any one of these things can be fatal.

Generally you will be coldest first in your extremities, so hands and feet are the most likely candidates for Hypothermia damage as well as the exposed nose. It takes more effort to circulate the warm blood out to your hands and feet and as you get colder your body tries to keep the core warm in order to keep you alive — you will risk frost nip, then frostbite. You manufacture heat in your muscle tissue and this will include your heart and liver. You lose heat predominantly thorough your skin (90%) and the lungs – the other 10%. I was told some years back that you lose 25% of your body heat through your head – something about all of those capillaries and such in your scalp. It turns out not to be true (except in infants and their heads should always be protected in even moderately chilly weather.)  Adults, you lose the same amount through your head as through the rest of your outer wrapping.

Remember you also lose your ability to think clearly and that starts at level one. When you combine the loss of rationality with the diminishing control of your arms and legs then you are seriously courting a crash.  When I got cold on the bike I would often go in somewhere and get a cup of hot coffee. Coffee and alcohol dilate your blood vessels and send the instant sensation of warmth back to your hands and feet at the expense of your core. For a while you feel good again. The core sacrifices warm blood to warm the limbs through now dilated vessels and the body’s core thereby loses its ability to maintain its equilibrium. The new blood in your limbs is now re-chilled when you are re-exposed to the weather making you feel even colder than before you had the coffee or the alcohol. The stress of a body core now colder than it was before can lead to heart failure or stroke. The limbs cannot be rewarmed until the core can be maintained at a warm temperature. Let’s say you are not the one who has suffered from mild Hypothermia but its your pal Stan (I hope, for the sake of this example, that you do not actually have a pal named Stan but if so please accept my humble commiserations.) You rush over to Stan and you take charge. You immediately start to warm up his cold hands and feet – makes sense, right? Within minutes blood rushes back to his extremities, Stan develops an Arrhythmia that turns into a heart attack and before your eyes Stan dies. When the warming process begins it should start at the core. Did you know this? I did not. My first move would have been to warm up the cold hands and feet. There is much to learn. Please read the outside informational sources and do the homework – someone’s life could depend upon your knowledge and skill. Forewarned is forearmed.

I knew a guy with a great rat bike who took two of those gallon and a quarter semi-rectangular vegetable oil plastic jugs, cut them out and glued on foam yoga mat type material. He slid them over his handlebars and bent some bronze TIG wire into shape on the inside to keep the wind from pushing the jugs against his clutch and brake levers. Some pop rivets and some bending and voila – hand protection for next to no money. It worked a treat and was of course completely within the decorative theme of the bike. There is a company called Hippo-hands that make a nice looking professional version of the same idea. I think they are slowly phasing out the business now and although they still have merchandise for sale the inventory is thinning out. I have a pair of something similar but smaller that I use on both bikes: they have a sort of faux-fur lining inside. I forget who makes them. I have had them going on twenty years now and I still get cold on some rides. No electrics for me as yet and I don’t know why. I am really ready for heated gloves at a minimum. It is also time for me to start looking into heated body gear.  On a ride I will get really chilled and then swear to buy some heated gear right away and then somehow never get around to it. I think this may be the year.

We have a pretty decent selection of heated gear and their accompanying controllers. Take a look. Expose as little of your body to the wind as possible. Wear a Balaclava or a necklacava. – we have those too. We also have great winter gloves. Make sure you are prepared before you set out on your next cold weather ride. Your choice of clothing is important. Synthetics and wool fabrics will hold their heat better when wet than will cotton. You can still perspire underneath all of those layers of clothing even on a cold day. If you wear clothing that wicks out the moisture away from your skin then you will have less heat transference from your body into your clothing. Polypropylene and polyester fabrics are moisture wicking.

Note: I used 4 sources for the medical information contained herein: The Mayo Clinic website, The NIH website, The Princeton University website and Wikipedia. I recommend you go to all of them in order to get more detail than my cursory overview provides. You will find treatment and diagnosis advice and you will also find notes on prevention.

Of course, if you have any questions about our heated gear, gloves or ancillary clothing do not hesitate to give us a call. I wish you all good riding in 2014.

Gerde Applethwaite