Backroad Ramblings: Winter Survival Secrets

February 3, 2011
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

Winter Survival Secrets for the Riders Among Us

Winter can be a lonely time for motorcycle enthusiasts. Its best to have an alternate saddle in your arsenal  like this snow bike pictured below  to last through the short snow-filled days.
Winter can be lonely for motorcycle enthusiasts. It’s best to have an alternate saddle in your arsenal, like the snow bike pictured below, to last through the short snow-filled days. Explorer snow bike

Each spring I try to chronicle the elation and sheer fulfillment that is the first official ride of the season. The outing is witnesses to stiff joints, stiff clutch springs and pavement still white from many months of road salt. It seems like each time I engage in this annual tradition (be it on road or playing in the dirt), I ask myself: “How did you make it through that long obnoxious winter?”

Then the thought creeps in that perhaps it would be funny (and by funny I mean depressing) to pen an entire article about those long dark months prior to spring’s arrival to contrast the emotions between the riding me and the hibernating me. Here, my friends, is that article.

By the third week of January 2011 my area experienced a very frightening dose of arctic air that had apparently grown tired of lingering above Canada and decided to check out the northeastern United States for awhile. According to the amazingly accurate digital thermometer that resides within the dash of my wife’s Dodge Dakota, temps had fallen to a most-uncomfortable 16 degrees below zero, not taking factors such as wind chill into consideration (which would be closer to negative 35).

I consider myself pretty well adapted to life in cold climes but to put this into perspective, 32 degrees F, the temperature at which water freezes, would have been an increase of 67 degrees from the current temp. And unless you’ve experienced this type of weather, it’s hard to predict what kind of adverse affects it may have on usually reliable physical objects. Like the blade of my snow shovel for example, which shattered into a pile of brittle black plastic shards when I managed to bump it on the floor of my back porch slightly.

Long story short: not exactly ideal riding conditions save for owners of Kharkovchanka Russian Snow Transporters (google those if you get bored). Things were looking pretty bleak for roughly 30 hours until the unmistakable hum of a running multiple-cylinder two-stroke filled the chilly kitchen where I was in the process of brewing the strongest/ hottest pot of java my Mr. Coffee could muster.

It turned out that somewhere in the transition between subzero Sunday and frosty Tuesday the temps had climbed to a balmy 18 above, making it perfect snowmobile weather. While sled stewardship is one list I may be absent from (in favor of an endless roster of motorcycles, race bikes and ATVs), my neighbors certainly own some and seem ever-willing to ride them in circles.

A ski-doo is a perfect way to make it through the freezing winter without a motorcycle.
In the case of our contributing editor a neighbor’s Ski-Doo MXZ-X800 with an attached inner tube did the job nicely.

In this case the plan was to ride in circles with a long towrope connected to an inner tube trailing behind. Suffice to say I was geared up quicker than you could say “mercury rising,” and found myself alternating between riding passenger on my buddy’s 2001 Ski-Doo MXZ-X800 and doing all I could to stay on the inner tube in tow.

What began as small rings in his backyard slowly extended into moderate trail runs, then progressed to full out loops with the goal becoming as simple as trying not to flip off the tube before the loop repeated.

Barring a few mouthfuls of snow and high-speed roll offs that resulted in ice crystals finding their way directly into our boots, it was a fairly eventful afternoon. The cold temps seen in days prior seemed to have worked their damaging influence over trees in the forest, making larger limbs brittle enough to snap clean off.

To summarize, getting through a long, cold winter without motorcycles involves patience, perseverance, good books, hot coffee and friends with the presence of mind to buy toys designed for the snow. Which reminds me, should you ever happen to have a 35-ton Soviet Kharkovchanka Snow Tractor that you want to get rid of, I’m interested… assuming it has a place to tow an inner tube of course.