Non Cogito, Ergo Splat.

03 February, 2006 Temperature: 26 degrees F (-3°C)

They will chisel that into my tombstone one day…

“I didn’t think, therefore I crashed.”

After yesterday’s beautiful ride, and a late-night blogging session, I wasn’t expecting the return of Old Man Winter this morning. I awoke late, skipped the news, and rushed through my morning routine. It is Friday, after all.

On my way to the garage, I noticed it was drizzling. Looking out at the road, I saw that the pavement was wet. No big deal. Or, so I thought.

I opened the garage door, and there was the Baron, battery charged and gas tank full, ready to go. That’s when I stopped thinking, and just went through the motions. Key in the ignition, I pressed the button and pulled the lever and the Baron started up. I left him idling as I wheeled him out of the garage. Then I closed the garage door, plugged in my heated vest, climbed aboard, and twisted the throttle. We rolled down the driveway and into the street. Then I steered and leaned into our right turn and… Zzzzinnnngggg!!! Scrrrrssssccchhhhhhhhh!!!

Sounds I know only too well. That’s twice now, this season.

The Baron lay there on his side, idling patiently, while I scrambled to my feet. Nothing hurt but my pride, I carefully picked him back up while trying to keep my feet underneath me on this street cum skating rink. What looked merely like a wet road was actually a textured plain of glare ice. The right side mirror had turned in it’s mount. I turned it back. That scraping sound I heard was the chrome exhaust heat shield ablating it’s plating on the pavement. (Ohh, say THAT ten times fast!)

Remounting carefully, I put my feet out and we rode slowly to the first stop sign. Squeezing the rear brake only, we slid to a crawl, but since there was no traffic coming, I finessed the throttle to continue on at our snail’s pace. This was going to be a long ride.

So, what did I do wrong? Got out of bed, is the first thing that comes to mind.

Watching the news is always good for a clue or two. Like, “Freezing drizzle has been falling in Saint Paul since three a.m., so be careful on the sidestreets out there.” –or, “Traffic is backed up at several locations, due to icy roads and spinouts.”

Hearing that, I might have walked out to the street, as I do on some mornings, and actually tested the traction with my bootsoles. But I was in a hurry today, so I didn’t even turn on the television.

What else? How about the fact that my mind was twenty-six point three miles down the road before we even got out of the driveway? Fridays are like that sometimes. I want to plan my day so there are no surprises which might interfere with the coming weekend. So I let Captain Cognizance steer the ship while I scheme over the map table. Not good on a dry day. Potentially fatal this morning. Auto-pilot doesn’t work on a motorbike.

I’ve learned these lessons before, but experience breeds overconfidence, and today I was a fool. When we ride, we need all of our faculties concentrated on the task at hand. Sometimes we get lucky, but it is sheer folly to count on that. Last time, it was the onset of hypothermia. But this time, I have no excuse.

You know, I’ve just realized that what I did this morning was attempt to “drive” the Baron to work. Hah! My state of mind and demeanor were exactly the same as if I were sitting behind the steering wheel of my pickup truck. The physical rituals of operating the scooter have become ingrained in my muscle memory. So the active part of my mind turned to more complex tasks, leaving a dumb animal at the handlebars.

Alright, I’m done bludgeoning myself. No real harm was done, and I learned my lesson… again. This afternoon, the sun came back out, and we had a pleasant ride home. It was colder, around twenty-one degrees (-6C), and there was just enough ice on the road to make things interesting, so I didn’t do any sightseeing.

I’m taking the weekend off from this blog. The International Motorcycle Show is at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend, and I am going on Saturday. Sunday, I’m visiting my folks and taking care of family business. By Monday, I will be ready for whatever new tricks Old Man Winter can dream up. Stay tuned….

17 Responses to “Non Cogito, Ergo Splat.”

  1. Mad Says:

    I’m glad it wasn’t a big spill Gary, it could’ve been much worse if it happened later in your commute.
    Yeah complacency is bad news on a bike, I dread the day I arrive at work or home without knowing how I got there. Hasn’t happened yet though.

  2. Steve Williams Says:

    I can relate to the description of your ritual gone awry and falling into the mindset that one can reliably get by with in a car or truck. So far I have not found anything superceding the scooter ride and the experience remains at the top of the list with everything falling away while I ride. If I were commuting daily things might change.

    Your post today reminded me of an indepth motorcycle crash report done in the United Kingdom. It goes into great detail of a wide range of circumstances that lead to accidents. Here is the link to the report:

    Anyway, your recent mishap serves as an excellent cautionary tale for all of us who ride on two wheels.

    Glad you are OK.


  3. Bill Sommers Says:

    Do you remember when you were little and you would run in your stocking feet on your Mom’s kitchen floor, then plant both feet and slide about four feet? Well, I was doing the same routine along the side of Hwy 101 at about nine o’clock one night after the road went from wet to spooky in a hurry. I was joined by a state patrolman that wanted to know what I was doing. So I said “check this out”, then did my speed slide again. He looked at me for a long time, then asked if I was alright. I said I was fine, I just wanted to know what the road condition was like. He just said “it’s icy, be careful”, then he took off. So with that, I slowly went home.
    It goes to show that sometimes an iced up roadway looks no different that if it had just gotten rained on. I was lucky not only because I hadn’t bitten some asphalt, but also because I didn’t get any flack from “the man”.
    Hey, check this out. We just had a storm blow through packing 78 mph winds. Trees down, power out,big rain, the whole shmear. Good Grace kept us safe, but my commute to work was in my Suburban. My big Detroit windbreaker. Have fun…Bill

  4. Dan Jones Says:

    Gary, I went to the show Friday night and didn’t see a Baron booth. I seem to recall Ivan mentioning that Baron would not be at our motorcycle show but rather out East somewhere at a motorcycle industry show to demo their products and recruit new dealers.

    Here’s one way to avoid those nasty spills and still be motorcycling.

    Or maybe just attach some outriggers to the Baron.

    Happy Weekend.

  5. mnscooter Says:

    Hi Dan,

    Ed Faherty has the Baron booth at the show. I was supposed to be there yesterday, but family issues kept me home. It is supposed to be near the Honda display, booth number 1817.

    Ride well,

  6. Bro Shagg Says:

    On February 3rd, 2006 at 5:25 pm, irondad said:

    Given access to a jungle, the Gorilla will always rule. It is the nature of man. It is our task to always be strong enough to be gentle.


    Irondad- Very well said, very simply eloquently said.

    Gary- don’t be the dumb animal at the handlebars- I think the Baron would look funny with “ape-hangers”!!!

    Glad you’re no worse for the wear…

  7. Seagullplayer Says:

    Just found your blog today. I’m glad you where not hurt badly on the ice. What a great read. I can’t believe you are riding to work in those temps. My hat is off to you. I ride my bike to work most of the year 70 mile round trip, I have not been able to solve the glove problem when it’s below 40. And my tires seem usless in the snow or slush.

    You can expect a new follower of your blog.

  8. mnscooter Says:

    Welcome aboard, Seagullplayer. The difficulties you mention regarding riding gear (gloves) and tires are all solvable, if riding in the cold and snow is important enough to you. They have been doing this for years in northern Europe, as evidenced by the variety of studded and snow-compound tires available over there. The Kenda K761s I am using prove quite adequate for 90% of the conditions I encounter. For the other 10%, I rely on my boots, the scooter’s light weight, and low seat height.

    None of which helps when you’re not concentrating on riding the bloody motorbike.

    To paraphrase Keith Code: My attention dollar was collecting lint in my pocket.

    I want to thank everyone who sent in homework assignments as a sort of remedial lesson, but I assure you, I really do know this stuff. Knowing is one thing, doing quite another…

    Ride well,

  9. Seagullplayer Says:

    I live in Indiana near Louisville, KY. If I could overcome the cold situation with my hands where I could ride when the temp is above freezing, maybe even say 35 F, I could add another month or more to my current riding “season”. Even if I skip when snow and ice are a problem…
    I really don’t want ones that wire into the bike, I would rather just have battery operated, but I have yet to see any that would work?

    Thanks for the welcome!

  10. Mad Says:

    *whispers “tell him about heated gloves Gary”*

    “Knowing is one thing, doing quite another” is going in my quote file, very true…

  11. mnscooter Says:


    I don’t think you need electric gloves in 35 degrees F. What you need are snowmobile gloves! Check these guys out:

    They are one of my sponsors, and have hooked me up with some great snowmobile gear for riding in cold weather. I’m sure they have some gloves which will suit your cold weather riding conditions.

    Mad, I’m not wearing heated gloves. Some days I wish I was, but Aerostich don’t have them… yet. I actually wear mittens on really cold days. I can get away with that when I’m not manipulating a clutch or using the front brake much. Right hand throttle, left hand rear-brake, feet ready as outriggers. That’s basic snow/ice scooter riding technique in a nutshell.

    Ride well,

  12. Dan Jones Says:

    How about simply re-routing the engine exhaust out through the handlebars?

    MMMMM! Toasty warm…

  13. Mad Says:

    Have you seen those “lobster claw” style bike gloves? I have a mate who reckons they work very well but I haven’t tried ‘em. At its coldest here I use winter gloves with inner gloves, works well enough for me.

  14. mnscooter Says:

    Well Dan, you may have something there. Aerostich sell electric grip wraps which draw very little current but still keep your hands warm when wearing regular riding gloves. That may be a good solution.

    Mad, I’ve seen the lobster claws, but was under the impression that they were overgloves for rain. Do they make some that are well insulated for cold weather?

    Ride warm,

  15. David Eakin Says:

    Gary, I believe what Mad is referring to are the “Hippo hands”/handlebar muffs (;

  16. Mad Says:

    Gary: yeah the ones I’ve seen here were proper winter gloves not just waterproof outers.

    Dan: I’d love a little switch on my bike that diverted a little of the exhaust gases through the handlebars! I’ve considered putting heated grips on my bike but I don’t like to mess with the electrics.

  17. Dan Jones Says:

    Stuff for cold weather riding. You probably know about these things, Gary. I thought they might be of interest to some of the readers who are looking for winter riding gear.

    Moose Mud Paws to keep your hands warm.

    Article about how one rider made them work on a scooter.


    Keep your legs warm with a Thermoscud lap apron. Very popular in Europe.

    Article about DIY lap apron. Could also be made from a good ballistic cloth or oxford weave poly with fleece lining.

    An insulated Camelback full of hot chocolate might be nice also. Just kidding.

    Stay warm.

Leave a Reply