The Iceman Cometh…

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

It was raining when I stepped outside this morning. The air aloft, where the clouds live, was warmer than the freezing point of water. So the rain came down in a liquid state, but froze on contact with anything that was ground-level ambient temperature. These are the most diabolical conditions Old Man Winter can conjure up, from a scooter commuter’s perspective. I fell prey (literally) to them only eleven days ago.

But this time I was not fooled. I had taken the time to watch the morning news, and learned that we had freezing rain all over the metro area. That rain hit my helmet visor with a heavy “spat-splat-splat” as soon as I stepped out the door. My boots slipped on the sidewalk as I was walking towards the garage. It was clear that this morning’s commute would be especially challenging.

I reached into the huge right-hand chest pocket of my Aerostich Darien jacket and located my Vee-Wipe, which I promptly stretched and pulled onto my left thumb, over my glove. This will take care of any ice clogging my visor, I hoped.

The Baron started right up, seemingly eager to confront the challenge ahead. I did a quick systems check, paying special attention to things like headlights and brakelights, and let just a little bit of air out of the rear tire for traction.

At about six a.m., we rolled down the driveway and out into the street. Turning right with my foot sliding along the icy pavement, we did not crash this time. Fool me once…

We rode with the utmost caution all the way down Bernard Street, which had yet to be visited by a salt-sand truck. We fishtailed up the hill just past Robert Street, and I started to relax a little bit. The Baron and I have been here before.

Turning right on Smith Avenue I saw it was clear of ice, with some slushy patches. Easy street. We made it all the way to the gas station on Highway 13 without incident.

The cop pumping gas into his cruiser at the adjacent pump, looked me up and down and said, “Not a good day to ride!”

I wanted to say, “Ya think!?”

What I actually said was, “I’m taking it slow and easy. I’ve only a short way to go.”

Of course, coming from my sealed-up, full-coverage snowmobile helmet, that may well have sounded like vulgar static to his calloused cop-ears. Who knows? He didn’t say anything else, and I paid at the pump. He did not Taser me. Things were lookin’ up!

Hey, I like cops. I really do. We have a lot of interests in common. The enjoyment of fast travel and firearms are chief amongst them. But to this day I still have this stubborn American/Biker reflex to rebel against any and all forms of authority. Old Man Winter is just another authority figure to me. “THOU SHALT NOT RIDE-during the season of My Reign!”

To which I reply: “Oh yeah…?”

Anyway, the road surfaces we encountered on the way varied wildly in terms of available traction and traffic levels. I didn’t feel much like playing around out there, because I just couldn’t gauge the available traction through the ice pellets forming on my visor. Even taking a hand off the bars to scrape it off was a risky proposition, so I saved that operation for stop signs and long straights.

Luckily, or perhaps by municipal design, the more heavily travelled roads actually got more salt and sand, and were therefore navigible. It was for this reason that the Baron and I selected the half-fast route this morning. We made our way over to Highway 55 and rode that all the way through Minneapolis to the outskirts of Golden Valley.

We didn’t encounter any more really bad ice until we got to the parking lot at work. Then it was Landing Gear Down again, as we rode along dragging both my boots all the way to our reserved parking space.

Photo by Eric EngelbretsonDismounting the Baron, I noticed a crackling sound coming from my riding apparell. Ice was falling in little sheets off my body.

When I walked into the building, I sought out my friend Eric Engelbretson. He almost always has a camera handy, and this morning he did not let me down. Before the ice could melt off my suit of riding armor, he snapped a nice photograph.

The Iceman Cometh, and now he has to go to work.

11 Responses to “The Iceman Cometh…”

  1. Mad Says:

    Gary, as my mates who were ex paras would say you truly are “rufti-tufti”! I can’t think of many worse conditions for us bikers than freezing rain, I suspect I’d have gone back to bed….

  2. Seagullplayer Says:

    I had read sometime back that you where expecting knobby tires of some sort to come it. Is that what you are running now? I don’t recall reading that you replaced the origonal tires, just fixed some flats.
    Don’t take much ice around here to shut us down all together.
    Please be careful, I really like reading your blog…

    Rubber down

  3. mnscooter Says:

    Well Mad, I look at it this way; if I had gone back to bed, it would have been a boring blog day. Can’t have that, now, can we?

    SGP, if you look closely at the photo in “Grocery Gitter”, you will see the very cool Kenda K761 dual-sport “knobbies” mounted on the Baron. Click on the photo and it will expand to 800×600 or so. These are the most aggressive scooter tires I could find at the beginning of this project, and Kenda USA were kind enough to sponsor me with a set. They have handled all but the very worst conditions, in which nothing short of studs or ice-screws would have sufficed. I think the post in which I changed the tires was called “Traction, At Last”.

    Ride well,

  4. Dan Jones Says:

    Gary, after seeing your picture with the nice coat of ice, I’m thinking maybe winter commuting should be a Winter Olympics event. Do the Norwegians scooter commute in winter? They seem to be taking a lot of medals. With all of your training, I think you could beat them in the scooter commute.

    P.S. I ordered my all yellow Baron 150PM yesterday. It should arrive in 45-60 days. Have you checked out the V3 yet? It’s a CF MOTO specced for Baron. Slick styling.

  5. Seagullplayer Says:

    Got ya Gary, I see now. I was thinking more of an ATV type tire. Wondered how the ride on pavement would have been with an off road
    type tire. Now I understand, great picture.

    Rubber Down

  6. Mad Says:

    Oh yeah, you can’t let your public down. ;)

  7. Ron Johnston Says:

    Speaking of Iceman, you should check out the Schwalbe Iceman Scooter tires - I love ‘em. I don’t know if they have them in your “big” wheel sizes though… I could sent you pictures. They are like Blizzaks for bikers. Available with or without studs.

  8. mnscooter Says:

    Hey Dan, I’m betting the Olympics would have to change it to winter bicycle commuting. There are no motorsports events that I know of in the olympics. This might be good for the X-games though…I saw the first V3 the very day that it arrived. It intrigued me, much like the BMW that was in that James Bond movie years ago. I will probably have to road test one.

    SGP, see Ron’s comment.

    Ron, sure, send me some pics and any other info you have. I think this answers Dan’s question about the Norwegians, or in this case Germans, riding scooters in the winter. I wonder if Kenda would be interested in entering that market sector…?

    Ride well,

  9. tiff Says:

    Rufti-Tufti? Harder than a coffin nail, i’d say…..

    It’s 12 degrees celsius and sunny here - snowdrops are out, daffodils are showing…it’s even daylight when I leave for work. Spring is on the way, my freind, even where you don’t have the gulfstream.

  10. Steve Williams Says:

    Come on Gary, you need to make sure Eric makes photos that impress upon the viewer the noble quest you are on. This photo pushes you way way into the depths, the man behind the curtain and lest he kneel below you to produce an image portraying you in your true majesty the danger exists that some will suspect the ride is getting to you….. *grin*.

    You just can’t be humble in these pictures!


  11. mnscooter Says:

    Oh yes, Tiff, spring is certainly on the way. It was a balmy -14°C here yesterday when we left for work. But I do know what you mean.

    Steve, my critics get more sophisticated every day. Majesty? Moi?

    Shirley you jest.

    Ride well,

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