Chasing the Northwest Sun

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Chasing the Northwest sun

Using winter sun breaks to escape

Here we go again. Fall is here with winter on the way, and it seems like forever before we see the sun and enjoy a ride again.

Photo: The snow capped Cascades show their balding heads on a ferry ride from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island on a brisk sunny winter day.

I say enjoy because while many of us are fine riding all year long, riding in the rain is work, not typically fun.

And so the fair weather riders store their bikes for the winter and the number of motorcycles we see on the road between now and April is nil.

But don’t you just want to kick yourself in the middle of winter when you awaken to a 40 or 50 degree sunny day outside and you hadn’t planned on taking advantage of it? The bike isn’t ready, your schedule isn’t flexible enough to change and so you miss out on some prime riding. Bummer.

But thanks to modern technology we can change all that. This fall and winter I’m going to take advantage of those sunny days and ride. Here’s the plan.

I start by firing up the battery charger every month and connect it to the bikes so they always have a full charge. That’s simply good winter maintenance anyway.

Ditto on the tires. I roll the bikes out and back in each month so they don’t rest on the same part of the tires too long, and at the same time I check the air pressure.

Then there’s the voodoo about the oil. Not a problem. I fire the bikes up and take each one for a short ride to keep the fluids moving around.

So far, so good. The bikes are ready to ride at any time.

Above: The Bing weather forecast for Seattle revealed that it would likely be sunny on the 14th and 15th. So of course I took off and indeed it was sunny as I rode both days.

With better weather forecasting, we’re able to get fairly reliable 10-day forecasts. In fact, using a service like Bing Weather (free online) I‘m able to see three separate 10-day weather forecasts on the screen at one time. Excellent. This goes a long way in helping me plan my ditch days and handling rescheduling of meetings, dining dates or otherwise.

I’m at somewhat of an advantage because I work for myself and set my own schedule. There are a lot of self-employed people out there. There are also a lot of unemployed and retired riders, all chomping at the bit to go for a ride in the winter as they suffer from cabin fever.

Using that 10-day forecast, I can see far enough ahead to know some sun and warmer temps are coming in. At about the five-day advance mark, I can book some lodging somewhere, reshuffle my appointments and when those sunny days kick in - I’m gone!

A few things to keep in mind here. Days are shorter so road time will be as well. I won’t wander too far and 4,000 foot mountain passes are not on the itinerary. All low elevation jaunts, but there are plenty of them around my home in the Puget Sound region.

The sun is lower. This has two consequences. Visually there’s a lot of light flickering as I ride through a heavily-wooded area because the sun never gets above the tree line. To counter this I use driver lenses which help compress the bright flashes of light and amplify low levels of light, unlike sun glasses that use a smoke lens which are too dark for this type of situation.

The other consequence is that some areas of pavement don’t see any sun in December or January. If the temps drop below 40 degrees, one can expect some ice in these areas. Not good for two wheels so watch those lows carefully before you ride.

I’ll need to watch for gravel too. If we’ve had any snow or freezes, the roads may have been sprayed so a little extra attention is needed along the route.

I’ll work on a weekend. If I see a sunny stretch on the horizon for Wednesday and Thursday I know I’m going to take those days off. It will be raining all of Saturday and Sunday before, so I’m content to stay in, get office work done in advance and ride with some piece of mind knowing nothing is getting left behind. The weekend is whenever the sun breaks through!

I’ve had my years when I stored the bikes for six solid months. This isn’t going to be one of them. See you on a sunny day. Whatever day that may be.

PT/Fall 12

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