Snow, tires and riding in winter

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Winter is here. It started snowing last Friday. It's now Tuesday. The plow guy came yesterday morning and we'll need him again before the day is out. The 2-wheel-drive car is going nowhere soon. I broke the snow shovel yesterday. Fortunately I have two backups in the shed.

I really wasn't done riding for the season. This year much of it was doing errands, what with nearly $6 gas much of the summer. At least that's what I told myself, and my wife. She agreed it was fine. Now, though, gas is still well north of $4/gal, and the 4x4 Suburban rarely breaks out of the single digits gas mileage-wise.

I remember reading Brian Slark's accounts of road testing new machines around London whatever the weather. I commuted in slushy snow about seven miles each way and staying upright and out of harm's way while competing with the cages. But, still I wonder about those London road-testers out in it several times a day on new machines. What tires were they fitted with? How did those blokes stay upright? If you scratched one did you keep your job?

I have a couple of machines that might do OK in snow. The Matchless scrambler already has suitable tires. The BMW has a charging system that can power my electric vest and a fairing and a lap apron and I have pogies to put on it but the road tires are outdated. Maybe I'm nuts to ride country roads in winter but there's the challenge of it. And then cold snow isn't really that slick now is it.

You Canadians ride in winter right? Put your hands down you Vancouverites you don't count. That's just Seattle with less daylight and good government (so they claim). How bout our Nordic, Swiss and German friends? Helge Pedersen (Ten Years on Two Wheels) recounts being threatened with arrest by endangering the public for riding his BMW in a snowstorm near Denali in Alaska. He continued on south to Anchorage anyway. Weather had turned him back from his attempt to reach Prudhoe Bay in late October. He's the guy who canoed his BMW GS across the Darian gap and wanted a record for the entire hiway route from Patagonia to the North Slope of Alaska. Then there was the London bicycle courier who rode her fat-tire push bike from Anchorage to Seattle, leaving Anchorage Jan 2. I met her when she reached Port Townsend, Washington in March. Both she and Helge camped along the way. She is way tougher than I was even at her age. Cold was her problem. The Alcan highway truckers kept tabs on her by CB radio and brought her hot coffee if they saw a light in the tent. She snapped an aluminum seat post at Telegraph B.C. or was it Hyder. I forget which is on the American side. Tough. Likewise Helge Pedersen. At least the two guys who scouted the Alcan Highway in the late thirties on BSA singles had the good sense to leave Anchorage in early spring. Not that they didn't run into snow but moose were the bigger problem, not to mention raft building. Then Elspeth Beard nearly froze, she wrote, in '83 on her trip across the Alps on return from a two-plus year epic journey when she had been dressed for Iran and Turkey (you can only carry so much stuff). Her goal was to make London in time for Christmas. No TGV in those days.

But I just propose to go to the grocery store a few miles away. Admittedly the half mile down to the mailboxes could be a challenge. Rear brake only! Well, maybe a wee dab at the front from time to time. But what tires would be suitable, I have some spare K-70s lying around but no 21 inchers, which I'd need for the Matchless. It has a block-tread dual sport Contenental on front and some K-70 like Avenger on rear. I'm favoring the Matchless despite no provision for electric vest. If Beard can negotiate the Alps dressed for Iran I can get to the grocery with my Paris Dakar coat and snowmobile gloves. But then, she wasn't in her 70s. Still isn't.

The forecast is for bitter overnight cold. I'd better go plug in the Suburban's block heater.
 
Slightest hint of ice or even hard packed snow, down you'll go.
Salt laden pavement, even when dry....it'll eat through your classic bike tin work no problem. ACF50 or FluidFilm pre-coating?
Can put on studded rubber, or even drill in some screws into tread blocks like this guy for his Mini:



Otherwise, have at 'er!
 
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My first two years in college - 1968 t0 1970, I only had a 1967 Triumph 500. No leather jacket, gloves or boots. Just had jeans, cloth gloves and a cloth lined jacket. College was 10 miles from home. Rode 1.5 miles and then turned onto a straight road and went 8 miles. This was in Illinois near St Louis. When there was ice or packed snow, rode on the shoulder. Biggest decision each day: Ride relatively fast and be colder for less time or ride slow and be not as cold but for longer - never determined which was better. Never went down but did a lot of sliding around. It was probably good that the brakes were almost non-existent.

So, it is possible but at my old age I sure don't recommend it! I had no choice back then - I simply could not afford a better way.
 
I remember reading some old lag's recommendation of whistling while riding in snow...
Not sure how that would work with a full face lid though.
Did all my learning in winter, failed first test through: 'Insufficient use of rear brake' as I'd grown too used to leaving well alone.
Did three bad winters on a bike, never dropped once, but single cylinder only (125 then 441) so handy for engine braking.
 
For a couple or 3 yrs in early 80’s I had Honda xl500 to get back and forth to work , maybe 1.5 miles each way , I worked outside so rode with work clothes on plus open face helmet , traveled in all weather and for most part no real issues other than getting bike started to warm up in morning ,drum brakes both ends and set of full off road chunky tires … some sliding and mostly engine braking used both ways , cold on face & arse , but doable , not sure I would have wanted to ride much further , certainly not 10 miles each way in - 20C , without at least a rain suit over my work duds ….
 
I rode a mountain bike in dead of an Ottawa winter, deep snow to/from my lab as a graduate student. Quite hair-raising really.
 
I see the preppers have to pay extra. I'd take the one with the fancy green paint job. I remember Tote Goats in the Field and Stream magazines I read in the barber shop waiting my turn for a fresh crew cut. Man, I wanted on of those. Wasn't in the cards though. I didn't make enough on my paper route.
 
It was packed snow that did it in for me on the commute, has to push the bike home. In the UK winter was time for fitting the sidecar.
 
It was packed snow that did it in for me on the commute, has to push the bike home. In the UK winter was time for fitting the sidecar.
If you hit black ice studs are the only help, 4 wheel drive null and void! For bike choice I stick with something light that is easier to pick up.
 
I stick with something light that is easier to pick up.
In Birmingham on the A38 Bristol Road long stretches have a large central reservation largely grassed, this was were the trams ran on tracks. Seen a few off roaders use the fresh snow on this reservation to get past all the traffic at a standstill on the snow packed tarmac.
 
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Winter -68 military dispatch rider. Temperature between freezing and 0 F. We had skis fitted on both sides of the motorcycle. When turning fast at high speed much pressure on the outer ski. Additional rear brake lever on the handlebar. Studs not invented then. Knobby tyres.
Sheep skin lined textile uniform. Additional moose skin gloves with hair on the outside.
Only got pneumonia once.
 
Your Matchless might have the lug for a sidecar on the head stock and passenger peg support.
I had been working on this before the divorce got in the way: https://www.advrider.com/f/threads/66-matchless-g15-and-soa-eagle-sidecar.1435574/
This company has some fairly aggressive tread patterns: https://www.heidenautires.com/tires/
Some short sheet metal screws or Ice Racing studs in the thick lugs would be the next step, if studded tires are allowed in your state.
Just to add, the sidecar would give you a place to haul your packages in. A deep cycle battery could be place on the sidecar frame or in back of the seat to power electric vest and such.
 
Your Matchless might have the lug for a sidecar on the head stock and passenger peg support.
I had been working on this before the divorce got in the way: https://www.advrider.com/f/threads/66-matchless-g15-and-soa-eagle-sidecar.1435574/
This company has some fairly aggressive tread patterns: https://www.heidenautires.com/tires/
Some short sheet metal screws or Ice Racing studs in the thick lugs would be the next step, if studded tires are allowed in your state.
Just to add, the sidecar would give you a place to haul your packages in. A deep cycle battery could be place on the sidecar frame or in back of the seat to power electric vest and such.
Hmmm... the Matchless does have sidecar lugs and it's geared as low as sprockets are available, 17 engine and 17 countershaft. My friend's Bullet has an Indian sidecar that came with the bike. Very nice looking. Where does one buy such a thing?
 
There are some knowledgeable people on this section : https://www.advrider.com/f/forums/hacks.56/
You could post what you have and what you want to use the sidecar for. They can point you to the good, bad and ugly vendors.
Even just spending some time reading the different threads can help you answer questions that you didn't know you had.
This site has ads toward the bottom : https://sidecar.com/forum/ they also have a good magazine and a national rally each year. I think 2023 is in Iowa.
I have received information and bought parts from this company : http://floridasidecarproducts.com/
I have received information and intend to buy parts from this company : https://www.texassidecars.com/
Those are the experiences that I can speak of. I bought my sidecar from a craigslist ad. Attaching it myself was just something I wanted to do.
The divorce stuff should be done very soon and I hope to get back to it.
 
That's tempting. I'll be near there next week. I wonder how much fabrication it would take. Plus, there is the issue of the exhaust being right next to the passenger's ear. My friend's Enfield has a low, quiet exhaust with t very long muffler.
 
Periodically a left hand car shows up for sale in the states. That would make your attachment easier because of the kickstart clearance. What model Matchless do you have? Single or twin?
I could make a bolt for you like the one that I made for the rear passenger foot peg support. You could fab the plate and have ears welded on to connect the heim joint to. The front pinch tube could go up to the head stock lug. The one in the middle, I can't tell if it swivels up. That could go to the frame connection/ seat support. Look at some pictures of british made mountings. Florida sidecar and others offer parts. Texas sidecar said if I sent measurements. they would fab parts for me. It is on me that I wanted a brain exercise to do it on my own. It would probable have been done by now.
 
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