We made our first trip down to Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida on Thursday, 13 March. The trip didn’t play out the way we’d originally planned as our partners-in-crime, David & Deb, experienced a sad and unforeseen life event and weren’t able to join us.
We wrestled with the decision to go or cancel our plans and ultimately decided to follow through for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the need to get Debbie some “away time” in the sun so she could clear her head and recharge her batteries. We’d also made plans to meet up with my suspension expert, Howard Messner from Motorcycle Metal, who had set-up a pair of Ohlins shocks for our Wide Glide back in Oct 2011. Howard was going to see if they could be fitted to the Road King with the current springs or perhaps a new set of springs. We also had some other friends headed to Bike Week who we met at last fall’s Thunder Beach in Panama City Beach, Florida that we’d hoped to meet up with. Finally, I wanted to see just how long and hard of a trip it was on the motorcycle, as Debbie’s longest single day ride to date was the 5-hour, 335 mile ride down to Panama City Beach. This would be closer to 8 or 9 hours and 450 or 475 miles depending on which way we went. I also figured the reconnaissance ride would be of value to David & Deb for future trip planning purposes.
If only to prove that Murphy’s Law was still alive and well, after making the decision to press ahead with the trip the weather outlook became something of a potential spoiler for us. The 10-day look ahead was showing a cold snap with temperatures in the low-30’s to high 20’s for our Thursday morning departure time and rain for our Sunday return trip.
We had most of the gear we’d need to deal with both sets of conditions, which is to say that Debbie and I have Shoei Multitec “modular” helmets, heated jackets, gloves and a variety of other cold-weather outerwear and some pretty good rain gear to cover us from top to bottom. However, the more I thought about what it was like to ride for several hours at a time in near-freezing temps and at highway speeds I began to wonder if Debbie would really be warm enough without adding some heated insoles to her boots: waiting for the temps to go up into the 40’s just wasn’t’ an attractive option.
While heated gear isn’t essential for cold weather riding, just go ahead and color me a biker-wuss: there’s no reason to be uncomfortable on a ride if there’s a relatively easy alternative. I did the cold and wet “minimalist” thing on dirt bikes and my sport bikes for many years back in my teens and 20’s, never mind many bicycle rides in awful conditions with absolutely no protective weather gear as recently as last May (by accident). Those were always epic rides with great stories of perseverance and endurance, but last May’s 66-mile Tour de Cure charity ride on the tandem bicycle where the last 10-miles found us in a raging Thunderstorm cured me: I still don’t forgive myself for dragging Debbie into that mess. So, there’s certainly no way I’m going to subject her to being uncomfortable on a 450-mile motorcycle ride if I have an option: I got options!
On the Sunday before our trip down to Daytona we stopped by a Cycle Gear shop and picked up two pair of heated insoles and some inner glove liners for Debbie to wear under her heated gloves. The insoles worked pretty well on the first test fitting, but dealing with the long wire leads that connected the insoles to the thermostat harness in the jacket was a bit odd and made me wonder if completing the heated gear ensemble with some heated pants wouldn’t make sense.
I mulled it over on Sunday and Monday and decided to go ahead and see if I could find the right size pants this late in the winter riding season… for both of us. On Tuesday I was able to find a pair of Harley-Davidson branded, Gerbings-made pants for Debbie at our local Harley-Davidson dealer and some Gerbings-branded pants for me at Atlanta BMW / Ducati. So, if nothing else, we’d certainly be warm and comfortable no matter how cold it might be on our ride down Thursday. Moreover, we were set for any future trips where cold weather might become an issue as heated gear lasts many, many years so long as you maintain your weight! I’m still wearing the same Gerbings jacket I bought 14-years ago!
With our gear sorted out, the next challenge became figuring out how to pack all of this extra cold weather stuff on the bike along with our regular luggage as we wouldn’t need or want to wear it on the way home with another layer of rain gear on top: we’d be as soaked from the inside-out with sweat as we would rain from the outside-in if the temps were higher than the 50’s predicted to come along with the rain front.
For our previous trips, packing was much more of time-consuming science project, where all of the clothes had to be packed in 2 gallon ziplock bags both to keep them packed-in tightly and waterproof since the Saddleman Touring bag was assumed to be and has been proven to be less than waterproof. All of the outer wear had to go in to the saddle bags for relatively easy access; yeah, well as easy as it can be to pry tightly wrapped clothing out of a small case as it quickly expands to full size!! The rain gear bag would be attached to the top of the touring bag.
So, with all of our gear in-hand, tried-on, checked-out and now laid-out for both Thursday’s freezing cold trip to Florida and Sunday’s cool and rainy trip home, we were fully committed and ready for anything.