Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weather Calculations

Deciding to ride when weather is less than ideal involves an assessment of risk and a series of calculations of physical and mechanical factors. Things like road surface, wind and rain predictions, and tire condition to name a few. As much as I would like to reduce all of this to a neat equation there is a variable at work that skews the results -- what I want to do. If I want to ride I'll figure out a way to show supporting calculations.

I'll leave any discussion of my desire variable to another post.

For now, I'll concentrate on the more easily measured factors. Hurricane Sandy has dominated the news for the past few days with examples of disaster from the Bahamas to Rhode Island. The storm was here when I went to bed last night. Judging by the radar display on the iPhone there would be no riding today.

Storms are funny though and hard to predict. By morning there was almost no wind and just a mist of rain. Walking up the street with Junior before breakfast I had decided to ride. The first variable considered was road surface: wet, lots of leaves and small debris to hinder traction, nothing particularly exceptional. The second variable was the possibility of water on the road. The air intake on a modern Vespa is low making any water crossings mechanically dangerous. I thought about routes and the potential for flooding and felt comfortable that options were available.

Standing next to a puddle in the murky light on the way to work I tried to gauge the exact depth of water to avoid.

Traffic is always a riding consideration regardless of weather. Schools were closed so traffic would be light. At a stop just outside of town I was surprised how little there was. Many stayed at home today despite the relatively mild visit by Hurricane Sandy. I learned a little later I was making these assessments inside the "eye".

Plenty of motorcycle parking at work.

No other riders made the trip. In a meeting later in the morning someone referred to me as one of those people Governor Christie of New Jersey was referring to. I'm comfortable that if I lived in Atlantic City my calculations would have been much different and would have been made from the comfort of a hotel in the Poconos.

I don't make foolish decisions on two wheels.

Secondary streets were littered with leaves making for an extremely slippery surface. Slow down is the word of the day. I found myself wishing I had already mounted my more aggressive winter tires.

Running a few errands at lunchtime found things still rather quiet both in terms of people and weather. While riding I kept processing the important stuff -- speed, road surface, rain, wind, air temperature, traffic, and my own stamina in the dampness and cold.

By the end of the day the temperature dipped to 39F. Chilly if you aren't prepared.

I made a note on the way home to apply a new coat of Nik Wax to my riding gear to improve its resistance to rain. While standing and making this picture looking towards Mount Nittany on a shortcut home I was reminded of how easily my hands get cold. Perhaps it's time to break out the electric gloves.

Satisfying ride.


Charlie6 said...

Seemed like OK riding conditions to me Steve!

"man is not a rational animal, he's a rationalizing animal"


RichardM said...

So how does it feel to be
"one of those people"?

Your pictures make it appear to be a normal Fall day....

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: Great quote. I recognize it in my own actions...

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: I feel rational, objective, and not at all impulsive!

David Masse said...

Steve, good luck with those calculations. I know however that in your case, you get the outcome right because of all the experience you've managed to accumulate on what I choose to call extreme scootering.

Now I know you've got those excellent Gerbing gloves, and heated grips would surely be overkill, perhaps even dangerously too hot, but heated grips are delicious. You still need wind deflection though.

If I didn't totally hate the look, I'd consider adding grip muffs. Then I'd be able to ride with my summer gloves and be totally toasty warm.

Take care, and please keep riding, I rely on you for vicarious Vespa joy until spring.

Chris Underwood said...

I make the exact same calculations when deciding whether to take my bicycle out or not. "Or not" rarely happens :) It is amazing the rationalizations I can come up with that are actually valid for justifying taking the bicycle out in a blizzard!

Incidentally, it is too bad that studded tires are illegal for motorized vehicles in most of North America - studs on your scooter would be awesome in the winter.

Poppawheelie said...

When they leave the gates open, I use that shortcut through the stadium parking lots too, when I bicycle in and out of town. makes a nice brake from the traffic.

Pirelli Motorcycle Tires said...

When the road is wet then as a rider you become adventurous and more careful. So for me you had lots of fun and a nice ride to work. Nice blog.