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|1000 in less than 24 hours – IRON BUTT RIDE

April 30, 2016

THE IRON BUTT RIDE:

I’ve always wanted to complete an Iron Butt (IBA) Association Bun Burner Gold ride. IB 000 That’s a ride of 1000 miles in less than 24 hours.  You need a ride witness at the start of your trip, fuel receipts for each stop, a log of your trip with odometer readings and notes, and end of ride time stamp (from a gas station or ATM) and someone to witness the end of your ride.  Full details can be found by visiting www.ironbutt.com

Packing for the ride:

If you read this blog, you know I like to ride, and like Johnny Cash I’ve been close to everywhere in the USA.  For this trip I had to pack for two weeks as I planned to spend time with my parents in Missouri.  Although I have a great deal of packing experience, I managed to struggle with my MotoFizz bag for a large part of the trip.  In retrospect, I should have fully packed the bike a day before the ride and take a few test runs to make sure everything was perfect.  You don’t want to overlook even the smallest detail.

The Ride:

I don’t really have any photos of this ride.  Mostly because my camera broke a while back and for the most part, I was just riding.  I rolled out of Madison a little after 4:00 am.  The bike was already packed and all I needed was a time stamp at the start of the trip.  It took a few exits to find an open gas station.  I filled up the bike, took a note of the location and time, carefully stowed the receipt and hit I-95 South.  In New Haven I hit heavy traffic and lost about half an hour crawling along.  After that it was smooth sailing and fairly high speeds.  I guess if you are commuting to work at that hour you are entitled to drive crazy fast.  It seemed that most of the people were blasting along just a tad under a ton.

Passing Greenwich, I turned onto 287 towards White Plains and settled into the ride.  Crossing the Tappan Zee was easy and I was making good time.  Most of the rest of the trip – through NY, PA, OH, IN, IL need no comment.  Just lots and lots of interstate.  I will say that Google Maps showed lots of construction along the route and that was absolutely accurate.  I used the heated Gerbings jacket for the entire trip.  If you plan to do some long riding or an Iron Butt – don’t leave without one – even if it’s the middle of summer.  It gets cold at night.  Add in some rain and you’ll thank me.

IMPORTANT – your motorcycle’s odometer is full of shit.  It will estimate as much as 80 miles more than you have actually ridden.  It is important to use both your odometer and your GPS and your maps to get a sense of the actual mileage.   I rode another 80 miles past 1000 to make absolutely sure.  I think I saw this tip on the Iron Butt website.

Somewhere around 600 miles my electrics started misbehaving.  I accidentally hit the bike’s kill switch and when it re-started the speedometer and odometer stopped reading.  I have no idea how long that went on.  Then the GPS kept rebooting.  On top of that the app I was using on my iPhone to keep a live track of my miles and location also stopped working.  Then, after a heavy downpour, the low oil light went on.  It seemed like everything electrical was fucking with me.

I pulled off at an exit ramp and stopped to check out the low oil light.  I was highly skeptical about this as the bike’s temperature had not changed in the last several hours.  A quick check showed plenty of oil.  I re-started the bike and the speedometer and odometer started working again.  I also took a bit of electrical tape and wrapped the GPS power cable against the RAM mount to keep if from moving around.   This fixed most of the problems.  For whatever reason the speedometer began to read 8 MPH more.  Argggggg.  I’m glad the GPS has a large MPH display.  Other than that the bike ran flawlessly.

Under “you should know better” category, It looked like rain and I put on my rain pants.  After a few hours and light rain, the skies cleared so I took them off.  A short while later, I rode under some very dark clouds. I could however, see bright sunshine about 5 miles distant.  Well, the skies absolutely opened up and my lower half got absolutely soaked.  Lesson – keep your rain pants on stupid.  Once my pants were mostly dry, I put the rain pants on again.

Around the 800 mile mark it started to RAIN.  I’m talking biblical rain.  Sideways rain with gusts, lightening, and periods of zero visibility.  I used the semi ahead of me to guesstimate where the road was.  If he went off, I’m very sure I would have too.  Luckily it only lasted for about 10 minutes and shortly thereafter it went back to only heavy rain with tons of lightening. Hell, I’ll take that over zero visibility.

Quick note: While I’ve always had high quality gear, I’ve never used Gore-Tex gear.  Mostly because I could not afford it.  Let me tell you, you absolutely NEED this stuff.  My jacket and gloves were absolutely dry and perfect no matter how hard the rain was.  I broke down this week and finally ordered the matching pants to my Klim Badlands Pro jacket (three layer Gore-Tex pro).  No more extra rain pants!

The odometer seemed to move into slow motion from 900 miles to 1000.  I felt great but beginning to think about finishing.  I dialed up a podcast on the Iphone just to have something to distract me.  If you are going to do a ride like this make sure you have a wide variety of entertainment on hand.  It really helps when the miles start to pass more slowly.

I started looking for a place to stay for the night right around the 1060 mark.  I settled on Troy, IL.  Deciding to end the ride I went to a gas station to get my final time stamp.  I think it was around midnight or a little after.  I brought up the Priceline app on my Iphone and after a few minutes of screwing around with it settled on a room for something like $65.00.  I think fatigue was setting in.  In retrospect, I should have paid much less.  I picked a Red Roof Inn and put the sidestand down at reception.  I filled out my end of ride paperwork and went inside to check in and ask the receptionist to verify my ride.  She did that happily and then wasted close to 45 minutes trying to find my reservation.

Finally she figured out the computer system and gave me the room keys.  I parked the bike, grabbed my gear and stumbled into the hotel room.  I felt pretty good but was glad to end the ride.  I ate a few Belveeta crackers, drank some water and faded off to sleep.  It was a good day.

NOTE: I always wear a hoody sweatshirt after a long ride.  I sleep with the hood up and firmly believe keeping your neck, head and shoulders warm is really important to being able to function the next day.  HERE is an article I wrote about hoodies.

I woke up the next day feeling pretty good.  I was surprised how much my arms and shoulders hurt.  The Red Roof advertised a “continental breakfast” so I strolled down the hall into the breakfast area.   Two plastic bins of fruit loops and some mangy bagels.  That’s it.  No cereal, no hot anything, no fruit, nothing.  Nice job Red Roof!  I went back to the room and took a long hot shower.

Today I had a mere 350 miles to ride.  I put on my riding gear, grabbed my travel bag and walked out into the bright Illinois sunshine.  Somewhere down the road there would be breakfast.

Random thoughts and must have items:

I did not change my routine any prior to the ride.  I ate mostly the same things I would normally eat at lunch and breakfast stops. I went to bed early and managed to get some sleep before my 4:00 am departure.  I would suggest you do the same.

Water!  You NEED a hydration pack or Camelbak.  I’ve ridden many 500+ mile days and always had the opinion that I would just take a break if I got thirsty.  WRONG!  Dead wrong.  Water is invaluable for even a short ride.  You won’t believe how much better you will feel after a few sips.  It’s probably obvious but adding ice to your hydrapak will keep things cool.  The only issue I had was figuring how to get the bite valve inside the helmet.  I use a chin curtain so that would not work, eventually I put it through the right side of the helmet chin bar and that worked.

Snacks!  I’m a huge fan of BelVita breakfast snacks.  They have complex carbs, and, ummm, whatever.  They say they are healthy and give you energy.

Pre-pack and ride the bike.  I missed this one big time.  I’ve ridden tons of miles with mostly the same gear.  The big change was wearing a new jacket.  My KLIM Badlands Pro is an adventure style jacket and it is longer down the back.  It made contact with my MotoFizz seat bag and drove me crazy.  If I’d have tested this in advance I’d have known and not spent time being miserable and having to stop and make adjustments.

Audio-books!  Audio-books and Podcasts are your friend.  It’s nice to hear someone talking when you are riding across Ohio or Illinois.

 

 

 

Gear:

Helmet:

Shoei X-12

Notes:  Flawless the entire trip. Exceptionally good in the rain.  Zero leakage.

 Gloves:

Klim Element Gauntlet

Held Sambia

Notes:  I wore the Klim’s for most of the trip.  They were absolutely flawless in the rain and cold.

Jacket:

Klim Badlands Pro

Notes:  100% waterproof and extremely comfortable

Pants:

Klim Dakar

Notes:  An old favorite, trusted and true – 100% NOT waterproof

Rain Pants:

Frogg Toggs

Notes:  I’ve had these for years, they are trashed and still get plenty of use.  Weak spots are the inside cuffs.  The footpegs ripped holes through both sides.  Fixed with duct tape.

Heated Gear:

Gerbings Jacket

Notes:  Flawless.  Perfect, I could not have made the ride without it.

Boots:

Alpinestars SMX Plus

Notes:  These are mack dady full on Moto GP boots that have tons of protection.  Absolutely not waterproof.  Perhaps overkill for the street.

RIDE REPORT–If something feels wrong it is (or how I almost died yesterday)

March 14, 2016

Last week I decided to do a little maintenance on the Caponord.  The last time I had the front wheel off, I noticed the front wheel bearing was a little “crunchy” on one side.  I’ve replaced the wheel bearings twice on my Caponord and once on my brothers Mark II Caponord.  As we start the new riding season, I wanted to take care of all the maintenance ahead of time. 

I took off the front fender, axle nut and axle.  I used my Rawbolt to punch out the bearings and just as I expected, one bearing was perfect and the other was a little crunchy. When I say “crunchy” when you feel anything less than the bearing rotating smoothly – it’s time for new bearings. 

Prior to taking off the front wheel, I put the new bearings in the freezer to help assist the installation process.  I also took one of the old wheel bearings and cut it apart with a Dremel.  What I wanted was the outer bearing race.  While I have a bearing driver kit, I’ve always worried that it might put a bit of stress on the inner bearing race while driving the bearing into the wheel hub (and maybe that’s why the Capo seems to go through bearings).  I used the outer bearing race (after I cut a slot in it to help with removal) as my bearing driver.  That was I knew with complete certainty that only the outer race was being pressured into the hub.

I grabbed the bearings from the freezer and with a few taps they were driven home to the wheel hub.  I re-assembled everything and gave the front brake level a quick squeeze.  The brake lever had a lot of travel in it.  It’s not surprising to feel that after pulling off a caliper so I pumped it a few times and it eventually returned to “normal”

Wrong.

The next day I went for a ride with “Frankie Boots” for almost an hour of the ride, I complained to Frank that the “my front brake feels weird’.  I pulled over to check the axle pinch bolts and could find not problem.  When I applied the brake and neared stopping I could feel a grinding, bouncing feeling.  I kept riding.

Wrong.

I kept riding.  Stupid.  If something feels not right – it ain’t right.  Finally I told Frank that we needed to stop so I could check things out again.  Up until that point we had been cruising with traffic anywhere from 65 to 85 MPH. 

Wrong.

We pulled into a gas station parking lot, and dismounted.  I put the Caponord on the  the center stand and went inside for a couple of bottles of water.  Back at the bike I handed Frank his water and took a few sips.  That’s when Frank said “Uhhh, Eric, your brake pad is hanging out”  I looked at the front wheel and sure enough, the pad had come out of the caliper and was hanging out.  There was a real possibility of hitting a bump and having the pad jamming itself into the wheel and perhaps locking up the front end of the motorcycle.  65 to 85 miles an hour, with a brake pad hanging out……. that’s just stupid.

I got out the tool kit and quickly re-mounted the pads in the caliper.  The change in braking was instant and substantial.  How I could ever think the brakes were fine before that was amazing. 

If something feels wrong – it is. Lesson learned.  If you think something’s wrong with your motorcycle STOP and figure it out.  Go back over any recent procedures and take a good look at the bike.  Who knows, it just might save your life.

Keep riding!

Frank’s Disposable Earplug Review

March 10, 2016
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EDITORS NOTE:

This is the first guest article from Frank G – or as I call him “Frankie Boots” because he just got a new pair of Alpinestars boots and I’m jealous!  Seriously, Frank is a great rider, loves his BMW RT and we spend a lot of time together smoking cigars, bitching about motorcycle gear and lamenting the purchase of Revzilla by Cycle Gear.  Here is Frank’s first article for Singlesided Swingarm.  Welcome Frank!

 

Hey there everyone, Frank here and today I’m reviewing an assortment of different disposable noise cancelling earplugs or hearing protectors that you might want to use while riding your motorcycle. One thing I want to point out is that I have added into the group one pair of non-disposable earplugs that I purchased from The Twisted Throttle in Rhode Island when I stopped in there one Sunday during a ride. The rest of these are disposable earplugs I purchased from the Ear Plug Superstore online. This website has everything and anything for earplugs and yes even earplugs for your horse. But back to our review

Most of these earplugs are disposable foam and considered “non-rolling “foam type. What that means is that for a lot of you that are used to going to the pharmacy or inexpensive department store and purchasing a bag or box of cheap disposable foam earplugs and using them, they are rolling foam earplugs. They come delivered sort of rectangular in shape and to put them in your ear you have to squeeze or “roll “them to shape before placing and fitting in your ear. It can sometimes be a burden when the earplugs are new because the foam has a strong memory and sometimes bounces back to original shape before you can get them in your ear, which makes it harder to fit. These “non-rolling “earplugs start out “pointed” instead of rectangular making it easier to fit in the ear. They also seem to have a completely different type of foam I was worried that a pointed earplug would not have a better sound rating or hold off loud noises but let’s see what I found.

The first earplug I might as well review are the No Noise earplugs I purchased 1plugfrom Twisted Throttle. For $30 I found these not to do the job that well. They come with a ceramic insert and are made from a foam that seems to be soft enough and have a 3 flange point on them. I found them to be loud and not absorbing a lot of the noise. NRR rating was at an average 30db.

Next were a pair of E-A-R Push-In with Grip Ring disposable earplugs. These plugs had small tabs on the outside ends to help insert and retract from your ears. They were 2plugcomfortable putting in and taking out, but after using them for a couple of days the tabs started breaking off from being in the helmet. The insert material used was a soft foam that had a certain low friction to them and the tapered flange made for nice snugness in the ear. High pitch sounds like a horn were muffled a little too much for me. I want to be able to hear the horn loud and clear with only enough attenuation and dampening. The rest of the outside ambient sounds were muffled pretty well enough. NRR rating at 30db. I somehow liked these as one of my favorites. It had a little of everything; great NRR rating which made for over muffling, snugness, and a stem that made it so you didn’t have to touch the foam when taking in and out. A great sanitary feature.

Next up were a pair of E-A-R Push No Roll Foam disposable ear plugs. A completely different shape  with more of a “lolly pop” looking head. I thought I was going to have a hard time with inserting these things in my ear but much to my surprise I made out OK with these plugs. At minimum, I thought I’d see problems with theear09pg5-PUSH-INSse when they were in the ears for a long time. The shape just said to me “un-natural fit”; but once again I found them to be to my liking. They proved to be comfortable on a 2 1/2-hour trip without stretching my ear canals. NRR rating was sufficient at 28db.

Next up were the Howard Leight Pilot Hybrid Push-Ins UF foam ear plugs. Foam when it is in a tapered design can be appealing because it sits maybe not as snug but slides in easier. I found the sound dampening ample enough though and an NRR rating of 26 backs it up. The stem is short and good for that reason; you don’t have something protruding in your motorcycle helmet but then when you have to take it out I thought it would be a small problem in grasping the recessed tabs. I didn’t have a huge problem but then I wouldn’t be trying to remove them with gloves on. The “UF” in the name is for the description of the type of foam it uses which is Urea Formaldehyde.  4plugNow, I’m no doctor or scientist but to your urea formaldehyde on home insulation may be OK and some may say not but to use this on my skin, in my ear for a long period of time may be something I’m going to stay away from. You make your decision on this one friends. Is it worth it?  Formaldehyde in your ear like that? Your call.

The last pair that I will test are a pair of radical looking Peltor Next Skull Screws foam ear plugs. Yea, have a little fun with your ear plugs. Although not fluorescent like the other soft foam plugs which makes it easier to find when looking for them when lost in your pockets and storage bins, these have a grey color. Which makes up for th5plugat is a great flange and taper and a Philips head looking screw stem. The stem is just long enough for not protruding inside a motorcycle helmet too much. Sound is dampened enough to keep out the loud noises and keep in the necessary noise like a car horn. The NRR rating of 30 is one of the best rating I’ve seen so far. The comfort is also one of the best I’ve had so far. And with that I think I’m going to rate these comical looking ear plugs as a shocking favorite out of all I tested so far. Shocking as I thought when I was looking them all over before the testing began that this would’ve been my last pick just by looking at them but they turn out to be my favorite!

Metripack/Weather Pack–Improving electrical connections on the Aprilia Caponord

November 4, 2015

Ahhhhhhhhh, Italian motorcycles and Italian electronics.  Most Aprilia motorcycles in the double ought’s (2000’s) had electrical issues.  The most infamous is the “brown connector”.  This connector was famous for melting, shorting out, having crappy crimping, oxidized wires, bad connections, and catastrophic failures. 

Needless to say this a nasty problem.

Let’s take a look (sample images from around the internet):

Toasty!

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MELTED!

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Oxidized!

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How to fix it once and for all:

At Singlesided Swingarm, we like repairs that you do once, vastly improve the reliability of the motorcycle, and are maintenance and access friendly. 

Both of my Aprilia’s suffered from the “brown connector” problem.  When I made the repair a few years ago, I soldered the connections and shrink wrapped them.  While that’s a good solution to removing the bad connectors, you end up with a connection that is virtually impossible to service in the field. 

Recently the Caponord developed another charging problem.  Having had a similar problem before I immediately bought a new Regulator/Rectifier from Rick’s Motorsport Electrics.  Quick side note about Rick’s – they are an absolutely FANTASTIC bunch of people.  Excellent customer service and even better technical support. 

When I ordered the rectifier/regulator, I knew that I’d have to get into the wiring and chop out the old soldered connections (photo below).  There was no way that I was going to cut the existing wiring shorter, solder the connections and perhaps have to deal with this again in a few years. 

The solution I picked was to make the connections with Weather Pack connectors.  They are bulletproof, obviously  weatherproof, disconnect easily and are fully serviceable in the field.  However – you need to make sure there is room for connectors to FIT.  They are a bit bulky and you definitely need to mock up the connector placement.  The last thing you want is to end up with a perfect wiring job and the bodywork won’t fit back on the bike. 

PHOTO: Hardwired connections on my Aprilia Caponord

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Making the connection:

Weather Pack and Metri-Pack products are made by White Products, in Westlake Ohio.  Here’s a link to their product catalog.  I bought mine on e-bay and paid about $20.00 for everything.  You need to know the gauges of your wire.  As you can see there is some room for different diameters (18-16 ga).  The photos below show a typical Weather Pack kit. 

Weather pack 280 – 14 ga – 3 connector

Weather pack 280 – 18-16 ga – 2 connector

If you really want to do this job perfectly you will need to buy a crimping tool.  They run around $100.00. 

Assembly:

If you can assemble LEGO I’m fairly sure you can put these connectors together.  If you don’t have a soldering gun or soldering skills – just buy the professional crimping tool.

Strip the wires, insert the weather seal “gasket” plugs on each wire.  I used a set of electrical crimpers and small pliers to crimp the connection.  Its important to make sure the last bit of the connector crimps the INSULATED (yellow) part of the wire.  After crimping, I soldered each connection.

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The lead ends snap into the black housing (below).  You will know it’s right when you hear a “click” and the wire can’t be pulled back out.  After you have all the leads inserted into the plug push the blue sealing gaskets down into the connector.  It helps to use a small blunt screwdriver or a ballpoint pen to push the gaskets into the body.

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After the gaskets are flush, attach the sealing connector (white in the photo below).  This takes a bit of pressure to get it to lock onto the housing.  You’ll know when you hear a click on both sides of the connector.  Talk about a solid connection!  And the entire system can be disassembled in the field. 

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The next series of photos focuses on the two wire connector assembly. 

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PHOTO: Crimping the connection

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PHOTO: Soldering the connections

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PHOTO: Inserting the pins and sealing gaskets

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PHOTO: Detail shot.  The blue connector drives the gaskets into the Weather pack body and ensures they stay that way.

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PHOTO: Finished connector

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Photo: Testing the connections

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SUMMARY:

Just take your time and pay attention to the details. Once you do the first plug the rest are easy.  I had a few issues getting the plugs to fit where I wanted them inside the frame.  A few zip ties helped keep everything in place.   Lastly, make sure you connect the right plugs!  I managed to mix up the two plug connectors and drive my self virtually insane trying to figure out why the bike would not start.  Red to red, black to black, duhhhhh. 

Questions?  Post them here and I’ll respond.

 

GEAR REVIEWS – TONS Ahead!

October 24, 2015

Upcoming reviews for October/November 2015

 

KLIM Badlands Pro Jacket:

 

Shoei X-12 Helmet:

SIDI Deep Winter Gloves:

Long term review – Michelin Pilot Road 4:

Long term review- Michelin Pilot Power 2CT:

Visit to Aerostitch pop-up store:

Just in time for winter – A Motorcycle Track Day at Lime Rock Park

October 24, 2015

Just in time for Pumpkin Pie and Cider – A track day at LRP.  It’s been extremely hard to find information on the internet, however we found a link through our Muddy Chef Instagram account.  Here is a link to track day details.

The basic details are:

Motorcycle Track Day, Full Day

Monday, October 26, 20159:00 AM EST

Lime Rock Park Lakeville, CT

Motorcycle track days are returning in 2016 to the 1.5 mile Lime Rock Park road course for the first time in almost two decades! In celebration of the return of motorcycle events, Lime Rock Park is hosting a one-off track riding program for all levels of rider experience on Monday, October 26. The event will be separated into run groups by experience type. Do not miss your opportunity to be a part of history and get a taste of the great ride that Lime Rock Park offers! As a bonus and a thank you for joining us for this unique program, you will receive a 2016 Inside Pass membership to Team Pro-Motion (www.teampromotion.com), one of the groups that will be offering motorcycle track day programs at Lime Rock Park in 2016. That’s a $99.99 value, for free!

I’ve been spending considerable time at Lime Rock Park over the past few years with non-motorcycle related activities and would love to see more events like this take place there.  It’s one hell of a shorter drive for me than all the way to the track in New Hampshire or New Jersey.  The people who run the place – Walter, Roxanne, Ryan and Kate are super cool.

If you go, don’t forget a visit to Toymakers Cafe.

Loop the loop ~ Madison, CT to Stowe, Vt and back

September 15, 2015

theloop

October 2015 / Madison, CT

I’ve been bitching all summer that I haven’t ridden enough.  Well, I got my share this weekend for sure!  I had to attend the yearly Ski School orientation at Stowe Mountain.  Held in mid-October, on Sunday – why on Sunday?  What a pain in the ass!  Anyway, enough whining about one day a year administrative stuff, lets get to talking about the ride.

How about great fall weather and foliage?  Nope.  The forecast called for rain, overcast skies and snow in Vermont.  Fantastic.  I kept looking at the Audi and thinking this is going to absolutely suck.  More than 500 miles in horrible weather…..  But, anyone who has been reading this blog over the years knows that I usually just go.  I toss a leg over the bike and make the best of it.

Also, I’m testing gear.  I’m still loving my Held Cardona Gore-Tex Pro jacket.  It’s supposed to hold up to the worst weather and I was a little excited to test it in the “wild”.  Don’t get excited about a long and technical evaluation of the jacket – Held does not make that model anymore and I’m pretty sure I have the last one sold in the USA.  The Cardona is however, the finest motorcycle jacket I’ve ever owned.  The fit and finish is impeccable.   Whomever designs the jackets at Held is an artist.  I’ve never had a garment that is so perfect for riding.  Some jackets billow up, or fill with air, or act like an airdam.  Some immediately leak water, break zippers, have cold spots, etc, etc.  Not with the Cardona.  You put it on, zip it up, and that’s it.  It’s perfect.  The Cardona is really a great compromise between Adventure Touring and Sport Touring jackets.

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Well, perfect within reason.  The Cardona is hot in the summer and not setup for really cold weather.  However, in-between those two extremes it’s excellent.  For really nasty cold weather I go into the closet and get out my old Fieldsheer Adventure jacket.  Here’s a photo of Clement Salvadori wearing the Adventure jacket.  As you can see the most important part of this jacket is the zip on high  neck collar.  Clement’s review is here.  I’ve had this jacket for about five years and bought it for $99.00 from www.motorcyclecloseouts.com.  To me it’s the absolute GOLD STANDARD cold weather riding jacket.  And of course,  you can’t buy that one anymore either…. I sense a theme here.

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Anyway, enough about jackets.  On with the trip.  I wandered around the house on Saturday killing time.  That’s unusual as normally I’m itchin to get out riding.  The occasional burst of sunlight through the clouds was enough to get me packed and ready.  Somewhere around noon, I hit the starter button and started north.  Madison to Stowe is a little over 250 miles.  Today I’m concentrating on making time.  There ain’t much to look at.  Grey skies, looming dark clouds and wet roads were my companions.  Pretty soon I crossed into Massachusetts, I-91 and i-89 North are good friends of mine.  They’ve taken me to Stratton for years and Stowe for over a decade.  As far as riding goes these highways are a mixture of good and bad.  Both are usually lightly traveled, and you can usually run around 80 MPH without too many worries.  Occasionally they are pretty with foliage or cloudless blue skies.  Then again, the police are expert at hiding along these empty stretches of road and it’s mostly flat, straight Interstate slab.  I imagine it’s Deer country too – that’s always a worry.

Crossing the Massachusetts border, the skies were considerably darker, it looked like the rain – ahead somewhere, how far?  Should pull off to put on my rain pants?  Not yet.  And then there was gas – I’d been running on reserve for a long time and beginning to worry about running out.  As I recall, the reserve is something like 40 miles and right now I’m 38 miles into the reserve……….. I hope the new ECU flash (Thanks Catfish!) gave me better MPG.

Finally, I arrived at Exit 26 off of I-91 North.  Gas and fuel.  I rolled to a stop, side stand down and climbed off.  I had to release the tank bag and swing it aside to get to the fuel door.  I put just over five and a half gallons into the tank.  Whoooo, that was running pretty close to completely empty.  There was a rundown KFC/Taco Bell next to the station.  I wandered inside and ordered up some greasy goodness.  I was finishing my meal when a FJR 1400 rolled into the parking lot.  The rider dismounted and clearly this was another long distance rider.  Beaten up gear, bug splattered Aerotsitch Roadcrafter suit and a weary sort of look.  My kind of guy!  I regretted that I had to get moving and just nodded in his direction as I pulled on my gear and headed out into the cold.

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I arrived in Stowe uneventfully.  The only exception was a I pulled into Kevin and Gabriella’s driveway, I almost lost the front end in the slimy mud.  That would have been a fitting end to a long day!  No thank you!  As you can see from the photos it was “a bit chilly” up in Northern Vermont.

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I got up Sunday morning and rode over to Stowe.  It was cold but clear.  There were huge snowbanks already in the parking lot.  Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe riding up wasn’t such a good idea after all.  I went inside the building and hung up my gear.  Orientation goes for most of the day and of course, when I walked out of the last session at 3:00 is was snowing lightly. Dammmm.

Looking at the sky I thought – I better get riding south RIGHT NOW.

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Heading out of Stowe, I dialed up the Gerbings heated jacket and cinched my gloves tight to the jacket sleeve.  This was going to be a difficult ride.  Cold, black boiling clouds and light snowflakes not my idea of a fun ride.  I made it to Waterbury and carefully rode down the exit ramp onto I-89 South.  Shit, it was absolutely BLACK to the south.  I-89 climbs a bunch as you pass through Barre, VT.  Over the years, I’ve seen some brutal weather there.  I was not excited about riding into something that might put me into the hospital or worse – the morgue.  The weather got colder and darker, heavier snowflakes now.  Slush was accumulating on the road now.  My immediate thoughts were to get to an exit ramp and maybe ride on a secondary road.  The thinking was that while the road conditions might be equally bad, I would have the option to manage my speed down to 35 MPH – and maybe, if I went down that was an acceptable speed.

Then again, dealing with the off-ramp would be an issue.  Less traveled, perhaps iced, and if there was a car behind me bad things could happen.  So, no exiting I decided.  Just keep it upright, no sudden throttle or steering input.  Heck, I’m heading south, at some point this has to pass.  Just for a laugh, I put my boot down to the pavement to see what the road was like.  Slick, nice.  The part that really freaked me out was the amount of ice/slush on my boot – couple of inches.  Whoooooooooo boy.  Not good.

PHOTO:  Not me, no way.  This guy is crazy. 

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Finally, after a sold three hours fueled by terror, and the same level of grim determination I imagine possessed by a B-17 waist gunner on his second mission over Germany, the weather improved.  It stopped snowing and the slush was gone from the highway.  I pulled off the interstate for fuel.  If it were possible to dissolve into a puddle, I’d have done it after I stepped off the Caponord.  I’ve been in some nasty weather but nothing like that.  Rolling back into Connecticut, I was greeted by bright sunshine and temps in the 60’s.  Like it never happened……

I was very glad to put the bike away that night and relax on the deck with a bourbon and a fine cigar.

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