Scooter in Moncton

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Well, the season for scooting is definitely winding down, now. The forecast is calling for colder temperatures with rain showers or flurries.

The big problem is when the gloves get wet. I'm wearing neoprene gloves when the temperature turns cold, but after 15 minutes, you can feel your fingers start to cool off. Those gloves are great for doing things that are wet, such as washing your scooter on a colder day. Yesterday, for example, I washed the scooter and my car at about 3°C. Using the neoprene gloves, my fingers stayed pretty dry, and pretty well insulated from the water -- mind you, I used a brush instead of dunking my hands in for a sponge, too, which saved me a little grief.

Now, when the gloves get wet while riding, the wind goes right through them. Also, rain on the face shield is bad. It can be difficult to see through. But there is something worse: Snow. It sticks there, and if it's too cold to melt it, it starts to cover the shield. And, annoyingly, when you ride in snow, the snow tends to build up in front of your crotch as the wind brings it in there to settle. Then your body heat melts it, making it look like you peed in your pants, only it's a lot colder on the man-parts underneath.

So I believe that snow is a no-go, making it even more uncomfortable than when a little rain flies. As long as the temperatures are above 0°C, the cold weather is tolerable with the right gear. But as the inclement weather approaches, it's rapidly becoming time to put the scoot away for the winter.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Here we are in November, well into it, actually, and the weather is still somewhat rideable.

A smart rider would wear gloves even in the summer. The idea of coming off the scooter onto the pavement stinks. Even if you're confident in your riding skills, there are other factors which might promote a fall to the pavement, such as unforeseen road conditions, other idiot drivers, etc. It's a lot easier and a lot less painful to replace a pair of gloves than it is to replace a few layers of skin. With the idea of wearing gloves anyway, moving into slightly thicker gloves for cold weather riding isn't much of a stretch. In fact, I rode with my padded cycling gloves (I'm a mountain biker) through the warmer weather, and a pair of Neoprene cycling/paddling gloves that I bought at Mountain Equipment Co-op for cold weather cycling have come in handy for this. I've ridden down to the freezing point with them and they do just fine. A long ride might be too much for them, but the 15-20 minutes it takes me to ride to work is alright. The neoprene gloves also protect the hands from moisture, but not perfectly. Get them wet when it's cold, and your fingers will still go numb. Not good when you rely on your hands to work the brakes.

Colder weather also brings face shield fogging into play. I have a helmet that doesn't have a chin guard, but has the plexiglass face shield. I find it is very easy to fog this shield from the inside with my breath when the temperature falls below 12-13 degrees Celsius. Below 8, it can be tough to get it clear. Especially when it you get down just above freezing. I try to breathe slowly and lightly to keep from fogging as much as I can. Another thing that the helmet without the chin guard brings into play is the chill of the wind on the face. While the eyes and nose are pretty well protected, the chin and cheeks aren't. I usually bring a knit "scarf" (actually, it's like a tube that is meant to be worn around the neck between the top of the jacket and up to the chin to insulate the neck) and tuck it under the helmet sides by my cheeks to keep it in place. This has worked for me right down to freezing, so far, without having to worry about frost bite.

For a jacket, I'm wearing a waterproof coat made by Wilson, the sporting goods manufacturer. It's a lot like a spring coat, perhaps a little thicker. With it being waterproof, it also blocks the wind, and makes good protection against an unexpected rain shower while I'm out. So far, even the coldest conditions have meant that a t-shirt and sweatshirt, or simply just a long-sleeve shirt are enough under this jacket for the short commute to work.

Legs and feet. In the cold weather, often the extremities like feet are the first to get cold. Even the design of the front of the scooter doesn't block the wind entirely. I wear low cut hikers, generally, and they are not as well ventilated as sneakers, so they're working out just fine. My sneakers, on the other hand, are too well ventilated to ride in comfort when the temperature drops. For my legs, I find jeans are fine down to about 8-10°C, but below that, more has to be done, even for short rides. I wear a simple pair of wind pants to help block the breeze and it works just fine, so far. Any moisture in the air, however, will penetrate these, and keep the water close to the skin. A pair of real rain pants would cover this off, though.

So there you have it. Down to zero is more than just possible. I plan to put the scooter away soon, simply because road salt is bad for it mechanically, and ice can be very tough to ride on two wheels. Dangerous, in fact. So winter will take me off it for a while, but I'll keep it going for now, as long as weather permits.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Riding this scooter over the summer, I pushed weather and construction just to see how well I would do on it.

For example, our city has been tearing appart main streets while realigning some, redoing the sewer lines on others, and building new ones as a main bridge was being replaced. I wanted to see if the fat-though-small-diameter tires would be decent for light off-road work. Indeed, they are. Rolling gravel under the tires is uncomfortable. But at least the scooter lets you know that you're not on solid footing. Don't go too fast, don't take turns too tight or too fast, and you'll be OK. I also have taken a page from my mountain biking. When I see that I'm heading for a rough bump, I'll take my feet out of the cutout in front of the seat and place them on the "foot holds" for the rear passenger, and lift myself off the seat. It takes my 175 pounds off the shocks and turns my legs into shock absorbers, which lightens the load on the scooter's suspension. It also aids in keeping the thing from bucking uncontrollably, which is a good thing.

I've also found out that wet roads are not much of a concern in themselves. However, wet railway tracks and manhole covers can be. The tires tend to slip a little on wet metal, so the word is caution. Once again, paying attention to the road becomes much more important on two wheels than it ever seemed to be when driving on four.