|For those of you who care to inquire, the answer is yes: winter in
Northern Illinois is cold. Very cold. Since moving back to Illinois in
2005, for 3 months out of the year I did little but try to stay warm. The
racing season would begin each March, and my first race was usually
my first ride of the year.
That all changed in 2009, with my transition to country life. With a few
acres as my backyard, I could warm up in the garage, open the door
and start riding. All I needed were a few accessories.
Here's where it all starts: studs. I had Kyle DeFauw stud a pair of
Maxxis IT's for my riding pleasure. The studs have carbide tips to dig
into the icy underbelly of packed snow. These are not for ice - up here
|in the Great White
North, we leave
that to ice screws.
The studs allow
me to go pretty
I'm used to riding
during the other 9
months of the year.
On another note, I
would like to
apologize to my
mail carrier for
|With traction taken care of, next up was working on keeping my body
warm. Whenever temperatures drop into the 30's (F), my fingers get
cold. Another 10 degrees lower and my face and feet start needing
some help. Here's what I did to help keep from freezing off body parts:
|Above left: Grip warmers have been
around for many years. These are
adhesive-backed heating elements that
|These grip warmers are made by Symtec. The throttle side is pictured
above. Symtec's grip warmers are designated clutch and throttle side,
due to the heat characteristics of the handlebars (clutch side) versus
the throttle tube (throttle side, obviously). The plastic throttle tube
heats up quickly and transfers a great deal of heat through the grips.
The clutch side sucks away heat through the aluminum handlebars
(aluminum makes a great heat sink), and the grips are thicker on that
side. Other brands compensate for this by sending full power to the
clutch side and reducing power to the throttle side with a resistor.
Symtech, on the other hand, uses different heating elements. You can
see the difference in the side-by-side photo above. I screwed up and
ordered grip warmers designed for ATV's. Both heating elements were
the same as the clutch side element in the motorcycle-only version.
Unfortunately, this doesn't work well. When set on the high position,
the throttle side gets so hot that the tube just might start to melt if you
let it heat up too long (and it will nearly burn your hand off). Once I
got the correct throttle side heating element, it worked much better.
|Between the headlight, LED handlebar-mounted light and the grip
warmers, this is the most wiring I've ever had to stuff in between th
etriple clamps. It all seems to fit, though. The Symtec instructions do a
pretty good job showing how to wire the grip warmers. All I had to do
was figure out how I wanted to tap into the power. The stator pumps
out AC, which is fine for the grip warmers. At 100 watts, I need all of it.
The halogen headlight is about 65 watts on the High setting. The grip
warmers are about 35 watts on the High setting. However, with my
LED lighting system, the headlight isn't really necessary when I ride at
night (which is mostly when I ride). So most of the time I turn it off and
let the LED's do all the work.
One of the key advantages of snow machines over dirt bikes is their
wind screens. In the sitting position, a snowmobile rider can tuck in
behind the screen, feel the warmth of the heated grips and a
comfortable warm breeze of engine heat on boots. Dirt bikers have to
improvise a bit. I knew I'd need some help keeping my face warm, so I
did a little research on what the crazy bicyclists in Chicago used to
wear when I'd see them riding to work in single digit temperatures.
Psolar had what I needed - an under-the-helmet mask that covers
everything but my eyes. Perfect. It also has something they call a heat
exchanger, which is designed to warm up cold air before you breathe
it. Some call this a balaclava; I call it cool.
|What up, ninjas
Dang, I got me a pointy
|The final piece of cold
weather gear focuses
on the toes. Off-road
riding boots are poorly
designed for warmth,
so a little heat down
there is necessary. If
you want to spend
some serious money,
go with Hotronics foot
warmers. They will set
|you back a couple hundred bucks, but supposedly it's a pretty
awesome product. The cheaper alternative is to buy some air-activated
toe warmers from your local sporting goods store. They work pretty
well. The only downside is you can't control them once they start
producing heat - it's all or nothing. But that's ok. There's no wires or
batteries to deal with, and I'll go through about 100 of these for the
same cost as the fancy Hotronics product. So, you say...in the end, all
I have is a dirt bike that can ride moderately well in snow. But not as
well as the snow machines, though. Can't go through deep snow.
Hard to stay warm in single-digit temperatures. Well, there's no
arguing that logic, but building a snow machine was not the point of
this exercise. Staying on the bike during winter was my intention, and
that I have accomplished. And, thanks to my lights, I can do this any
time I want. In fact, I prefer night riding. It's just flat-out cool to bust
through snow drifts at night. If you ever want to know what complete
seclusion and silence feels like, shut off the engine in the middle of a
harvested cornfield on a still night. Look up into a clear sky with a full
moon and thank the Man upstairs. Then go ride some more.
|It was about 2 degrees (F) when I took this picture. That is just a bit below my
tolerance, even with all that I did to make the KTM rideable in the winter.
|Update February 2010
I'd have to say winter riding is pretty
awesome. Once you're properly prepared
and the snow is suitable, it's a joy to ride.
Generally, temperatures above 20 degrees
were just about right. Anything less and
some of my fingers would get cold. The
coolest night I rode, at 13 degrees, was a
little below my tolerance level. The studs
work pretty well until the snow
accumulation reaches 8-10 inches. Any
more than that is still ridable, but the rear
tire does a lot of spinning. In 4-5 inches of
snow, conditions were perfect. I was able
to ride about 70 miles in mostly open corn
fields before hitting reserve on the 250XC.
Fuel consumption increases quite a bit
with higher snow accumulations, as the
RPM's tend to rise while the rear tire
searches for traction.
True ice conditions are not completely
ideal for the studs. The tires will still dance
around on totally frozen water. For riding
on lakes and ponds (which I did not do),
|Fresh studs left a little
surprise when the snow
melted. The studs have no
problems digging into the icy
layers below the snow.
|Update: Winter 2018-19
|It's nice to have one of these in the shop.
|Canadian Ice versus plastic guards.
The screws reshaped the guards
just a bit.
|Studs versus muffler. I tried to use
spacers to position the muffler away
from the studs a bit. Didn't work.
|Fredette ice tire on the back; Canadian ice screws on the