Care and Feeding of Motorcycles in the Winter

So, it’s November. For a hefty chunk of North America, this means winter is coming. Winter means cold and snow and ice, and it means motorcycles are put into the back of the garage until spring.

Some people (okay, like me) ride all year. But I no longer ride Curiosity (my 1981 Yamaha SR250) in the winter. It’s getting a bit up there in miles, and I want it to get a lot higher up there in miles. They use salt on the roads in Wisconsin.


So, while I am riding my RX3 in the winter, I am working on the Yamaha (hey, it’s been around, it usually needs something). I have a couple of parts bikes, but there are still things which break on a semi-regular basis or have fail over time. And there are cables to lube, chains to clean and oil – if you travel on a motorcycle you know this list.

The time not spent riding (during the winter, if you’re somewhere you can’t ride those dark and dismal months) you can use that time get some maintenance done. If nothing else, you are going to want to pull the battery and get it on a charger. If you aren’t pulling the gas tank off, fill it and then use some stabl to keep it fresh over the winter. Now, if you are only parking the bike for a month or so you don’t have to worry able the fuel additive – that’s just for storage of a couple months or more.

If you have an older motorcycle (like a 1981 Yamaha SR250) and you need parts there are a few places you can go to online. eBay is an obvious choice for used parts (or whole parts bikes), but you can also by new OEM parts from places like Bike Bandit. I usually get new parts when the cost isn’t prohibitive – I always worry about used parts from an unknown source, especially when I might not be installing them to see if they actually work for weeks.

That sprocket has miles left on it. Miles.

No matter what you are planning to do to your motorcycle this winter, remember one thing – upgrade things that are broken but don’t spend money to replace things that work, even if what you are getting as a replacement might be better. If it works then keep it until it breaks or stops working, then replace it. Safe the money for travel – because that is supposed to be the whole point.

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The World in a Weekend – Horizons Ontario 2017 Part Three

I have a problem.
I know that I do, and I’ve even mentioned it before. I am terrible – simply awful, at taking enough pictures at events like this. I get caught up in the people and the things, and talking. I am there to talk and meet people and try to get everyone out and traveling.
Since I was carrying a dedicated camera I tried to keep it with me all the time, so I could get some pictures when I thought about it. In a way, having the camera helped some, since it being on my shoulder or hand reminded me that I should snap a quick picture of whatever cool thing was going on at the time.
And one thing about these events is that there are always cool things going on.
There were a few areas available for camping, each with a fire ring. Unsurprisingly, the one closest to the dining hall was the fullest – and generally had the biggest party after dark. Sue and I stayed a little further way, there was a spot on the beach we couldn’t quite pass up on.
 The dining room had a wall filled with the bios for the instructors, as well as the classes being offered. The times and locations were elsewhere, and updated as things changed over the weekend.
A rare picture of one of my packing classes – Sue took it from the woods while I wasn’t looking.
Of course – the classes are the things that make HU events more than camping. They run all day, and Ontario had several class rooms. You could sit in one and watch the instructors come and go, or hop around to try and see specific topics. Medical emergencies, packing, border crossing, photography, it was all there.
 The food plan was awesome, plentiful, and worth it. Assuming you came hungry.
And Clinton Stout showed off on a big beemer – it was a excellent demo on learning to control one of the things, but we all know small bikes are better.
Sunday morning came, and it was time to go. Sue and I packed up and planned our route home. It wasn’t a hard choice not to go through Chicago again, so we were headed for Sault St Marie and the Upper Peninsula.
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Pig Candy and Donuts – Horizons Unlimited Ontario 2016 Part Two

Port Huron.

Okay, I’ve never actually stayed in Port Huron before this. In fact, the only times I’d even come this way to Ontario HU was when I was covering the distance in one day – which I wasn’t doing this time, but we’d lost a day in my working and the loss of the Sena. So, Port Huron.

While we’d managed to find somewhere nice to stay and good beer, our first impressions of town weren’t positive. It is a border town, I suppose, but it’s between the USA and Canada – I guess I expected more. The downtown area, near the marina, was nice. But it was only a couple blocks long and about the same deep, and a few more blocks inland were neighborhoods that just felt wrong – sad and run down.

We didn’t go other there.

Once the bikes were parked and we changed into non-riding clothes, we took the dinner suggestion to heart and walked over. We stopped occasionally along the way for amusing photos –

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Almost 830 and still light, mostly. Time for dinner!

We were directed to the Thumb Coast Brewing Company, which was near the marina. Sadly, their kitchen closed at 8, so we just had beer (on an empty stomach) and talked with our server about where we should go instead. He suggested a BBQ place which we’d passed on earlier, not so much because he liked it as that it was still open.

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I am always nervous about BBQ in the north. The food is one of the main reasons I go to the Southeast – since they really know how to do BBQ. As I expected, this was okay without being amazing, but there was one item on the menu worth pointing out – Pig Candy. This was hickory smoked bacon covered in brown sugar, and then fried. I’ve actually made it at home, but it’s always delicious. We had it as an appetizer, and perhaps the main meal just didn’t measure up to bacon and sugar.

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It really was dark after dinner, and we went to bed hoping for an early start.

Which we didn’t get.

But we did manage to get into Canada without any issues and stopped for a picture at the sign (after asking if that was okay).

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We’d decided to head north along the coast of Lake Huron, rather than cut across towards Toronto. I’d always wanted to take this route but had never actually tried it. We were supposed to be at HU in the evening, but the mileage didn’t seem bad and we both wanted to get onto smaller roads after the dash across Michigan.

There was, though, two things we needed to address right away.

First was money. Since I generally use cash in Canada these days (given that I’m only usually there for a few days and don’t spend much it’s easier) we needed to get some cash. Sue went to an ATM and took out some, her first real chance to see Canadian currency in real life.

“Ooh, so pretty,” she said holding up the notes.

“Yes, but I assure you it’s real money,” said the guy refilling the coffee machine behind her. He was smiling broadly and I wondered how many times he’d heard something like that. Also, I have to admit I didn’t know this was Sue’s first time with Canadian currency. I knew she had been to Canada before, but she’d been 16 and someone else had just taken care of the money.

The other thing was just as important.

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We’d eaten at Tim Hortons before while at Niagara, so this wasn’t a first, but it is still something you have to do when you get to Canada. It was late morning, and we’d had breakfast before leaving the USA, so it was donuts for brunch.

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I usually just get a box of TimBits, but Sue saw the featured donuts and had to have them. To be honest, there is a similar picture of me and the donuts, but Sue took it and I don’t have it, so you get to see this one.

After the donuts and some time to digest we were back on the road. I saw a short gravel turn off to the left and took it on impulse. To the left was Lake Huron, and it seemed like it might be worth the diversion. Sue likes riding on dirt and gravel, now that she has a good motorcycle for it, so I didn’t even bother to ask.

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Once we turned inland, things got hot. Quickly. I had a hydration pack in my backpack, but Sue didn’t so I made sure we stopped often for water. I started to count miles and wonder if we were going to make dinner. We’d paid for dinner on Thursday, and didn’t have a lot of food left. We could manage if we had to, but if we weren’t going to make dinner at HU it would be better to stop and get something better than noodles or rice (which is about all we had left at this point). The bikes still needed fuel at regular intervals, and we still stopped at least once between fuelings for water and a break. Getting anywhere is rarely worth pushing and risking accidents.

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We reached the venue at 550pm. Dinner ended at 6, so we went right for the food (after some quick hugs) and loaded up our plates. Then we checked in, found somewhere to set up our tent for the weekend, and then realized we were too late for the evening presentations. So, it was time for campfires and meeting new people. The next morning, things would start for us, since I had a presentation at 9am.

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I Get To Be Less Lonely – Horizons Unlimited Ontario 2016 Part One

I’ve mentioned before who much of a fan I am of Horizons Unlimited. The same year I came back from South America they added a new event in Ontario. That year it was in September, and it was cold. The facilities weren’t the best either, but it was still a good time. I’ve been to every one HU Ontario event, except one. The last two years they’ve moved it to early summer, which has meant much nicer weather.

It’s not a secret, but I haven’t mentioned it much here on this blog, but I got married in January of 2016. On the long (okay, it wasn’t really that long, but just work with me) trip to Overland Expo I missed my new wife, and she apparently missed me. She has two girls, and arranged for them to spend some time with their dad, so she could come with. I wouldn’t be traveling alone.

Now, I am a default solo traveler. One of the things I love about Sue (the woman in question), is that traveling with her doesn’t seem like a burden. She manages to keep up, usually, and is open and accepting of whatever impromptu side adventures I feel like having. And when I get lost. I do get lost.

The ride was going to be about 750 miles each way. We initially had 3 days there and 3 back, but I agreed to work until noon on the day we were going to leave, so then it was 2 and a half days out. We decided to get through Chicago, since it’s not a fun city to ride in, and then stop on the first night. We didn’t take a lot of pictures, there wasn’t much to see.

One thing that did happen was the death of my Sena. It was on I-294, south of downtown. I don’t even know what happened, but it fell off my helmet in 4 lanes of traffic with no shoulder. Sue, riding behind me, saw it fall and get hit by a couple cars. She knew exactly what had happened. I took the next ramp to talk to her anyway. We decided to ride on without them, and probably replace it when we got back.

It was dark when we got into the area we wanted to stop. Sue had said she didn’t want to set up camp in the dark, so I went to our plan B motel. When we were stopped, she asked me why we hadn’t gone to the campground. I pointed out that it was dark, but she thought there was still enough light to set up camp. I thought so too – but since we’d lost the intercom we hadn’t been able to talk about it. So we decided to replace my Sena on the road.

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Very first picture on the trip – morning of Day 2. We’d slept in and were the last to leave the motel. The parking lot had been packed the night before. And, yes, Sue also has an RX3, a red 2016 model. It was just barely broken in when we left. We also had the upgraded luggage now, not so much for this trip as for the next one (FORESHADOWING!!!)

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Al and Sally’s is a nice place, by the way. There is a train track behind it, but we didn’t hear anything overnight. Neither Al or Sally still work there.

Since we’d decided to replace my Sena we had to find one. There were a few places in Lower Michigan listed as Sena dealers, but as I called them in the morning it turned out that most of them were online dealers only, and would order in what they needed, rather than keeping anything in stock. Sue really wanted a 10C – their camera model – but all we could find was a dual pack of the model we already had (SMH10). We didn’t need 2, but beggars can’t be choosers, and they were cheap.

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So, thanks to Coloma motorsports! As a side note, they also have some nice vintage bikes in there. And free water.

Now that we could talk to each other again we started west. We’d lost another half day, so we rushed across lower Michigan as best as we could. It was hot and the riding wasn’t exciting. We stopped…somewhere…for lunch and air-conditioning.

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We intended to cross into Canada at Port Huron/Sarnia, so that was our destination for the night. I’d wanted to cross in the evening and sleep on the Canada side, but at our last fuel stop before crossing I could tell Sue was very tired. I decided to just call it a night and looked for camping. The only real campgrounds in the area turned out to be very expensive, so we then looked at motels. There was one very close that had good reviews, so we rode over.

The office had a little ante-room with a buzzer, so we buzzed. And buzzed. And buzzed. Then we went back outside. There were a few people just lounging around in front of their rooms, so we asked if they knew where the manager was. They stated she had gone to some event with her son, and gave us her cell phone number (not kidding). So we tried ringing that, but there was no answer.

Now it was starting to get dark again, and I was starting to feel the long day. I found another hotel, this one downtown, and we headed there. It was more expensive, but the staff was at the desk, friendly, helped us with the motorcycles, and suggested places to go and eat. Totally worth it.

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