Warming up for winter riding
I rarely re-think the decision to kiss Florida goodbye and move to the mountains — except in the dead of winter, when the cold and snow prevent me from my two favorite pastimes — golf and motorcycling.
This time of year, I should revisit my youthful love of skiing — after all, I grew up in Colorado, and skied from age 10 to my late 30s. But alas, that was long ago and far away. And sadly, both age and injuries have taken their toll.
Those pesky injuries have driven my golf game north of the century mark. I’m also running out of tendons to all-too-easily tear. Sorry Cataloochee.
This leaves me with my true passion of late — motorcycling.
Riding gives me a feeling of freedom and a real exhilaration — occasionally riding even gets my adrenalin pumping. That’s why, on so many days, the road calls.
And ‘round these parts, the “Road” includes the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherohala Skyway, the winding “Snake” and the infamous Tail of the Dragon.
But what’s a biker to do in the winter?
Previous cold seasons I would poke around the garage and tackle minor motorcycle maintenance. It was also a good time of year to add more chrome in anticipation of Bike Week, polish spokes, etc. But this year, I discovered a wonderful and empowering way to extend the riding season — heated motor clothing.
Did you know? — If properly (and warmly) dressed, with clothing that stands up to the “acceleration of cold,” you can ride your motorcycle throughout the winter.
Properly attired, all you need is traction.
That means on days — even when there is snow on the ground throughout the countryside — if the road is clear, you can answer the call.
Did you know? — We owe this freedom and extended riding season to the ingenuity of one man, Gordon Gerbing. As the story goes, Gerbing owned a small machine shop in Olympia, Washington, that supplied parts to the aeronautics industry. One of his employees rode to and from work daily on a Honda 100, and constantly complained of the bitter cold.
Gerbing came to his rescue — experimenting with heating pads and electric blankets, eventually sewing “heated panels” panels into a jacket, and adapting the circuitry to run off the motorcycle’s 12-volt system. It worked.
Gerbing started making “heated” jackets and taking them to motorcycle rallies, basically giving them away saying, “If you like it, pay me.”
The good news for bikers is that those early customers paid, praised his efforts and now — some 40-plus years later — we have the freedom to choose from a variety of motor clothing.
Over those years, Gerbing has continued to innovate — developing a more flexible, waterproof “microwire” that conducts heat more effectively. The strands are so thin (and bendable) that Gerbing jackets and jacket liners provide heat to the front, back, sleeves and collar — without adding bulk.
Gerbing heated gloves — another wonderful product — provide direct and instant heat to fingers, palms and the backs of the hands.
Gerbing’s interconnected system makes it easy to connect every item of Gerbing gear to another. Jackets and liners connect directly to gloves through the sleeves and pants and pants liners through the waist.
If you have cold feet, you can also connect to heated sock liners and insoles. Yes, Gerbing has thought of it all, including optional 7-volt, battery-powered systems that let you disconnect from your motorcycle and stay warm.
This battery-powered option has allowed Gerbing to spread the warmth to sports fans, hikers, hunters, fishermen, skiers, snowmobilers and even golfers.
As a matter of fact, you’ll see Gerbing heated gear — both behind the scenes and on the behinds — of the Fox Sports team reporting at the upcoming Superbowl.
And I can attest that the battery-powered fleece gloves are great for shoveling snow.
Oh yes, here is one, additional and compelling reason to consider Gerbing heated gear — as if staying warm wasn’t incentive enough. In 2013 the company moved their corporate headquarters and manufacturing to North Carolina.
I’m going to hop on my bike and go visit them as soon as my driveway melts. After all, I now have what Gerbing calls “thermovelocity protection.”
In other words, if the road calls, I can — “Ride on.”