Monday, January 24, 2011

Long Ride and a Cold Foot

My Ural was finally due for its 10,000km maintenance this week, so I called up Kevin at Scrambler Cycle. He graciously agreed to do it on a Sunday, so I didn’t have to take any time off work! A look at the weather report the night before had me slightly worried. Originally, reports were that it’d be around 10F, but Saturday night it looked like –8F. In anticipation of the challenge, I didn’t sleep very well.

I had the Ural packed the night before with all of the consumables and some extras like the big car jump starter which could provide another power source for my heated gear should something go horribly wrong. It also has a light and a tire pump. Pretty handy.

Prep for long cold ride

I also packed this hunk of metal. It’s for a project Kevin and I are working on. More on that in a future post.

piece for mystery project

When I went to leave the house, I checked the thermometer for the PBC and found it was –14.1F! Wow. This was going to be a real challenge!

I like riding in winter for a number of reasons, but one of them is for the challenge. I can’t afford to ride to the arctic circle or other continents right now, so this is my way of having some adventure close to home.

I bundled up as best I could with my normal winter riding gear. I even put three heated foot packs on each foot. I expected to have problems with the feet, but felt reasonably comfortable with everything else. Two hours at –14F is a long time, and that’s before the wind-chill.

The ride started off without a hitch. I was grateful for the near empty roads, so I could enjoy the sunrise. I didn’t get my breath seal quite right or it was the moisture off my face, but the inside of my visor developed a beautiful sheet of ice.

An hour into the ride it covered my entire visor and I had to stop. My feet were also getting quite cold. I scraped the ice off the inside of my visor with my fingernail. It was thick! I re-arranged the guard for a tighter fit. My feet warmed up while I chatted with a guy in the gas station, and I was back on my way.

The cold did some strange things. First, the GoPro wouldn’t stay on for more than 45 minutes at a time. I’m impressed it even worked at all. With the wind-chill, it was something crazy like –60F sitting back there. The cold also held the smoke from nearby farm houses low to the ground in long thin strips.

My favorite scene from the ride was past a small farm. They had cows out feeding. It was so cold, steam was coming off their backs just from their body heat. The sunrise was brilliant in the background and the smoke from the farm house stretched out across the road. It was a great sight! The wood stove from the farm house smelled great too. It reminded me of campfires from past years.

I made it to Scrambler Cycle without further incident. My only complaint? A cold foot! Kevin was a bit amazed at how crazy I was to ride, and went right to work on the Ural. I teased him about getting frostbite from touching the bike.


He drained all the fluids


and tore apart the oil filter. No prize inside.

IMG_8638 IMG_8639

Before he took the valve covers off, he scraped some of the road gunk off to keep it out of the engine.


The oil was quite frozen, so we warmed it up on the heated floors.


Inside of the airbox had some oil and water which is pretty normal.


Kevin took it off and cleaned it up nicely.


Old air filter was dirty, so we replaced it.IMG_8646

New one on the left is a slightly different brand


Kevin had my new tires ready. Duros this time. IMG_8651

I wanted them for spring/summer/fall to replace the Kendas. I had originally planned to just take them home, but the front Kenda K335 was cupping badly and making the ride very harsh.


Kevin changed it out for me.


Duro tread:


We looked at the pusher (rear tire) and the sidecar tires and decided to rotate them.


This was the pusher below.


It’s pretty worn after just under 3000km. Maybe only 2-4mm left while the sidecar had nearly 10mm. I never measured them new, but I think they had around 12-14mm new.

Kevin finished the rest of the check list while I packed the tires on the rear rack. Two new Duros for the rear when the Kendas are done, and the badly cupped front tire. I’m still impressed with the traction of the K335s, but not the longevity. I’m on the fence if I will use them again next winter. I probably will.


The ride home was pretty uneventful. The bike was running great, and the ride was much smoother with the new front tire. There was a strong wind from the south that gave me a workout keeping the bike in a straight line. I was warm and toasty the whole ride home, even my feet.

I didn’t realize how cold it was until I removed one glove to open the door. Wow cold knob! Wow the outside of the other glove was really cold too!

My gear kept me warm, and Kevin did a great job on the Ural. 172 miles at an average of –3F and about five hours in the saddle.

A short video (3min) of the ride below:

YouTube Video PBC#26:


  1. Long Ride and Cold Foot sound like two American Indian names. They were at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, weren't they?

  2. Great comment Gary!

    I am so glad you found Kevin!

  3. Kevin sounds like a great mechanic to have working on your Ural!


  4. Dear Chris:

    When you speak of your electric gear, I'm assuming you mean gloves, jacket, and pants. What are the three heated fot packs you speak of? Are these electrical units or iron oxide heat packs for shoes? Is there a reason why you wouldn't use electric socks or insole heaters?

    And in looking at the airbox, how is the round filter made to give a tight seal, or even to fit, in the oval shape? Just curious.

    Do you have a voltmeter to tell you how the battery and the alternator are doing in the cold?

    I am always amazed at your adventures.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  5. You should have had Kevin stick his tongue on the Ural for a great comedy break on the video!! An amazing ride on a very cold day! And a great video too Chris! Movie worthy!! It was
    26 below in the town where I used to live yesterday(Chaumont,NY). Schools were closed due to the -35 wind chill! I don't miss that at all! I've got to say Chris, you are one tough rider!

  6. Gary: *groan* :D

    Keith: Me too!

    Dom: Yes, he's pretty good. Too bad he doesn't make house calls like Oscar!

    Jack: Thanks! I've only been using an electric coat this year and heated grips. My gerbing gloves are gathering dust. not cold enough to need them. The toe warmers are these: iron oxide I believe. I didn't want to mess with the wires of heated insoles (gerbing doesn't make socks anymore). Previously my dual temp controller was also full with gloves + coat. Now I suppose I would have a spot to plug in since I'm not using the gloves. I have another idea though I'm working on. Passive heat also fails more gracefully than electric which is another reason.

    the air filter sits over a hole in the bottom of the airbox (not seen in photo) a metal plate seals over the top of the filter and bolts into the middle of the box. The box also has a seal and a plate for the top of it to make sure all the air entering goes through the filter. The box is bigger than the filter (as most are) to allow air to move around. Make sense?

    Yes, I have a voltmeter soldered to a SAE2 so I can plug it into the battery tender cable. quick and easy to check. I don't do that much anymore as I have satisfied my curiosity and have confidence that it will work even when it's really cold.

    Eve: LOL!! I sent him your comment as a suggestion for next time. haha. Thanks! I'm glad you liked the video. I've been wanting to try that technique for a while now, but didn't have any suitable footage. -35F is cold! 10-15 years ago they closed the state when it was -50F... I wish they'd lower the bar and do it again >:)