Kyle takes his first Zero FX cruise around Duluth for Aerostich's Zero Below Zero blog.
Zero Below Zero — I’m Ready, I’m Ready... - Kyle's First Ride - Reposted
We ran a story last month about Aerostich's wild plan to test the Zero FX in freezing Duluth, Minnesota. With their permission, we will be sharing the blogged thoughts of their select group of testers. Stay warm and enjoy!
Today was the day, it was my turn to ride the Zero FX home after work. The afternoon seemed to crawl by as the anticipation built, and for some reason an image of Spongebob Squarepants running around while giddily chanting ‘I’m ready! I’m ready’ kept running through my head. Maybe it was just my excitement to finally get a chance to throw a leg over the Zero for a cold, quiet ride through my snowy surroundings in the late afternoon sunshine. Or it could have something to do with my hi-viz Roadcrafter suit conjuring up a vague likeness to the yellow sea-dweller. Likely a little of both, but then it hit me...I was not ready, not yet.
Sure, my Roadcrafter Classic had been hanging up here at the top of the stairs of the third floor Aerostich offices, waiting for this opportunity, for the past week. Along with it, my Nolan N103 Helmet, Warmbib, silk scarf and Insulated Elkskin Gauntlet Gloves were stacked and waiting to be put to the test. But with temps reading 14ºF and falling, one more piece of kit would be desirable to make it a more comfortable ride home. Sixteen years ago I quit denying the fact that my hair was thinning, and fully embraced my baldness by regularly shaving my head. It means I never need to worry about helmet hair, but it also means I have no insulation on my noggin.
A quick trip down to the first floor retail space to purchase a new Power Dry Balaclava (#1040) had me feeling confident that I was now as ready as I was going to be to tackle this new winter commuting adventure.
Mind you, 14ºF is not the coldest temp I’ve ridden my motorcycle in (a few years ago I vowed to ride at least one day every month of the year and the first February day with dry roads was a balmy -12ºF), and many years ago I rode snowmobiles in temps as low as -40ºF. It’s pretty easy to dress for the cold, just takes a little more time and fore thought. And layers.
The time had come to head for home, so after donning my Roadcrafter and Warmbib, adjusting the balaclava, wrapping the scarf around my neck and securing the helmet chin strap, I was ready to ride. Cautiously I twisted the throttle, moving first along the sidewalk and then slowly over the snowbank to get get to dry road. Any trepidation quickly melted away once moving on the street, and it quickly felt like ‘just’ a normal commute home. Other than the snow all around, the occasional puzzled look of a driver or how cold my fingers were starting to feel after getting about half way home.
It appeared in the excitement to leave, I had forgotten to turn on the handwarmers and neglected to plug in the Warmbib. The handwarmers were an easy fix, with the flick of a switch they were switched on. Maybe it was the adrenalin, but even with the wind-chill factor of flowing with 45-50MPH traffic, I did not feel a need for that extra heat from the electric layer on my chest.
The main road was dry and the lack of engine noise was certainly noticeable from a rider perspective, accentuating the tire noise on the pavement and the sounds of the cars on the road around me. Overall the ride was not dissimilar to my ‘08 Kawasaki Versys, other than the sound, and catching myself reaching for the non-existent clutch a few times. Sure didn’t miss rowing through the gears at traffic lights! Getting closer to home and into more residential streets meant more patchy snow, sand and icy spots on the roads, but the Zero nimbly maneuvered around or went easily over them.
There were no noticeable traction issues until I made the turn into my snowpack covered driveway. Leaning slightly to make the small uphill climb up the driveway did cause the rear wheel to break free and spin, sliding the rear of the bike quickly to the left. I adjusted by backing off the throttle and putting down my right foot to steady and upright the bike, then slowly twisted the throttle again to easily make the rest of the 30 ft journey to park outside of my garage door.
What a great feeling it was to ride home, in January! I arrive home feeling energized and alert, with a big smile on my face. After a few photos to document the ride distance (5miles) and current outdoor temp (8ºF), it was time to plug in the power cords and tuck the Zero in to spend the night outside under the eaves of my garage. Looking forward to the next ride...
There is a 1 minute time-lapse video at the end of this post.
Back to Work – 01/20/16
Woke up this morning and peeked out the front door to see a fresh light dusting of powdery snow on the ground. The Zero had spent the night parked outside of my garage door, tucked just far enough under the overhanging eave to be spared anything more than a few flakes of this newly fallen snow coming to rest on it’s exposed seat and controls. After getting dressed in my riding gear, I headed out to the bike, unplugged the charging cords and plugged the cord for my Warmbib. Rode down the snowpacked driveway and navigated the turn onto the street. At the end of the block was a group of 3 teenagers, waiting for the school bus to pick them up. I watched them from the corner of my eye as I quietly rolled by, only the sound of the tires on the mixed snow, ice and pavement beneath them making any noise, but none of them even glanced up as I passed by. Guess an electric motorcycle in the winter isn’t considered cool by the kids these days... Oh, well, I’m smiling inside my helmet.
I could feel the warmth from the Warmbib heating my core and the heat from the grips was starting to penetrate the palms of my Elkskin Gauntlets. Once I got on the several mile stretch of highway and got up to speed however, I sure started feeling the cold seep into my fingers. Everything was warm and comfortable, except my fingers...might need to try layering with some Triple Digit Glove Covers to block the wind tomorrow or maybe try my snowmobile gloves next.
The rest of the ride downhill was business as usual. Arrived at Aerostich, plugged in the charger and headed in to start the workday (and warm up my fingers). A few fellow associates asked about the ride in and I was more than happy to relive the morning commute by telling them all about it.
>The Best Dual-Sport Motorcycles | RideApart
Follow The Zero Below Zero Journey Here, via Aerostich: Zero Below Zero Blog
Zero Below Zero -— I’m Ready, I’m Ready... - Kyle's First Ride - Reposted
Errands and Finding My Way Home – 01/20/16
The afternoon created a few errands that needed to be run downtown, so it was a perfect opportunity for another ride on the Zero. Outside temperature was 16ºF and light, fluffy snow had been falling for the past few hours, making the streets mostly wet with some areas of slush forming on the less travelled side streets. The Zero zoomed steadily and nimbly through the downtown traffic and it’s narrow frame provided fast, easy parking opportunities by sliding right in to spots where my car would not have been able to fit.
Traveling in the busy downtown area brought more looks and a few positive comments from people on the sidewalks and in the cars around me. Had a few stops to make this afternoon, with the bike sitting parked outside for about 15 minutes at each location during the 5+ mile round trip. The battery level went from fully charged to 88% by the end of this errand trip. With errands complete, it is time to go back to Aerostich to plug in and top off the battery for the evening ride home.
The geographic location of Duluth and our proximity to Lake Superior can create some interesting weather phenomenon, and the conditions for my evening commute certainly fall into that category. The light snow that had been falling for the afternoon had stopped, only to be replaced by what can be described as a suspended mist. After saddling up on the Zero and starting my ride toward home, one of the first things I notice is how quickly my helmet visor is covered with this airborne dampness. Initially, using the thumb squeegee on my Elkskin Gauntlet gloves is enough to wipe away the precip and get a clear view. Not sure if it was because the temperature was dropping or if it was related to the wind chill, but now the moisture was starting to freeze into a thin film of ice, that was getting progressively more difficult to wipe clear.
By the time I had ridden half way home the ice was thick enough to not be easily cleared without applying significant pressure from my gloved hand to the visor. And upon reaching the last intersection before getting to my neighborhood, the visor provided no visibility at all and I had to ride with it open to be able to see. The wind in the face wasn’t bad with the outdoor temperature being about 16ºF, and with my face protected by a balaclava, but if I had much more than a few blocks to arrive in my driveway, then my glasses would have ended up just as ice covered as my face shield I’m sure. Parked the bike and plugged it in to charge. This time, only needing one cord, since earlier this afternoon Randy had added a modified charging cord that needs only a single plug-in, mounted to the handlebars and much faster to connect.
You are the Keymaster – 01/21/16
My first-turn test riding the Zero FX is ending today, as it was agreed yesterday that Bruce would take possession of the keys and put the bike through its paces for some of his daily riding needs for a few days. After a downtown errand test yesterday, I had one new commuting test for the Zero this morning before heading to work and turning over the reigns. When I was ready to head out onto the street this morning, the outside temperature had warmed up over the past few days and was sitting at what felt like a balmy 21ºF (at least compared to the below zero and single digit stretch of weather the week prior).
READ MORE: 5 Quietest Motorcycle Helmets | RideApart
There were a few fresh snow flakes falling as I rode out of my neighborhood to go to a dental cleaning appointment (done by students in the dental hygienist program) at Lake Superior College. The parking lot at the school was a mix of wet and snow pack, but the studded tires (and lower air pressure) allowed confident riding through the mixed conditions. Parked in the designated area and with the battery now reading a 97% charge, I wondered how the bike resting for an extended period in the cold might effect the overall charge? These dental appointments are learning opportunities for the students, so they take longer than your average dental visit (the good news is there were no cavities...).
After 3 hours I returned to the bike and found the extra time sitting in the cold had no effect on the Zero’s internal battery charge (it was still at 97%). The battery back-up used to run the warming blanket was doing it’s job to keep the batteries warmed at a comfortable 33.2ºF too.
The ride out of the parking and back down the hill to Aerostich was a ‘normal’ commute. Parked the bike and plugged it in at it’s designated parking spot in front of the garage on the sidewalk and pulled out the key. After walking upstairs and hanging up my Roadcrafter, Warmbib, etc..., I walked over to Bruce’s work area to hand over the keys so he can give the Zero a try. It sure was a fun last couple of days, learning how to navigate through some mixed types of riding conditions and adjusting layers of clothing for warmth and comfort.
Really not looking forward to getting back in my car tonight. Going to miss that quiet buzz of the electric motor, the click of the studs on the pavement and the feeling of freedom that only comes from two wheel transportation. Looking forward to my next turn riding the Zero! Until then, I’m also looking forward to hearing about the riding experiences of my fellow associates. I hope you are too. #GoodRiding
Kyle - Aerostich Marketing and Graphics. Everyday ride is an ‘08 Kawasaki Versys, used to commute about 4500 miles per year.
Rider factoid: Enjoys riding in the rain and the jealous looks of youth soccer players (and a few mom’s) when dropping off his daughter on the bike for soccer practices and games.
Follow The Zero Below Zero Journey Here, via Aerostich: Zero Below Zero Blog