OK! I am going to extend on the notes here a bit.. First! I am used to do these things on my faithful Frosty. My god ole 2007 F650 GS Dakar. She has been good to me, and to do this without her is making feel like I am cheating on her. After all we crossed Canada twice together, survived the first Frozen But Tour and many other wild rides. I know what she feels like on ice and how every fibers of her metal, plastic and rubber body react on this type of roads.
Plus I have something with her that few have with their steeds. I know that if I came out of Labrador alive in 2008 after going up there alone and came out alive is because she never let me down.
I know what o do when she dances on the ice and how to follow her lead. Maybe sometimes she just lets me know enough that I know what to do and together we do our ice and snow riding thing like a good tango team.
I was a bit apprehensive this year about how I would react to this F800 GS partnership. They are great bikes, and I know after watching Patrice Roux on his in the 2010 FTB over 3000 km of ice that it could to it. I am very blessed that BMW has enough trust and faith in me to lend me the bikes for this year thing and also will be on the 2012 FTB as well. My relationship with BMW is important to me, and I know they feel the same way. So having the chance to do 10,000 km of winter riding on my way up to Tuk on two of them was a great chance for both of us.
At first when I brought it back to Victoria from Vancouver, I was not sure what to think. The front end felt light in dry and grippy condition and I did not know how it would feel on snow and ice. Our first day going across the Coquahala was the best way from hell to find out. I had said I wanted bad stuff and we got it.. a storm that stopped rigs on their tracks and even the tow trucks that were trying to help them. 6 inch of slush and snow is the worse. No traction and no control. Stopping was hard cause taking off again was challenging. I know how Frosty felt in this and her weight is something I am familiar with. I know how much to squeeze her and how to use my weight to work with hers.
This DID NOT work on the 800! I had no feedback from the front end. It felt vague as if floating on this crap. In a way it was, but I felt I could not use the bars to steers the bike at low speed. 10-15 km/h was incredibly hard to do. Frosty has enough weight on the front end that just me putting my weight back on the seat at times or low on the pegs was enough for us to work well together. Not on the 800
In dirt you can count on the resistance of the dirt or sand to help you slide your way into control or out of a line. In snow and slush and ice it does not work unless you have ice screws. And on the asphalt they do not work.
So what I quickly found out on the 800 is that if I shifted my weight forward to load the front end by leaning harder on the bars and also loading the weight on the pegs a bit, it worked. But this was counterintuitive for me after 35k of winter stuff on Frosty.
Once I survived the first day the 800 was starting to grow on me. To that point the power to weight ratio was addictive and I was enjoying this part of the bike. The rest?? Well- not so much! I preferred my Dakar’s amenities. On the third on our way to Jasper from Clearwater, we came though our first true snow and ice riding. 2 ½ hours of nothing but hard packed –ice like snow. This stuff I can do at 90 km/h on Frosty and sty sit upright. On the 800 I have to slide forward to balance both ends of it. Uncomfortable? But you get used to it.
What was funny in a way is that I am used to riding Frosty and by scanning at the road ahead of me I know how she reacts and I adapt. This allows me to take my eyes off the road and take in the mind numbing winter scenery. I tried to do this once on the 800 and I almost wiped out. Joe said the same thing. In all fairness the 800 works great in this stuff, and proof of this is that Joe had never done this before and he was doing fine.
On dirt as you gain speed you can count on the resistance dirt has on you and you can steer through slide and point and shoot. On ice on normal roads the same techniques do not work. If you do not shift the weight where it has to be on the bike, you will stat your slide and you will not be able to stop. You will spin around and crash. All fine and fun on dirt and trails, bit not fun one freaking bit when a 40 ton 10 wheeler is coming towards you while you are in a right hand turn curve.
The Aerostich studs give you some control. The harder the ice and packed snow surface, the better they work. At one point we had so much traction that if you gunned the throttle it was hard to make the rear end break loose.
Because of the front end light feeling of the 800, going downhill on snow and ice was actually working in is favor. That was good. At one point I looked in my mirror and saw Joe sliding sideways so much that he was perpendicular to the road at about 50 km/h. But he saved it. This shows that the 800 can be forgiving in this.
So far I still prefer my Dakar. But I believe that by the end of the trip I will love the 800 some more. To replace Frosty??? NO! But If I were to lose Frosty I would be confident to bring an 800 in and call it Frosty II.
That is it for the bikes. So far the weather has been too warm for my own liking. The coldest we have seen is -6-7 C. If I want this, I will ride in winter. I want -20 C and colder. The reason is, that the colder it is on ice, the more traction you get.
Also some of the gear that some have is not that good in wet conditions. Joe could not get the Sorel Alpha Traks boots I have because since Sorel was bough by Columbia or vice versa, they have not brought the Alpha Traks to Canada. Now they have the Alpha Paks… They are rated at -50 while the Alpha Traks are rated at -85C.
They get wet in the front because the material used in the front part of the boots is not waterproof. It will be fine in cold snow (Not melting) but other than that they take in moisture.
We also have Zox snowmobile helmets with heated visors. So far they are pretty good. They are light and my Lord, are they ever quiet. They have to be the quietest helmets I have ever put on. I always use earplugs with any helmets. But these helmets are so quiet that if I forgot my earplugs, I would not be worried about riding without them.
To this point we have been wearing out Aerostich Darian suits. I know first hand that in 2007 I have worn it from Victoria BC till I reached Riviere du Loup and the temperature dipped to -40C. At this point I switched to my North 40 Arctic ATV suit.
I am sure that if I had wanted to layer up more with the Stich that I could have done colder then this. So this year I will push the Stich to its limits. So far all I have worn under my Darian was my long johns from Georgia Mountain. I t is a Mil spec fleece undergarment. How warm is it? When I ht -61 C in Labrador in 2008 it was the only layer I had under my North 49 suit.. Does this help?
Mind you the Stich is thinner and not arctic rated. But I think that if I put on another outdoor tech insulation layer under it that I can wear it for the whole trip. We will see.
I will at one point switch to my Bombardier Helmet for one reason. The built-in breathing mask! This solves 100 % the moisture issue when you use the heated double layer vacuum-sealed visor.
My gloves are the 3 IN 1 Arctic snowmobile gloves from PolarPaw I bought at Canadian Tire for $35.0. Let’s just say that they beat the hell out of $200 + gloves I have used in the past. They have a removable fleece liner ad are waterproof and wind proof.
The Hippo Handz?? THE MOST IMPORTANT piece of equipment we have. Bar none!!! Enough said? DO NOT RIDE IN THE COLD WITHOUT THEM!
So! So far the trip has been awesome. The scenery is 100% holy crap mind numbingly beautiful. I have had a couple of pucker moments. One was a 8 on te pucker factor scale.
We are behind a B train an hour out of Jasper and the roads are messy, muddy, salty and sandy. I have been in front of the pack the whole trip and they copy my moves. I know better than to scrub my visor clean at times like this. I see the “Truck lane 500 feet” sign go by. But he decides to stay in the passing lane. We are going about 90 km/h at that point. I decide to go in the truck lane, which to this point looks clean.
I hammer down and as I go in the truck lane I find out in one nano-second why he did not go. Two reasons!
A) The lane is about 200 feet long. Not long enough to pass anything except gas after eating a burrito with 5 lb of refried beans.
B) What I thought looked like clean line turns into some path going to hell covered in 4 inches of snot-like slush mixed with sand and debris. If he weighing in at 130,000 lb did not want to go, why would I at 500 lb go? Well! I still do not know. But I know how I felt as the 800 started fishtailing as I admire his salt covered aluminum bud wheels get closer to me.
Remember what I said above about the 800 being not too good in slush? I do not think that riding it past a French Canadian dumb ass crushing Super B train rig, fishtailing like mad, and not being to touch anything whether it being clutch lever, brake lever, throttle or the auto-eject button will improve it. Normally at times like this as some you know, I rely on my ability to invent stress relieving, tension reducing French Canadian swears and curses. This time I did not want to. Just in case my lack of blood going through brain-blue lips would cause a vibration that the handlebars would sense and send me under this monster that would have never reacted while driving over me.
Somehow I just stayed on it and I guess that the resistance of the soup I was riding in slowed me down and I was able to get back behind it still alive. Thank God for Teflon Underwear!
Joe was behind me and saw that. He noticed that I was noticeably sitting straighter after this. This was to prevent the shit in my underwear from being squeezed up my back and making its way up my helmet, inevitably making whatever was in my BM drip down my helmet, effectively blinding me an making me crash anyway. I am sure there will be many more pucker moments. But this one was SPECIAL… it was the first. And like any “First” it leaves an imprint in your mind. In my case, on my seat too.
We made it to Jasper where we are spending two day at the Bear Lodge. We went to Maligne Canyon. Chek it out a http://www.malignecanyon.com/tour.html
where Mother Nature does amazing things with ice at this time of the year.
Tomorrow we head north toward Edmonton and then Fort St-John and Fort McMurray where the real stuff will start. I am stoked.
Stay tuned. This will get better and colder and better. I said that already, didn’t I?
See you soon