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  #1  
Old 15 Aug 2012
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Salar de Uynui - Dealing with the Cold

Any tips for protecting the bike overnight from the cold on the Salar de Uyuni? Not sure how real a danger having the coolant freeze is? If I just throw a blanket over it will that be enough? How low is antifreeze supposed to work anyway?

Thanks
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Old 15 Aug 2012
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Hi goo,

Checking the weather on:

Weather Forecast Uyuni, Bolivia | Uyuni Weather | Wunderground

I see that the Salar will be in the mid 30s F or at or around 2C at night for the next few days. That is hardly cold. Your bike will be fine. The oil may be a bit thick and cold in the morning, but hardly enough to have to light the MSR stove and warm up the oil pan in the morning.

I will be leaving my truck parked outside in the northern plains of the U.S. over the winter while I'm in South America. It will likely be subject to horizontal snow and 20 below O temps like it was last year. Covered in ice and snow and will likely start up to my amazement just like it did this year when I got back from my travels.

You may freeze your ass off though. I would save your blankies for inside your tent. Your bike will be fine even with marginal coolant. Not to worry.

Kindest regards,
John Downs
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Old 15 Aug 2012
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Thanks for the reality check! I had been hearing of 20 below nights out there... Hopefully this is not just a freak heatwave and temperatures will be similar in a fortnight when I get there...
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Old 16 Aug 2012
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I checked out your blog and see you are from the southeast. It's important to remember that 20 below in Bolivian centigrade is just below 0 in fahrenheit numbers. Not cold enough to hurt antifreeze. It may get that cold in the dead of winter in the higher elevations, but it looks like you will be fine with pleasant daytime temps in the 50s F. Should be fun. It will only be getting warmer as Spring approaches in the altiplano.

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Old 16 Aug 2012
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The Salar (and the rest of the altiplano) gets cold at night, no doubt about it. It's now winter, and if it doesn't get below freezing as John suggests, you're a lucky man. I'd suggest not being too blasé about it if you're planning to be out there.

I'd not get too relaxed about your coolant either. Recommended percentage is 50/50 for most engines, but people cheat one way or the other for a variety of reasons--especially in places where it never really gets too cold--better cooling, for example, at the expense of freeze protection. If yours is 30% antifreeze, that'll protect to just 5 degrees F. Below that, your coolant will freeze. Freezing coolant can blow out hoses, burst radiators or crack your block. If you bought the bike used or have diluted the coolant at some point, think about this.

Other considerations also apply. If you run your battery dead, it'll freeze and be ruined. As long as it's charged, you're ok. Bikes don't like being started at zero degree temps, although they'll usually do so if everything's working right. Etc.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
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Old 16 Aug 2012
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My antifreeze hasn't been diluted and I put in the recomended Silkolene before the trip. Also my battery is a Lithium which doesn't suffer from freezing issues. I am slighlty dubious about those temperature forecasts mind you. The measuring station is probably in the town of Uyuni or even Potosi which wouldnt reflect the temp out on the Salar.
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Old 16 Aug 2012
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Yes, that weather station is in Potosi which is slightly higher and presumably colder than Uyuni and the Salar. I won't get there for a few months and Mark has actually been there so heed his advice. Mid 30s in the morning before the sun comes up with the wind howling is a nice day in Nebraska in winter. So my view is somewhat warped.

Reading your other thread I would worry more about your fuel pump than your cooling system.

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Old 16 Aug 2012
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Sounds like you've got it covered, then. I'd be more than "slightly" dubious about the temps quoted, but who knows? Altitude will also make a difference, of course--it's going to be a lot colder on routes which top out around 5000 meters (16,500 ft.) than in Uyuni (3700 meters) or Potosi (4000 meters).

Enjoy!

Edit to add: crossposting with John. I've been there, but in mid-summer. It got below freezing at night when not clouded over.
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Old 16 Aug 2012
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Thanks both of you for your input. Plenty of food for worry, i mean thought...
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Old 16 Aug 2012
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Goo,

I haven't camped on the Salar so can't comment on the conditions but I have tried to start and ridden my 800GS (basically same engine as yours) at various temps down to -25C. As long as you take the precautions suggested, your bike should start up to -10C with only a little bit of cranking, up to -15C with a lot of cranking and after that only with a boost from a big car battery and a long duration of cranking.

If you do go, and it does happen to get cold, just keep in mind that if you try your bike in teh morning and it doesn't start immediately, don't keep trying as you risk draining the battery. Just park it in the sun, go back to bed and come back in a couple of hours after the day has had time to warm up and your bike (and you) will be happier. Happy travels.
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Old 16 Aug 2012
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Thanks Mountainman for that reassurance! So no need to cover the bike or the radiator/coolant pipes at all then?
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Old 17 Aug 2012
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Nope, covering your bike doesn't make much difference, after a few hours outside it will be all be nicely chilled by the time you wake up.

Having said that, as others have mentioned, be cautious about the actual weather temps as you get close. At altitude it can get mighty cold and while you and the bike can get by at the outer limits of your/its operating range, it's usually not recommended for too long as things can break down and you and the bike will tend to get cranky
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Old 17 Aug 2012
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Not meaning to be argumentative, but I'm currently trying to avoid buckling down and tending to job responsibilities.

Under a clear night sky--that's most nights in the desert altiplano--stuff which is left uncovered will actually get colder than the ambient air temperature. The process by which this happens is radiational cooling. Loosely speaking, that's why frost forms on car windshields and lawns even at temps well above freezing on a clear night--and why it doesn't form in a carport or in the woods, even right next to that lawn or open parking space. It's also why you don't get frost on a cloudy night above freezing. For Mountain Man's benefit, it's why mountain snow refreezes on a clear night even in air temps of 5 or 10 degrees C.

What this means is that covering your bike might make a difference. I'd welcome anyone who really knows about this to chime in more authoritatively.

Ok, back to work.

Mark
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Old 18 Aug 2012
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Wow, a radiational cooling reference, on a Friday no less

My understanding of the precise equations governing such things is murky at best but most folks in the mountains around here cover living things (people, plants) to minimize the cooling effect and don't seem to bother with non-living things (bikes, snowmobiles) as it doesn't seem to make much difference, or at least for the purposes of starting or operating said non-living things.

I suppose if close to the operational limits already, a couple of degrees might be important, but based on nothing more than random guesswork (and a few cold pulls on frozen snowmobiles) leads me to want to think that a pretty cold bike starts poorly and a very cold bike starts not at all and just needs to be left in the sun a little longer while a person sleeps in their warm sleeping bag.

(As a side note, I'll have to google some articles on the effect with snow. I always assumed that it was mostly due to the charactertics of snow (less heat absorption, quicker heat dissipation, therefore lower base temps) that led to the effect being so strong and the temperature difference with the ambient air so great but who knows, that may just an oversimplification of the many variables on my part. I only really paid attention in the snow science commentary when they mentioned what makes good powder).
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Old 18 Aug 2012
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See, this is what I love about The Hubb!

I have a very thin cover for the bike so I guess I might as well use it. From the Wikipedia article on radiational cooling it sounds like it might help a bit.

I'm going to wrap my sheepskin seat cover around the radiator too.

I will report back from the icy wastes... Hopefully..
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