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TRAVEL Hints and Tips Post your TIPS to travellers - all the interesting little tidbits you learned on the road about packing, where to get stuff, and how to cope with problems. Please make sure the subject describes the tip clearly!
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  #1  
Old 6 Dec 2005
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bike care in the cold

Hi, I am leaving on a trip to china on the 1 sep. I will be in mongolia by around october. The temparature there can reach -10C. However if i get delayed the temparature can reach -40C. If this happens I will be pretty F**KED. I personaly can deal with the cold as long as I have the right gear. However although I dont expect the bike to work in -40C, what are the dangeres mechanicaly of operating the bike in such cold weather? What will go wrong, and what can be done about it! (I ride a BMW F650GS).
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  #2  
Old 6 Dec 2005
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Main prinicpe is to put the RIGHT viscosity OIL!

W10-40 is a proper choice i think for these conditions, because in day the temps reach more than +5 to +10C i guess(?)

IF it really has been -40C night then warm up the engine crankcase with heating it with hot ember beneth it. Because if the cold really exceedes your oil's viscosity limit-temperature, then you can DRAG the engine in worst case on starting right away because the oil is too un-viscous on cold temps. W10-40 reaches till -40, so it must be very extreme night you need this method. If you do need, then be careful with hot ember - better to put it on shovel and let there be distance with crankcase and hot ember, because heating up too close may damage or deform your crankcase seals or even start fire on some plastic parts near it - let there be distance between heat and parts and better do it slowly.

After starting the bike in very cold conditions make sure to warm up the running bike SLOWLY indeed - materials and metal don't like huge temperature contrasts and fast movements and stresses between it.

Let the bike stay with choke-idle till time you see the temperature gauge go into "normal" zone and then slowly start to ride to let chain, wheel bearings, suspension moving parts etc slowly warm up - again do it slow - 10kph sounds reasonable in first gear some time, after some minutes of riding start to go faster on second etc, i think in about 15 minutes of riding or so you're ready to go full throttle.

If you have oil radiator or cooling radiator, but don't have any thermostat, then better cover the radiators up with some piece of cardboard ("blinding the radiator") for some time to engine fully warm up even during on riding. Afterwards you've taken off the blinding see if does the engine run on stable "warm" zone riding in cold conditions, if not (too cold air-flow 'freezes' it more effectivly than engine can warm up), then half-blind the radiator again, if it cools down again, then blind it more, cover up 2/3 of the radiator etc. Till you get the engine optimum running temperature to have less engine wear and better good fuel consumption (fact is engine takes a bit more fuel on cold conditions, but lot less if running optimum temperature compared with running on cold engine). Indeed, please don't let the engine to OVERHEAT - so check your engine temperature gauge regulary, especially doing some city traffic or difficult terrain where revs are high but movement slow may cause overheating very fast if blinding the radiators.

Hope this helps, Margus

[This message has been edited by Margus (edited 06 December 2005).]
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  #3  
Old 6 Dec 2005
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Consider what happens if the bike won't start because of low temp. Will you survive?
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  #4  
Old 6 Dec 2005
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Whilst I can concur with all of the advice that Margus' has logged, my own preference when things got cold was to head south or north (depending on the hemisphere)until the temperature reached a minimum of 21C (70*F)as anything below that's just uncivilised!
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  #5  
Old 6 Dec 2005
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Thanks for the advice, i have saved it to my computer and will def be using it. I am pretty happy with my own survival abilities and equipment if the bike fails. Lol as for riding in temps above 21C, I live in england and ur lucky to get that in the summer lol. also, any risk of petrol freezing?
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  #6  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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You'll also need to consider

The battery - it will not perform as well at very cold temperatures.

Cables can freeze too - be careful with the accelerator and clutch cables.


Boiling (well maybe not boiling - but very hot) water can be used to warm things up.

An Alaskan helicopter mechanic told me - spit on it, if it freezes don't touch it with your bear hands.
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  #7  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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As to your petrol, the petrol itself will not freeze however any water in it will. In Canada it is common to add some Methyle Hydrate (alcohol) to your fuel in the winter to prevent this. Not much say 5ml to a tank of fuel on a bike.

One other concern is your tires. Be sure to use care when starting out if you are using tubless tires as the ruber will be stiff and the bead will want to break free. Even with tubed tires the tire itself may be stiff enough to want to jump the rim until it runs enough to warm.

Have fun
Rick
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  #8  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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wow, this is all realy good advice
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  #9  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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Here we have some real commonality, -40 is the same in farenhite and celsius. Listen to people who actualy have to deal with cold every winter. Like edmonton. Here in montana it is supposed to be -30C tonight. I work at a honda /yamaha shop where we have yamaha 4 wheelers that use the yamaha 600 air cooled and the 660 liquid cooled motors. Yes they do start in negative temps but they have 20 amp batteries and we run at least 10w-30 oil. Yamaha also has a 0w-30 oil for really cold. Yamaha runs the 1000cc four cylinder in their snowmobile and it has a warning light and rpm restrictor till it warms up. I personaly rode a sidecar for a number of winters and I had to deal with frozen brakes and non starting. I ended up carrying a car battery in the sidecar and taking the battery inside to keep it warm. I agree with the comment to follow the sun. england does not have temps that freeze skin instantly or where you throw a cup of coffee in the air and it turns to frost. You can get red spots with white centers on your exposed flesh called frost bite and your vison gets blurry for several days or weeks after you slightly freeze your corneas. But banish boredom and have an adventure.
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  #10  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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Locals ride around on old Ural bikes with sidecars all winther, so I bet you will be fine. As explained earlier, your battery will be an issue. As for heating the engine, consider a propane torch (easier than lighting a fire). Shield the engine and torch from the wind and make sure that you don't heat the engine too quickly.

What I would really worry about is the wind chill. In my army days, on the Norwegian-Russian border, I often experienced the temperatures you talk about here. If you have the proper clothing, sleeping bag, tent, stove and a thermos, you will be ok. It is sitting still without a heat source that will kill you. Buy the warmest sleeping bag you can get your hands on. When cold, stripping ones clothes of and jump into a frozen sleeping bag does not sound like much fun, but do sleep in it naked. Wearing clothes in the sleeping bag will actually make you MUCH colder. The tent is mainly a wind shelter, but can be heated before you go to sleep. The most important reason you need to bring a stove is to melt snow/ice, which you will need to put in a thermos. I was wearing a waterbottle underneath my jacket, between my sweater and t-shirt, and it would get frozen solid. It is extremely important to stay hydrated, even more so than in the desert. You need to keep your blood thin so that it will flow freely to all parts of your body. Also, if you feel just a little bit that you need to go to the bathroom, then go, otherwise your body have to spend much energy heating up waste. Pulling ones pants down to take a dump in freezing temperatures does not sound inviting, but you will feel much warmer afterwards.

If you really want a warm nights sleep and you have to sleep outside, dig an ablong hole/trench in the ground. If the earth is too frozen to dig, then light a fire on the ground to thaugh the earth and then dig the hole. Light a fire in the hole/trench and throw aplle and grapefruit size rocks into it. Before you go to sleep, spread the rocks evenly in the hole and move the earth you dug out back on top. You will now have a heated floor that will keep you hot all night... in fact, this can even get uncomfortably hot. There are ofcourse numerous other ways to keep warm... I really suggest you buy a survival guide for arctic climates. In winther the days are short, and if you get stranded in the middle of nowhere due to mechanical failure, you need to know how to get through the night (don't expect help to be just around the corner). Making even the smallest repairs in climates like this is very challenging. First of all, your fingers will go completely numb after only a few minutes without your mittens (gloves won't do). Second, everything becomes extremely brittle in this cold, and parts and tools can easily break (especially plastic). I don't know if glue has a freezing temperature, if it does, then fixing a puncture could be challenging. Camping in temperatures like this can very satisfying and even comfortable, it just takes a bit more work to get settled. The major mistake most people do is that, being tired, they do not spend enough energy to get comfortable (setting up a warm camp, making a nice meal, dry clothes, etc), which will make them really exhausted. Expect to spend time and energy to stay comfortable and you will.

The major issue to worry about is wind and exposed skin. Exposed skin will get frostbitten in an instant in these temperatures, even with no wind present. The wind chill will be a major factor riding... just concider how a cool summer evening can feel when cruising down the highway in plain clothes, it can get a bit nippy. All your skin must be covered! As for clothing, no man made synthetic can beat the natural fabrics that locals use. If you get stuck, concider dressing up like a teddybear... Dont rub cold skin as you will likely destroy veins. Gently apply warm skin to the cold skin and hold it there. If you see/feel a frostbitecoming on (white spotted skin), set up camp immediatly and get warm qucik (if you are travelling with someone, check eachothers exposed skin as often as possible). If you for instance need to warm someones feet, putting them to your stomach is the best solution.

Temperatures like this is not to be taken lightly. Just to put it into perspective: The germans entered the part of the world where I spendt my army days (similar climate as you may experience) with more than 380.000 soldiers during world war 2. Thousands of these froze to death. By the turn of the year they had suffered about 100,000 cases of frostbite (one in four), more than 14,000 of which required amputations. Only about 1 in 5 tanks could fire, and even fewer could move.
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  #11  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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What’s the right gear for temperatures below -40c? I get headache after 15 minutes in -30c with a helmet stuffed full with wool…

How do you sort out ventilation of the helmet? Do you breathe through a tube?
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  #12  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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LoL actualy I got frostbite on my neck once when riding to scotland! but thanks for making me aware of the dangers. But if it wasnt dangerous or difficult, i wouldnt bother leaving my sitting room lol, and i bet this apply to everybody here,
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  #13  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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I would think that a balaclava (robbers full faced hat/ski-mask with the cut out eyes and mouth), combined with aviator or ski goggels and an open visor would be the way to go if ventilation in a full faced helmet is a problem. I would still keep to breathing slowly through my nose, and preferably through clothing to prevent lungs from freezing. In these temperatures you can throw a cup of boiling water into the air and it will instantly turn into a mist of tiny ice crystals (hot water has a larger surface than cold).

If you allready have experienced a frostbite, then be aware that that particlular skin will FOREVER be much more susceptible to future frostbites as many of the blood vessels are damaged. So Alibaba, next time, wear a hood and a scarf.

As for the correct gear... thick windproof but breathable natural fiber clothing, preferably a one piece suit which will allow circulation of heat between the bottom and top half of your body. Layer up with numerous layers of loose fitted whool clothing. Tall Eskimo/Moon boots (or similar) and atleast two pairs of thick whool socks (make sure that they are loose enough so that blood and air will circulate... which also means fairly loose boots). An electric vest and heated handlebars would be nice, as would chemical heat packs in your boots and protruding parts of your body such as knees... though remember that the locals have none of this stuff. Choose mittens over gloves (use layered ones with whool on the inside and a windproof shell on the outside). Although fleece has excellent insulation capabilities for its size and weight, it will not keep you warm when wet from persperation... on the other hand it will dry quickly. keep in mind how long nature has spendt on eveolving insulation capabilities in its fabrics, and how short of a time humans have used trying to synthetically achieve the same thing. I have lots of the synthetic stuff as it is practical, but in heating performance, nature rocks.

Remember that it is not only people who are suceptible to wind chill, but also your bike. Riding slow, and also concidering wrapping up your radiator (for instance by using cardboard), is something I would surely do.

And yes, we all love danger... though with some sence of control atleast.
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  #14  
Old 7 Dec 2005
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I did think of purchasing electric vest and electric shoe soles. However I have decided against instead, since the risk of them failing are to high and if the bike fails anything electric will become useless. As u say, nature is still best. i do have heated handles though.
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  #15  
Old 8 Dec 2005
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All good suggestions on staying warm. I personally use the electric vest and chaps along with a BMW Savana suit. Polypropolene underwear wicks away moisture (deadly in the cold and likely if you are doing anything physical) with the electrics over that followed by a fleece jacket. The biggest difference though is through wind protection. My R1150GS Adventure I can ride all day dressed as above down to about -10C. My R100GS with a pitifully small windshield is good to -5C for about half an hour. I imagine going with an RT would be ideal! To that end, my wife got a Cee Bailey's Tall windshield for her F650GS that she doesn't use. It was a bit too tall for her (5'4") and it is too low for me (6'4"). If you are interested drop me an e-mail and we can arrange something. Ekke61 at Hotmail.com

Specific to the F650GS, make sure you've got the radiator fluid tested down to -40C. Wouldn't want that to freeze! The electrical system is absolutely critical at low temperatures so when parking the bike for the night turn off as many of the electrical accessories as possible a little while before coming to a stop. Perhaps consider installing a switch to turn off the headlight if you haven't got that already. My R100GS will turn over even with 20W50 oil if the battery is strong.

Have fun and stay warm!


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Ekke Kok
Redwood Meadows, AB
'89 R100GS
'03 R1150GS Adventure
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