Everybody that rides has one weather condition that they dislike more than others. Most of us can agree that a warm summer day is ideal, but from there it seems that peoples opinions change. For some it is rain that ruins the ride, for others it is cold weather. The combination of cold weather and precipitation sometimes creates snow or hail which is the deal breaker for other riders. As I have mentioned before, none of the above really bothers me. Rain? My waterproof gear keeps me dry. Cold? Heated gear and Gore-Tex work wonders. Snow? Not my favorite, but as long as it is not building up on the roads snow is not much different than riding in the rain.
There is one weather condition that I could do without, and no matter what gear I wear I am still uncomfortable.
It’s not that it is cold; it is that there is nothing I can put on, not even the 20 pounds of “life experience weight” that I have gained, that will stop my bike from getting blown around. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my commute takes me over one of the seven state-owned toll bridges on a daily basis. The design of the bridges is such that huge ocean going ships can travel under them which puts the road at a height suitable for kite flying. A constant seven to ten mile per hour wind is experienced at a minimum over the bridge, and you can plan on gusts into the 15 to 20 mph range even if it is nice and calm on land.
Then there are mornings like today. At street level I saw my neighbors wheeled garbage can being blown slowly down the street. Glancing up, I noticed a fairly large bird. It was flying – backwards – it’s wings flapping forcefully enough one would think it was responsible for the movement of the garbage can.
At this point I might have said “fudge” or something similar as I warmed the motor on “Jules”, my trusty Triumph Sprint ST. The voice of the weatherman was still in my head, proudly announcing “High wind warnings issued for all Bay Area bridges”. To be truly accurate, he should have said “Severe gale force gusts will blow your motorbike all over the place, so pack a clean pair of shorts for your arrival at the office”.
I knew what was in store for me once I got to the bridge as this was not my first rodeo. Compared to other local bridges it is fairly short at only a little over a mile, and aside from a slight bend at the entrance it is fairly straight. The wind was fairly calm on the approach to the bridge but once I started to gain altitude I caught a glimpse of my future. It looked like some cars were being pushed from left to right, however farther up the bridge I could see what looked like a hooded sweatshirt swirling straight up and then blowing from right to left. The sweatshirt made it clear across five lanes of traffic, over the side of the bridge and is probably halfway of Oz as you read this. I made some mental notes as to where the wind seemed to be gusting most, tightened my legs on the tank, and tried my best to relax my upper body to alleviate my death grip on the bars.
The first gusts were strong enough to force me to lean a little to the left to keep the bike moving in a straight line. A couple seconds later, the steady wind that was keeping me at a slight left lean decided it would be fun to briefly change directions, causing me to travel straight with a slight right lean.
“This isn’t so bad,” I thought as I adjusted my body position from left to right and back again. That is about the time that a small pick-up about three car lengths ahead of me changed into my lane very abruptly. At first I thought he just forgot to signal, but then I got hit with a gust that pushed me from the left side of the lane to the right. I fought back by pushing hard to the left and pitched the bike at an angle that I usually reserve for the track just to stay in a straight line. Within seconds the wind was gone leaving me diving across my lane like Valentino Rossi at turn two of Laguna Seca.
Mother nature presented me with similar conditions three more times in the remaining mile that I was on the bridge. It felt like an hour had passed, but in actuality it was only about a minute.
As I parked the bike in the motorcycle spots at work I thought about what I rode through and how it compared to other windy days. I thought about what it would have been like in a car and did a quick comparison. On the bike I enjoyed all but about a tenth of my commute. In a car, I would have only enjoyed a tenth, the rest would have been spent longing for the moto. A smile came to my face realizing that I had made the right decision by riding in. I might be wired a bit differently, but for me a bad day on the bike is still better than a good day in a car.