by Victor Wanchena
Another winter has almost passed. It was, by most accounts, an average winter, cold and snowy. I again chose to ride through the winter on my Ural sidecar rig. This is my 5th winter of riding, and the Ural is definitely showing some wear. The electrical system has been slowly dissolving from the salt. I tried to do some preventive fixes this fall, but every time I dug deeper into the problems, I found more. The starter had completely died, I had lost my high beam, and the horn was intermittent at best. All problems I could live with, but I eventually broke down and replaced the starter. The kick-starting looks manly, but the ritual becomes more involved the colder it gets. At -10 degrees F, I was reduced to burning sage and starting fluid as an offering to the gods of internal combustion. Mid-January I received a little notoriety in the Pioneer Press when columnist Joe Soucheray did a column on the rusty-but-trusty Ural and I. It was very flattering to be featured, but I knew there were others out in the salt and the snow. I just didn’t know their names. After the column ran a couple of other winter riders took the time to write and say hello.
There is Jeff Kozel, a fellow Ural rider. He likes the hearty nature of the Ural for winter commuting, and the two-wheel drive for getting up his driveway. And with a 20+ mile commute one way, he likes his heated grips as well. He relayed his share of troubles keeping a bike running through the winter, but he also shared the same sense of satisfaction when conquering all the challenges that winter threw at him.
I also received an email from Matt Dryden. He favors two wheels through the winter, running a DR350. He expressed a love of doing it just to do it and also likes that it serves as good practice for summer. Riding in poor traction situations keeps his skills sharp for drag and road racing in the summer months. He has had his share of difficulties with dead batteries and what was described as the “water from car wash freezes all moving parts” incident.
So here’s to the all the winter riders out there. We rise to the challenge and continue to ride forward. There are always difficulties and setbacks. But, as Editor Pearman wisely reminds us, regardless of what happens, two-weeks later it’s just another good story. It’s unfortunate, but I must close this month with some sad news. Brian Day, a long time contributor to MMM, died suddenly and tragically this winter. He had always brought an insightful and often irreverent take on the subjects he covered. He had traveled the world and brought those experiences to the pages of MMM. Everything from chasing down fabled Vincents in Argentina to kibitzing with racing royalty like Giacomo Agostini. He once told me he had been again shot down on a submission to a major glossy publication; the publisher’s reason was, “You’re too weird and quirky.” I was disappointed for him at the time, but secretly happy he could continue to write for MMM. To Brian Day, wherever you are, Godspeed.