Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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Chilled To The Core

Blog Date - 18 December 2018

150 miles. 5 hours ride including a couple of stops. Hard frost at the side of the roads. Low winter sun that did little to raise the air temperature. 

I did not need to make this journey. I chose of my own (stupid) free will to make this journey. I had time to kill and perhaps a few too many thoughts in my head that needed to be blown out. Strangely, masochistically, illogically I started to enjoy the journey after the first hour and the return leg was a delight. 

Ren's battle worn CBF125 in a very ordinary car park
It certainly does not LOOK cold.

By the time I got back to mother's house I was chilled to the core. Yes, yes of course if you ride a motorcycle through a British winter you're going to get cold. But there's cold then there's chilled to the core. 

What's the difference? If I ride for an hour to Sharon's place I can get cold, damn cold. That biting aching sore cold. That stiff fingers struggling to operate the clutch cold. That shivering and shaking uncontrollably cold. Then when I arrive there's about 5 minutes of ridiculously painful fingers as the blood returns to them then all is well and I am fine.

Chilled to the core comes from a long time spent in the cold. During my ride my fingers were barely nippy, I never got to the stiff little fingers stage. My toes had lost their twinkle too but no pain. I had shivered a tad when the sun went behind a hill that is all. I never reached that stage though where concentration left me and the cold became all consuming. I was not warm yet neither was I frozen. It wasn't THAT cold.

Snow covered cars, street and houses on a terraced street
It's not THAT cold!

It was most pleasant to be sipping hot tea at mother's place. Her bungalow is warm and dry and comfortable. I was comfortable yet deep inside I was still cold. That is the difference between cold versus chilled to the core. That evening at home I just could not shake that inner cold feeling. 

I've been here before, many many times. The feeling is unpleasant and disagreeable but it no longer worries me. Time will fix the problem - so long as I can spend that time somewhere warm. A night's sleep in a warm bed will fix the issue and sure enough the next day I'm fine. 

The times it becomes a problem is when I can't get somewhere warm for a long enough time. My winter trips can be like this. I'll take a long ride in the cold and follow it up with a night in a cold tent. This can grind, the longer it goes on the more it can grind. The winter trips can be very very hard work. 

Looking over a Highland loch to snow capped hills
When you're cold and there's nowhere warm you just gotta hope it's beautiful.

I think I must be stupid. I'm still planning a winter trip - admittedly I'm considering using hostels although this complicates matters. Why do I do this to myself? I must be a fool. I seem to gain some sense of challenge from it. Why do people climb Everest or go to the North Pole? Is it an ego thing? 

If you'd like to sponsor Ren with some warm motorcycle kit he'll review it here on Bikes And Travels. ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
I can do a review of my heated grips. But I don't want you to think I'm bragging about my warm fingers.
18/12/2018 8:33:37 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
No you're not bragging at all are you Pocketpete. I'm sure our reader would like to hear about your grips.
19/12/2018 7:57:47 AM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I think we've all been there Ren, and the only thing that works for me, to quickly raise core temperature, is an hour immersed in a very hot bath. I believe this is how the medical profession actually treats people with hypothermia, so it must be good. Difficult to achieve if you are sleeping in a tent though!
19/12/2018 1:02:30 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Maybe... hmmmm... maybe I should pack a bath with me on my winter trips? I wonder if there's a fold-up option? I wonder how long it would take to heat using my Coleman stove?

Yeah a hot bath does work. A shower will "suffice" but it's not the same as just soaking in a vat of steaming water.
19/12/2018 6:28:37 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-

If I ever have hypothermia please don´t treat me. :-)
Suddenly immersing someone in hot water will in all probability kill them. Warming has to be done slowly and preferably dry.
"Do not immerse the person in warm water. Rapid warming can cause heart arrhythmia."
Warming quickly causes the blood supply to the limbs to return to normal before the blood is warmed up resulting in a sudden shock to the system as the cold blood in the extremities suddenly reaches the body core and the coolish blood that was there heads to the extremities.

19/12/2018 9:47:26 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
So... not that I've ever actually reached hypothermia what is the correct way to warm someone who is bloody cold?
20/12/2018 9:14:44 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I seem to remember that it involves getting one or more warm volunteers and putting the patient in a sleeping bag with them......
20/12/2018 10:07:52 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
.... and with regard to keeping warm on the bike, many all-year round riders swear by electrically heated clothing although of course the bike's electrics have to be able to cope - I'm not sure about your 125. I have tried electric gloves and they were far better than heated grips which fried the inside of my hands but left the outer surfaces freezing.

The main risk is not really hypothermia but the dulled concentration, slower reaction times and poor decision making leading to unnecessary risks just to get home that bit quicker. Add these to the probability of slippery surfaces and poor visibility (affecting both you and others) and you're starting to get the perfect storm.
20/12/2018 10:14:35 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I would imagine recovery is quicker if the volunteer is stunningly attractive?

Yep, I know lots of folks with heated grips and they love them. For myself personally as you say Ian I got hot palms and frozen fingers. I guess we're all different.

It is feasible to get hypothermia on a motorcycle but the rider is far more likely to fall off, crash or otherwise before real hypothermia sets in. That said I am curious to know the correct procedure for hypothermia.
20/12/2018 11:43:12 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
The basic rule of treating hypothermia victims is bring their temperature up slowly with dry heat.
Remove all wet clothing, dry them as much as possible. If conscious give warm drinks, not hot, warm water bottles or stones, wrapped in towels are allowed too help warm them. Do not apply anything warm or hot direct to the skin. If unconscious its basically the same without the liquids. Do not rub the skin or heat rapidly.
Its all about bringing the core temp up gradually, to slow they die, too fast they die.
20/12/2018 4:27:00 PM UTC
Keith m said :-
Blimey hypothermia. Where's my car keys.
20/12/2018 7:14:31 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-

Ren - The Ed said :-
I would imagine recovery is quicker if the volunteer is stunningly attractive?

Apparently it doesn´t work that way, the more attractive the rescuer the longer it takes for the IP to recover for some strange reason. Also they tend to become delirious and keep clutching and hugging the rescuer. This reaction tends to occour most often when the victim is male and the rescuer female.

No-one knows why.
20/12/2018 9:21:30 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"No-one knows why. "

Obviously a properly conducted double-blind clinical trial is called for here. It sounds as though we may have some volunteers from this forum - although of course they risk being landed with a placebo.
21/12/2018 10:11:09 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Clinical trail, Me, Me, Me, Me. On second thoughts I'd probably end up with Ed. Count me out and how many glasses of Auchentoshan will be required to forget that image is anyone's guess.
21/12/2018 3:43:32 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Are you trying to say I'm not stunningly attractive Upt'North?
21/12/2018 6:32:53 PM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
The only time I've ever witnessed someone getting real hypothermia was during a long distance cycle ride in April. There was a real slog into the Welsh mountains including the devils staircase, which really warmed you up, followed by about 6 or 7 miles of descending in the rain, which really, really cooled you down. At the cafe in Tregaron I spilt half my cup of tea on the table my hands were shaking so much, and one couple on a tandem were carted off in an ambulance. And if you're wondering why I did this ride, apparently it was 'fun....
21/12/2018 7:48:27 PM UTC
NigelS said :-
I once took a Canadian canoe down the Hackfall (grade 4) in February in the snow with a new paddler mate who hadn't actually been in a canoe before. We tipped up, the canoe broke its back and it was another 3 miles to the get-out where my wife was waiting with the car. I sat in a hot bath for four hours replenishing the hot water every so often. My left ankle was very bloody and swollen and as the feeling came back we began to realise it was badly broken. So the 2 lessons I take from that episode a) don't do the Hackfall in the winter and b) the advantage of hyperthermia is that you can't feel anything at the time so you don't worry about it!
PS Back in the '60's I also learnt what being cold on a bike is all about, winter commuting on an Arial Arrow dressed in a duffle coat, cork Everoak pudding basin and goggles and AA type gauntlets made from fake leather and pvc arm bits!
22/12/2018 1:31:44 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Firstly stop doing daft things in a canoe.
Secondly, I bet you looked a dandy in all that kit. Pictures necessary please. We won't laugh.

22/12/2018 1:43:14 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
So OK, motorcycling obviously is not the proper way to get myself REALLY cold is it. I need to take up canoeing - but without the canoe and in winter. Or downhill only cycling again in winter when it's particularly wet and cold and I'd probably be best only wearing lycra shorts and a vest.

Yes NigelS - I bet you looked a proper dandy in your outfit.
22/12/2018 6:00:34 PM UTC

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