The temperatures in Northern Virginia have been super cold lately, and with my classes ending at 10pm I knew I had some cold commutes to look forward to this winter. My hands are generally the weak point in my winter armor, so I decided to take a shot at my first sewing project by making a pair of handlebar mitts inspired by the excellent Bar Mitts.
I used an old military duffelbag and insulated poncho liner for materials, and some velcro around the handlebar opening to help keep wind out. The mirror and turn signal brackets were the most challenging part. My paper mock-up didn’t line up exactly with the finished version and getting the holes in the right places took a bit of effort. The finished product worked well enough for my first ride home at about 18°F. My hands were cold even wearing thick ski gloves inside the bar mitts, but I don’t think I would have been able to ride at all in that temperature without the mitts. So… success! (In retrospect I probably should have just bought a pair of Bar Mitts, I think the neoprene would have been worth it.)
Besides sorting out my riding gear I also learned a bit about how my scooter works in the extreme cold.
First, the battery wouldn’t crank the engine so I was very glad my scooter has a kickstart. It’s a fuel-injected Yamaha c3 and it’s fairly unique in having a kickstarter, most fuel-injected scooters don’t. In fact, Yamaha has removed the kickstarter from their current fuel-injected scooters. It took over a minute of kicking before the engine started, but it meant that I didn’t have to ride the bus!
The next problem was that my rear brake was frozen solid! The hand lever wouldn’t move. I suspect the problem was that water got into the cable housing and froze. This would explain why it affected the rear brake and not the front, since the rear has a much longer cable. Also it worked loose gradually over about 10 miles of riding, if the shoes were frozen inside the drum then I expect they would have broken free all at once. Lucky for me the front brake was fine, or else again I would have been riding the bus. Most scooters now come with hydraulic disc brakes which aren’t vulnerable to freezing. Hopefully the bar mitts will help keep water from getting into the cable housing during the rest of the winter.
I recently installed a new set of Kenda 761 tires which have worked great on the few really icy sections in my neighborhood that haven’t been plowed. I’m about as ready for winter as I can get!