Posted On 23 Feb 2024
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This entry is part 24 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#23


I’m nowhere near as sensitive to Jack Frost’s caresses as Mrs Bear, who comes from Casino which often registers the highest summer temperature in NSW. There was one time the cold caught both of us, though.

We were living and working in London, and had just bought our first “big bike”, a near-new Suzuki GS750. To celebrate, we decided to have leathers made. My, and Mrs Bear’s, first sets of leathers were quite stylish with quilted leather padding (moulded protectors were unknown back then) and a smart design. They were lined in tartan material which made them look as if they were warm. We took them at their looks, and planned an Easter ride over to visit my relatives in Germany.

The first stage went… reasonably well.

I’ll tell you some other time what happened when I tried to store Mrs Bear’s little Puch upstairs in our little flat.

We set out from Fulham and made it to Harwich and the Hamburg ferry without any further incident. Well, unless you count the horrified looks I got because my left glove kept dripping blood from the ring finger. See ’Puch’ above. The ferry ride was fine , and we stayed with my aunt in Hamburg for a couple of days.

The weather was beautiful with that clear, bright and cosily warm spring air that makes winter a dull memory. The green of the new lime tree foliage was almost fluorescent and the lawns were sprinkled with tiny but brilliantly white and yellow daisies. We were riding with leathers unzipped, it was so warm.

Then we took off to my other relations further south, near Brunswick. We were riding along a tree lined back road, coming up on Luneburg, when it started to snow.

Within minutes the cold had penetrated our leathers. The tartan lining proved to be as warm as Gladwrap, or maybe not quite. As the snow began to build up on my chest and helmet, not to mention my knuckles, I found myself dropped from the joys of a warm spring to the depths of a miserable winter. Inevitably Mrs Bear was even worse off than I was; after all, I had been born to this climate – she had been born to the highest daily temperatures in New South Wales…

The air temperature dropped and kept on dropping as the snow fell. We stopped at a small wooden hut that seemed to serve no purpose other than to let motorcyclists put on all the clothes they could fit under their leathers. We put on all the clothes we could fit under our leathers. This turned out not to be much, because the tailor-made leathers (especially Mrs Bear’s) were skin tight.

We didn’t have much to put on anyway, but we tore up the plastic bags holding our clothes and other luggage, and inserted them inside the leathers to cut the wind.

I must admit that I seriously considered just staying in our comfy little wooden hut by the side of the road, even though it wasn’t all that comfy with the wind (did I mention that a wind had come up?) howling through the gaps in the board walls. Despite that it was an attractive venue to wait out the storm – except that it would probably last for a couple of days, and we were not equipped for a couple of days in a shed.

We didn’t know it at the time, but not only would the crappy weather last more than a week, but this was only the first time it would snow on us at Easter. The next year it did it too, but by then we were in the south of Greece, and much better prepared.

Anyway, there we were rolling down a German country road in the falling snow. Fortunately the ground was still warm enough so that the snow melted on contact; but that didn’t do us much good, except for eliminating the worry of ice patches. I could feel Mrs Bear shivering behind me even before I started doing the same thing, but before long we were both shakin’ the trip away.

I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden in serious cold without appropriate clothing, but you go through stages: first you’re just cold, then unpleasantly cold. Just before you start to shiver, particular parts of your body feel as if the heat is actually being sucked from them. Then you start to shiver.

As the shivering gets stronger, you find that you’re locking certain parts of your body into position. You lock your neck in such a way that it seems warmest – or anyway the least cold. Your hands follow, clamped onto the throttle and the other handgrip. They’re followed by your knees and thighs, locked against the tank, and finally your back and hips follow. You effectively become a chunk of frozen meat in the shape of a more or less human being.

We did all that, Mrs Bear earlier and worse than I, and our stops to warm ourselves on the engine didn’t help much. Then, eventually, we got to my cousin’s place and were helped off the bike, and today this occasion makes a good story to tell.

I hope I never have to do it again, though…

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

About the Author
Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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