I work part time at the local BMW dealer in the Green Bay area, Nick's BMW. One of the best parts of working there is I am the main demo lead rider. When customers come in for a demo ride, I lead them on a preset route in the area around the shop. We do demo rides late into the season as long as the roads are clean. Saturday, at about 3pm a customer came in to test ride a used K1200LT. Rather than get out one of the other demo bikes to ride, I told the shop owner I'd ride my own bike since I rode in that day anyway.
The demo route I do has a few turns so the test rider can at least get some idea of how the bike ridden handles. Some of the turns are simply 90 degree county highway to county highway, others are two-lane backroads with moderate easy turns. The temps were low, about 35 degrees, and the following rider was riding slow and very cautiously, so I backed off my pace to match his. About four miles from the shop was the first 90 degree turn, one I had taken MANY times through the season, sometimes at "enthusiastic" levels because I know the turn and bikes so well. So I backed off what I thought was enough. Wrongo!!
I entered a right hand 90 degree turn, braking done, in 2nd gear and setup for the turn/steady throttle, pressed firm on the right grip to set the bike into the turn, and the front tire totally washed out into a lowside! I'm sliding briefly on the pavement, maybe rolled once, watching my bike slide and spin on the RH saddlebag and valve cover. DAMN! Everything came to a stop quickly, riding gear scuffed, bike still runnning on its side, I'm fine. It was maybe a 30mph lowside at most. I got up and ran to my bike, shut it off, then picked it up. The following rider caught up to me saying "Wow! I just saw you go down! You ok!!??" Yeah.
I briefly looked over the bike, checked myself, looked over the turn, and found nothing to cause the lowside. Got the bike started and we completed the demo ride, while in my head I am trying to figure out what I did wrong. I had taken that same turn MANY times in the past FAR more spirited than I had just done. All I could think was, cold tires. After about an hour back at the shop, I rode back out to the turn, with a infrared thermal reader with me. Before I left the shop I checked the front tire, 20 degrees (center of the tread) on 27 degree pavement (oh by the way, NO frost or moisture involved). I rode the four miles to that turn and stopped there, checked the tire again. Center of the tread was already at 55 degrees, not bad. BUT!! The RH side of tread, just 1.5" off center, that I had leaned into was ONLY 25 degrees! 30 degrees cooler!! As I suspected, cold tire with less grip. The rear tire was at 55 degrees, and 45 degrees off center.
I rode back to the shop, another four miles. Got off the bike and the front tire was already at 75 degrees in the center of the tread. But 1.5" off center it read only 54 degrees, still at least 20 degrees cooler. If I had more time I would have ridden 10 miles, then 15 miles, then 20 miles, and each time taken readings on the tread center and off center to see how the front tire builds heat. My tires are new Avon Storm sport-touring tires with maybe 2,000 miles on them. Good tires, well rated for grip, with variable compounds in the material for better grip off center. But, I did not get enough heat into the WHOLE tread to take that corner like I did. So what was learned from this?
1. If you ride in cold weather, ride conservatively for at LEAST ten miles before expecting ANY normal grip.
2. Even after ten miles, off center of your front tire may be considerably cooler than the center.
3. BACK IT OFF, until your brain is "warmed up" for the ride as much as your tires. Or perhaps, COOL your brain and actions until your tires have warmed up.
So now I have to do some ebay shopping for a used RH valve cover. New winter project also to repair the RH saddlebag. Spend some bucks on getting my scuffed jacket and riding pants repaired. Reset my ego, perhaps do a little reality check in my noggin. And say "thanks, Lord" for the protection of riding gear that let me learn from a low-side witout even a scrath or bruise. Rememer, learn from EVERY ride. good and bad.