Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A new battery for Brigitta after some unexpected snow

Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer had been, of late, hard to start as the days got colder around here.  I'd been putting off buying a new battery as they are quite pricey and I have been known to "try and save money" by trying other remedies, doing the work myself, etc.  Usually, it worked out but not in this case.

Today, I rode into work with temperatures in the low 30s but sunny and dry roads.  I put the grip covers on Brigitta's grips and didn't even have to turn on the heated grips during the 12 miles or so to work.

During lunch, it was nice and sunny, temperatures in the mid to high 40s as I rode down to the Beemer dealer to pick up some parts and a new battery.  I wasn't going to install it you see, just have it with me if the current Panasonic LC-X1220P battery failed me on the next cold day.  The parts lady confirmed I'd be able to return the unused Westco battery so long as I didn't break open the plastic covers on the terminals.

Well, turns out I didn't have to wait till tomorrow's forecasted colder conditions.  As 4:00 PM approached, I could see the skies darkening and clouding over.  As I was packing up my gear, my co-workers stopped by my cube and told me it was snowing.  Yep, snowing.  I thought they were just kidding me but when I looked out the window there were big thick snow flakes coming down in a pretty stiff wind.  Damn.

Still, it had been such a warm day till then that the roads were warm and the snow was not sticking, just melting immediately so I hurriedly made my way to Brigitta and got ready to go.  I found her in the parking lot, covered in a thin layer of snow/ice mixture, which thankfully was melting.

I packed up my gear onto her and I turned the key, hit the starter button and she weakly cranked several times until I knew the battery wasn't going to do it, even though it had come close a couple of times. Did I mention it was still snowing?

But I was prepared, as it continued to snow, I broke out the spare battery from the side case, used my small jumper cables to hook it up to the onboard battery and a couple of cranks later, she fired up!  I used the throttle screw to keep the revs up as I packed everything back up.  This had taken only a few minutes but now the snow had stopped and it was just dark and windy and rainy....perfect riding conditions!  Not!

The winds were pretty strong so I elected to take city streets instead of the usual open county roads back towards my home neighborhoods.  It was rush hour, cagers all about me with rain coming down and nicely wet road surfaces.  I will admit it was a bit of a tense ride, but I had only one instance of the rear wheel attempting to slide during a stop.  I kept my following distance longer than usual and thankfully all the cagers I had behind me kept their distance for the most part.

I'll admit the heated grips were quite nice on the ride home, in fact, in the HIGH setting they get almost too hot!  I had to turn them down to low as they were almost burning the palm on my right hand.  No, I elected not to put the grip covers on in my rush to get going.  They would have helped but tend to be a bit in the way when wet.

Brigitta did great all the way home, and I was happy the snow had stopped before I left the parking lot at work.  I didn't get too wet (didn't bother donning my rain pants), got home and changed out the battery forthwith!  I started Brigitta up with the new battery and she kicked right over, we'll see how she does tomorrow.

As you can see, I'll be keeping the new battery.  I really hope I get Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig back soon....today's weather was more her style than Brigitta's!


RichardM said...

Does your Beemer have the same anemic alternator I have. I think it is 240 watts and seems to barely keep the battery charged.

Is it just parts availability with the Ural?


Chris Luhman said...

No fun! Good thinking on keeping a spare battery around. I carry one with my Ural just in case too.

My BMW came with actual hippo hands (HH) grips covers (that are actually labeled). Apparently, the other ones I have are knock-offs. The HHs are thinner than my others and have what I think is sheets of plastic inside. They work better than my old ones in the wet.

Have you tried putting camp dry or something similar on yours?

cpa3485 said...

The original battery in Max crapped out just shy of being 2 yrs old and was supposed to be a 5 year battery. My new one is the same brand and I wonder how long it will last, but so far it is holding up fine. You were better prepared than I was.
Max gets to park in a garage, both at home and at work, so I seldom have to deal with the outside elements, but a few nights ago after teaching my class and having to park Max outside for a few hours, I found Max covered in dew when I went to go home. I was glad it wasn't any colder than it was but had to wipe off the guages and mirrors before venturing out.
Here's hoping that you get that Ural back soon, it's getting to be that time of year.

Charlie6 said...

RichardM, yep, these airheads are known for their weak output...however, mine puts out 14.5 volts at 3200rpm so it should have been charging.

Chris, yes, I tried some scotchguard, it did ok but yesterday I was concentrating on getting home in one piece.

cpa3485, yes, I also hope to get my Ural back soon....it was a skating rink today in the south denver metro area....drove the cage to work, will get my ride in the afternoon when temps are supposed to soar into the 40s. : )

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Well, just another typical ride in Colorado. I'm glad you diudn't discover four inchers of snow on the motorcycle seat. I pushed the enveloper with tires once... Never again. With anything else.

Fortunately for me, the alternator on the K75 is rated for 52 amps and charges at 1100 rpm. Watch riding in the snow. It;s getting to be that time of year.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Fondest regards

bobskoot said...


I've been lucky with batteries but they are always plugged into a battery tender whilst parked. When I come home I immediately plug it in and the GREEN LED usually lights up immediately. If it goes RED first, then I know something is wrong. My V-strom has a 400 watt (33 amp) alternator, but is still considered weak as compared to (gulp, gulp) BMw's (gulp)

we are getting some snow now, and more tonight. I don't have a Ural but I have 4 snow tires mounted on my commuter

Wet Coast Scootin

Charlie6 said...

Jack, I do envy your K-Bike's seemingly bounteous amount of electrical energy.....four inches of snow would have stopped me cold on two wheels....but on three, not so much. : )

That is, if the shop ever gets around to fixing the last few things on her so I can have her back in my home!


Charlie6 said...


wow, only 33amps? Heck, even the russian alternator that's being refitted into Natasha at the shop puts out 35 amps!

the new battery cranks Brigitta right over now, good stuff. I have to though, in cold weather, remember to engage the choke before the first crank....


Chris Luhman said...

Yay for BMW alternators! My R1150GS cranks out 700watts!! :) (and they have a 900w upgrade too)