8 essential tips for winter motorcycle riding
12 July 2019
Nobody wants to put their motorcycle in storage for half the year. For any avid motorcyclist, riding is more than just a way to get around, it’s the best part of your day, and part of your identity.
We’re all at various stages of riding experience. We recall as new riders, when winter reared its ugly head, how we were determined to find ways to ride through it. After a few difficult lessons learned the hard way, here are some important tips for winter motorcycle riding.
1. Always check the weather
Before you get on your bike, check the temperature and the weather forecast. All cold weather is not the same, and it’s important to know your limits. We personally don’t like to ride at temperatures below freezing, because the wind chill makes riding uncomfortable at this point, even with proper winter gear.
Checking the forecast is important because, if you’re riding to work, or leaving for an extended period of time, the weather is liable to change while you’re out. Stepping out of the office at the end of the day to find out that you’re going to be riding home in a snowstorm is a situation that’s best avoided.
2. Don’t ride on slippery surfaces
Winter motorcycle riding does not mean riding on ice and snow. Nothing on two wheels is safe on black ice, and there is no way to make it safe. Keep in mind, though, that winter conditions offer more slipping hazards than just ice. Snow, slush, pooled water, road salt, and sand are all dangerous.
While road salt and sand improve traction on ice, they break your motorcycle’s direct connection to the asphalt, which increases the risk of slipping when turning, braking, or accelerating. These aren’t always avoidable, but it’s best to ride particularly carefully on any roads that aren’t dry and clean during the winter season.
3. Adjust your braking distance
Sediment on the road is more dangerous in winter than during warm weather for the same reason that motorcycles are more likely to slip even on clean asphalt during winter. As your tyres move over the road, they warm up and soften slightly, giving them a much better grip on the road.
During winter, that heat dissipates much more quickly than during the summer, leading to generally worse traction. Riders should increase their braking distance to help offset this as well as cornering more carefully, even when riding conditions are otherwise good.
4. Buy heated gear
Even high-quality gear won’t keep out the cold when temperatures sink below 10 degrees or so. Not only is that very uncomfortable for your hands, but it’s also dangerous.
Freezing cold hands are difficult to move quickly and smoothly, which can impact how well you can handle your bike in a critical situation. Before riding in cold weather, invest in a pair of heated gloves and grips, to keep your hands warm and comfortable.
5. Don’t panic in snow or sleet
It’s impossible to predict the weather perfectly, especially half a day in advance. Because of that, it’s not uncommon to find snow coming down on what was supposed to be just a cloudy winter day while you’re on the road.
Adverse weather isn’t just dangerous because it makes riding more difficult, it also makes it more difficult for cars to manoeuvre and brake properly. As a motorcyclist, you’re far more vulnerable in the event any possible collision.
If you’re already on the road, or otherwise forced to ride in these kinds of conditions, don’t panic. Instead, turn off the main road. Smaller roads with less traffic and lower speed limits greatly reduce the risk of any accidents and allow you to take your time in selecting your route outside of the press of cars all around.
If precipitation intensifies, this also makes it much easier to safely pull over and wait for conditions to improve.
6. Maintain your motorcycle
Winter riding is messy. Dirt and grime build up quickly, and corrosive road salt can damage your motorcycle, most importantly the brakes, if it isn’t washed regularly.
Grit and salt also have a tendency to get into even the smallest nooks and crannies, which is why it’s also important to clean and lubricate the chain more often than usual. This should be done after riding so that the lubricant has time to sink into the chain’s joints instead of being immediately flung off.
Besides this, riders need to be aware that cold temperatures are hard on their batteries. Cold batteries require more current to turn over an engine, and mostly discharged batteries become vulnerable to freezing in particularly cold weather, which can destroy them.To avoid this, it’s important to keep your battery charged, whether that’s by riding regularly, or by simply using a charger.
7. Improve visibility for yourself and other motorists
Visibility is a major problem in wintertime, both because of the weather, and the cold temperatures. Drivers often drive with partially fogged windshields, and motorcyclists visors are similarly much more vulnerable to misting in cold weather.
To make sure that you can see properly, consider using an anti-misting spray on your visor, or a pinlock visor insert. To increase your own visibility to other drivers, it’s a good idea to invest in brightly coloured and reflective winter gear that is visible even to drivers who haven’t properly defrosted their windshields.
8. Get good insurance
Good insurance is always important for a motorcyclist, but it becomes even more critical in winter. Even if you’re well prepared, the odds of having some kind of accident are heightened during the wintertime.
For a careful rider, this often doesn’t mean having a serious accident, but rather slipping and accidentally laying down the bike while pulling out of your driveway, or turning into a car park because of a difficult-to-spot patch of black ice. Low-stakes accidents like these rarely cause serious injury, but they can be hard on your motorcycle.
Our Star Motorcycle policy offers riders the protection they need to ride confidently through winter, with coverage for mechanical breakdowns, payments for personal injury, and 24/7 roadside and claims assistance. Give us a call today to learn more!