Riding in the winter can be challenging, but these tips will allow you to ride a few more miles throughout colder months.
Riding comfortably in cold weather begins with choosing the correct riding gear. And layering your clothing gives you better weather protection. Full length base layers are recommended. They allow our skin to breath by wicking away moisture. This helps sweat to evaporate rather than turning to cold perspiration on the body. Over the top of this you will need good quality jacket which is both waterproof and breathable. And if it’s possible within your price budget, then it’s worth considering purchasing a heated jacket.
Hands can get cold pretty quickly, so choose a good pair of thick gloves; with some gloves it is possible to wear some sort of base layer underneath them (like a thin pair of silk gloves for instance). And as with jackets, there are also heated glove options available – or another option, heated grips.
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A neck warmer is also worth considering and a tightly-sealed helmet with a fog-free insert is virtually essential. A cheap fix for this is use a bit of insulation material to plug-up the huge, upper-front vent, but if you do this, keep the rear ventilation vent open so your head doesn’t sweat.
Proper bike prep
You can get some level of basic weather protection by fitting such items as a large windscreen or handguards.
If your bike is water-cooled, make sure the anti-freeze is fresh and mixed properly. Also make sure all hoses are in good shape.
Adventure-style riding pegs provide optimal grip regardless of how slippery conditions get.
Before you set-off, check your tyre pressures; this is crucial during the winter months when optimal traction is needed. Cold tyres will limit your road grip and whilst riding will help to increase heat in the tyres, even the briefest stop can quickly cool the tyres down, providing lack of traction. To help keep the heat in, accelerate and decelerate quickly (obviously being mindful of traction). Also, make sure you have adequate tyre tread. Penny pinching on tyres is about as stupid as penny pinching on helmet quality. Remember that if it snows you’ll need to channel water/snow away much more than on wet roads.
Salt is not only an enemy to metal, but also to traction. Treat salt like ice; if you see crystallised appearances on the side of the road, stay away. Also remember that snow ploughs can destroy roads, causing new cracks, sometimes huge and able to chew-up rims. And watch out for that invisible enemy black ice.
Motorcycles weren’t designed for winter riding and can quickly succumb to rust. Give your bike a thorough wash whenever possible to free it off salt as possible (it’s also a good time to inspect your bike).
Visibility and distance
Look as far into the distance as possible so you can recognise hazards before they occur. Increased visibility allows you to react to a potential threat well in advanced (essential in winter when traction is limited from the cold roads). Stopping distance will also be affected, so add a few more car lengths than normal between you and whoever is in front; this allows you to react to any hazards in plenty of time. Remember, the faster you’re riding, the more distance you should maintain.
Snow is no go
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and if there’s even a threat of major snow, keep the bike home. If you’re already out and it starts snowing, get to your destination ASAP as snow can accumulate quickly, providing slippery riding conditions.