If you can avoid riding in the snow and ice, please do! Slippery road surfaces and cold weather are not just unpleasant, they can be real hazards for motorcyclists too.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are riding in these conditions, here are some tips from the Institute of Advanced Motorists Chief Examiner, Peter Rodger…
- Make sure you are warmly dressed, all over. If you don’t have a mist-clear arrangement on your visor, make sure it’s really clean before you start out – mist forms quicker on dirty surfaces.
- Think about your route, and stay on roads that are more likely to have been cleared of snow or less likely to have ice forming on them; and as you ride think ahead about where conditions are likely to change so you are ready – as you leave a main road onto a slip road or a side road, for example.
- Going over a bridge is one of the places you are most likely to encounter ice – the road freezes quicker (and thaws later) because it has cold air under as well as above it. Look ahead for them – the parapets at the side can be a good guide. Shady areas can be the same if it is a sunny day.
- Make sure you can see the road surface well ahead – so keep a long following distance and think about what you can see in the dark – you need to know what a surface will be like before you ride onto it, so position to see it and use all the light sources there are to let you get the best look, and accept that you may have to go slower if there might be ice about.
- If riding in traffic, think really carefully about where you are filtering, so that you don’t get caught out on a piece of road that hasn’t been salted or warmed up by the traffic – or simply where there the slush has been thrown by the traffic and collected so it throws you off balance.
- Don’t be tempted to overtake across a line or bridge of snow/slush in the middle of the road – or even a patch of frost there. The short passage across them can be deadly.
- If you are riding in collected snow, you may have to slow down so that you ride at sub walking pace with both feet down ready to steady the bike. – Remember to look ahead so that you don’t knock into a lump of snow – that could be enough to throw your balance on such a poor surface.
- Ride smoothly – accelerate gently, slow down really early and smoothly, and steer without sudden changes. On downhill sections do not let your speed rise – keep it low all the time, as getting it back down again can be very challenging.
- Don’t forget about microclimates – a microclimate is a local atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area. They can occur in certain weather situations such as where a tree has shielded the road from frost or rain. Therefore road conditions can be quite different in a small space.
- If you are caught out and it snows unexpectedly, remember fresh snow has more grip than packed ice. So sometimes it’s better to use that part of the road, but the journey will be slower. If it’s deep, keep out of it – you can’t see what’s underneath it.