Reminders and Tips for Winter Motorcycle Riding
When winter arrives, you can do one of two things: either you winterize your motorcycle for storage until spring, or you grow a pair and keep riding through the dark months of winter. The choice is ultimately yours, but it’s my job to advise you on both options. Here are some motorcycle safety tips for those of you who keep riding in the dark, dark days of winter:
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Know Your Limits
Winter motorcycle riding can be invigorating, but prolonged time in cold conditions can cause slow reaction times, confusion, exhaustion, and other nasty conditions aside from (obviously) freezing to death. I don’t need to remind you how critical it is to stay sharp while on a bike, especially when riding on potentially slick roads next to cagers.
Warm, dry, and comfortable riders are more alert, safer, and more able to deal with emergency situations. Stop and warm up if you have to. There’s no shame in it. If it starts to snow, or if things are getting particularly nasty out there, pull over someplace warm and wait it out indoors if you can. Plus, while this may be personal preference, losing all your fingers and toes to frostbite just doesn’t sound like a fun time.
Not for winter storage, but for riding of course. Practical additions to winterize a motorcycle are windscreen, handguards, and crash bars to help keep the cold wind off your legs. If your bike is water-cooled, keep tabs on the antifreeze and make sure it’s fresh and mixed correctly. Also, keep an eye on your hoses and make sure they won’t bust and leave you high-and-dry.
Keep in mind, too, cold weather doesn’t just mean slick roads, the temperature can have an unwanted effect on rubber tires and make them lose traction. Motorcycle tire stud kits are available to add some quick traction to your tires if things get nasty.
Get the Right Winter Gear for Motorcycle Riding
Winter is a crucial time to get the right motorcycle gear. They always say to dress for the slide, not the ride, and winter conditions are prime-time to slip and slide all over the road. Winter motorcycle gear such as anti-fog helmets and goggles are especially important, considering your face doesn’t really come with a defogger, and you kinda need to see the road in order to safely ride on it.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to spend extra on visor cleaners and wipes for anti-fogging. Use dandruff shampoo like Head & Shoulders to wash your visor. After rinsing, it will act as an anti-fog coating. You’re welcome.
Considering with motorcycle gear these days you tend to get what you pay for, when it comes to winter motorcycle riding, the trick is to layer yourself with quality, lightweight gear that doesn’t add too much bulk. When you’re on a bike, one of the last things you want is restriction of your movements, and we all remember this guy:
Strategic layers keep the wind out and the heat in, and additional pockets of air in between the fabric layers create extra insulation. Here are some qualities to look for in your layering.
Athletic Base Layer:
Since this layer is closest to your skin, you want to make sure you will stay comfortable and warm, not sweaty and swampy. Look for sport base tops and pants that feature wicking technology and quickly evaporates all moisture and sweat. Sports tops and pants like Under Armour and GLACIER by REV’IT feature solid knitting structures that insulate while managing moisture.
Mid Layer for Insulation:
The point of your insulating layer is to heat your core and warm your blood which will move to your extremities, but the trick is to stay comfortable while doing it. While technology is a great thing, the fancypants electric warmers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I like to stick with some good ol’ flannel or fleece for insulation. Most types of synthetic fleece do a great job of retaining heat without trapping in moisture, and personally, I think the comfort of a trusty old flannel is hard to beat.
Outer Layer for Weatherproofing:
Gapless, windproof, and waterproof are the qualities that matter most here. It doesn’t matter what you have as your base- and mid-layers if your outer shell is just going whip away your insulated body warmth or leak and soak you to your bones.
Don’t forget about your lower extremities, the Legs Jacket by VEAR are great rain and snow pants. They roll up for easy carrying and snap on the outside of your regular pants when you need to keep snow and slush from soaking you to the core.
Stay Visible and Keep Your Distance
As if we riders needed another reason to be leery of distracted cagers. Consider this a friendly reminder to make sure you stay out of blind spots and, since slick roads affect stopping speed, keep a good distance between you and others on the road. It could be helpful to wear some brightly colored safety garments or reflectors, and brush up on your motorcycle safety to ensure your response and reaction times are in check.
Watch Out for Hazards
As much as we don’t like to admit it, motorcycles weren’t meant to ride in all weather. Ice, especially black ice, is an obvious hazard, but salt is equally as dangerous. Salted roads are a constant threat to motorcycles because salt not only causes your tires to lose traction but makes metal rust quickly. A good tip is to wash your bike after every winter ride, and you can also take this opportunity to inspect it and make sure everything is still in working order.
The cold weather makes roads brittle, and the way they are run over regularly by those huge plow trucks, cracks and potholes are pretty much guaranteed to pop up. I don’t have to tell you these hazards can chew up your rims, so make every effort to (safely) avoid running over them, and keep an eye on your tire pressure in case you can’t avoid it.
Stay safe out there!
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