Winter is in full swing but there’s no need to pack up your bike for the season if you don’t want to. One of the best parts about riding is that you have the freedom to make your own rules. That means if you like riding in the cold, you should. Check out a few of our quick tips for winter riding that will help keep you warm and safe wherever you ride when things start to cool down in your area.
It’s All About the Layers
Gear is so important when riding in cold weather. Wearing layers while riding in the winter is ideal because you can easily control the amount of heat you need. Start with a solid base layer that not only keeps your body warm, but is made of a breathable material to keep any sweat you may produce from developing into cooled body moisture. Top your base layer with a fleece jacket with an insulated neck collar or a wind-stopping jacket depending on the temperature outside. Check out more details on specific gear and a few of our top recommendations in our “Cold Weather Riding Gear” post.
Add Winter Accessories
Use windscreens and handguards to your advantage to keep winter rides as enjoyable as possible and not something you end up dreading. The wind is part of what we love about riding, but the screen protects both you and the bike, and handguards will ensure you maintain a steady grip throughout the duration of the ride. If you really want to take hand comfort to the next level, consider installing heated handle grips to your bike during the colder months of the year.
Prep Your Ride
Once you’ve added your winter accessories, take a good look and make sure your antifreeze and oil levels are just right before heading out. Replace or repair any rusty parts from last season and consider adding a sealant to protect your bike from the elements on future rides. For extra care, wash your bike after each winter ride to keep your motorcycle in top shape all season long.
Map Your Route
If you’re going out on a cold day or during inclement weather, it’s always good to have your route planned before you head out. With your ride mapped out, you know where you’re going at all times and prepared for an alternate route should you encounter icy roads or poor conditions.
Check Your Tires
You should be checking your bike with the T-CLOCS method before each ride, but this is especially crucial when riding in colder weather. Make sure to check your tire pressure every couple of rides – not just before long rides, but as well as rides in new areas, and before storage because the cold weather can have an impact, even if you just filled them up. In fact, a motorcycle tire loses about 1 PSI for every 10° drop in outside temperatures. You’ll also want to examine the treads of your motorcycle before each ride to make sure there’s optimal traction during winter riding conditions. While we all love a good scar story, let’s avoid creating one by checking your bike before you hit the road.
Take Extra Stops
If you’re freezing cold, your mind isn’t going to be completely focused on the road ahead. It’s more than fine to take extra stops along your route to warm up – in fact, we encourage it.
Hydrate & Eat
During your stops, hydrate and maybe even grab a snack to get your metabolism and blood flow going. When you get cold, you might not feel as thirsty as you would when riding in the summer, but it’s important to stay hydrated to avoid fatigue. As we mentioned, don’t forget to bring a few snacks along or have a good meal before you set off. Having a full belly can help your body keep warm since you burn additional calories during digestion.
Have a Towing Service on Hand
In case the worst should happen, you’ll want to make sure you have a towing service saved in your phone that has some kind of motorcycle experience – you never know when a problem will strike, and you want to be prepared with a company you know will not only know how to properly tow your bike, but also treat it well in the process.
Be EXTRA Cautious
If you live in an area with snow or ice, you’ll need to slow down and increase your distance from other riders and cars during this time of year. This may seem obvious, but black ice comes out of nowhere, even for experienced riders – so if the road looks at all icy, it’s best to take another route or switch lanes. Also, be on the lookout for salt remnants from plows that can not only tarnish your bike but decrease overall traction. Speaking of plows, they can often create cracks in roads, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for any obstructions as you ride – especially ones that are newly formed, which might be hiding among snow and other winter debris.
Check the Forecast
We hope you do this before every ride, but checking the weather forecast before you hit the road is increasingly important during the winter months. If snow is in the forecast for the day you plan on riding, we recommend sitting that ride out. While riding in snow might seem exciting, it can cause decreased visibility and ice that you’ll want to avoid. We know forecasts aren’t always correct, so if you are out riding when snow begins to fall, we recommend getting home or finding shelter ASAP. If the snow has you sitting around, you can always check out our most recent articles so you can still get your motorcycle fix in the meantime.
Know When It’s Time to Sit Out
Even the most seasoned riders sometimes need to take a rest from the road. Do a mental and physical check-in before each ride. If you don’t have the proper gear or measures in place, and even if you do, take the threat of hypothermia seriously. If your core body temperature reaches 95 degrees, you are at risk. There’s always another time to ride if the weather’s against you or your energy is low.
Not all of us take riding breaks during the winter months, so we hope these tips help you stay safe and warm while riding the colder months of the year. Do you have any winter weather riding tips you’d like to share? Drop us a line in the comments below.