Winter motorcycle riding has the hazards of the other three seasons and introduces a few more. It requires more preparation and planning, plus a keen awareness of current road and weather conditions. That said, it can be a truly exhilarating experience and, once you’re skilled at riding your motorcycle in winter, you can kiss cabin fever goodbye. Here are eight tips to help you get the most out of winter riding.
Being a safe motorcycle rider depends on your training, knowledge, skills, equipment, and risk management. While many view motorcycle riding as a physically low-impact sport, it actually requires a reasonable level of fitness, strength, and good health.
Winter motorcycle riding also requires you to carefully consider your risk versus benefit assessment before deciding to ride instead of winterizing and storing your bike for winter. Let’s look at some of the riding risks you’ll need to manage:
There are different schools of thought about what a winter motorcycle should be, leading to conflicting and confusing information.
Reviewing the possible models of motorcycles to use for winter riding opens questions, not of brand, but of riding philosophy. At one end of the spectrum is the approach that suggests acquiring a “beater” motorcycle for winter riding since it has low monetary value. The premise being, if you fall while winter riding, damage to your machine is a low-value loss. Further, a low-value bike reduces your worries of exposing your bike to road salt and other harsh elements.
The other approach is to ride a motorcycle best suited for handling winter conditions. A motorcycle with ABS and traction control can better handle the reduced traction found on winter roads. Having a robust electrical system will support better lighting for the increased darkness of shorter days, along with easier starting and power for electric riding gear to keep you warm. Low fairings or at least a windshield can help protect you from the cold wind.
Simply put, it’s better to ride the best bike you can afford and take good care of it if you’re hoping to experience safer and more comfortable winter motorcycle rides.
Perhaps you’re planning to use the bike you’ve already got to ride during winter. Making some improvements to your motorcycle can help to keep you safer while riding through this season. Here are some winter updates to consider:
Winter motorcycle riding begs the question, “Can you ride a motorcycle in the snow?” While there are some exceptions, like trail riding on specially prepared adventure motorcycles, or living somewhere like Finland or Canada, the simple answer is no. Acceleration, leaning to turn, and braking all require traction that is provided by two small contact patches on a motorcycle. Snow, even in small accumulations, will quickly zero out your traction.
Additionally, falling snow can rapidly cover your face shield and windshield if you have one, leaving your visibility compromised. If there is even a remote possibility of snowfall in the area you plan to ride in, stay home. After snow falls, allow ample time for the roads to be cleared and consider taking a four-wheeled vehicle for a reconnaissance drive before getting your motorcycle back out there.
Even when the skies are clear and blue and there’s been no snow or other winter precipitation for many days, we still must contend with cold temperatures that make winter riding unique. So you ask, “How cold is too cold to ride my motorcycle?”
Here are several important factors for cold weather motorcycle riding:
Wearing all your gear for every ride is best for your safety. This is doubly true in the winter. You should have two main goals in choosing and wearing your cold-weather motorcycle clothing. First is to maintain core temperature to avoid hypothermia. Second is to keep extremities from exposure to cold air.
While riding your motorcycle on a regular basis over the winter removes the need for storage preparation, don’t forget that winter presents challenges for your beloved motorcycle.
Cold weather can have a dramatic effect on the mechanics of your bike. Here’s what you should consider:
An underlying thread in our winter riding discussion is motorcycle safety. Safety starts with planning ahead and knowing your personal limits. That said, there are some good habits you can build into your rides to make them safer during winter:
Whether or not you decide to ride your motorcycle during winter is a matter of personal choice, but be aware of the risks associated with doing so, do some extra planning, wear the right gear, use common sense, and ride cautiously and safely.
In most cold-weather areas, de-icers such as salt are used to keep the roads safe during the winter months. Discover why you should keep road salt off your motorcycle.
Cold weather can cause low pressure in your motorcycle’s tires. Find out why it’s important to check your air pressure before leaving on cool-weather rides.
The general information in this blog is for informational or entertainment purposes only. View our blog disclaimer.