As the icy veil of winter descends, riders across the country are left thinking about how the adverse weather conditions will affect their favorite hobby. For many riders, the prospect of snowfall, heavy winds and dense fog is enough to make them want to leave their motorcycle in the garage until spring. Additionally, hypothermia is a very real threat for winter riders - exposure to cold can cause a rapid drop in blood pressure, which can have fatal consequences (particularly when riding a motorcycle).
Fortunately, there are many precautions you can take to mitigate the dangers of riding during winter. Once you’re fully protected and have peace of mind, riding with the harsh winter wind against your face can be an invigorating experience. Here are the key steps to ensure you stay safe during your winter rides.
1 - Cover yourself for roadside assistance
While you never want your bike to malfunction during a ride, the cold weather does make riders more prone to accidents. To make sure you’re covered during these unfortunate circumstances, it’s best to establish a relationship with a reliable repair and tow service before you set off on your ride. AMA Roadside Assistance is a highly recommended service that can get you out of a jam if your motorcycle breaks down. In addition to towing, AMA offers a jump start service, flat tire replacement and the delivery of fuel and other fluids to your location.
2 - Wear appropriate gear
Before you embark into the dead of winter, it’s essential that you’re kitted out in the right gear. First, select a base layer specifically designed for riders. Even during the winter our body sweats, so it’s essential that our base layer gives our skin room to breathe. Depending on the temperature outside, you may also wish to add a mid layer such as a sweatshirt to stay warm.
Outer gear is the most important, as it is your primary barrier against the savage cold. The Black Brand Tempest Ran Suit is highly recommended for riding in adverse conditions. This two piece rain suit features heat-resistant pads on the inner legs and elastic closures on the arms and legs to keep you warm and dry. The suit is also available in a high visibility neon yellow option and can easily be folded away to fit in your saddlebag. Next, select a pair of gloves specifically designed for winter conditions, such as the River Road Cheyenne Cold Weather Gloves. These gloves feature a waterproof, wind resistant membrane, adjustable wrist straps for a secure fit and reflective piping for increased visibility.
If you are riding with a half helmet, an adequate face mask is highly recommended. The Zan Headgear Full Face Mask provides full coverage of the face and ears, is thermally insulated and features air vents for easy breathing - perfect for riding in adverse conditions. Additionally, a pair of goggles such as the Black Brand Gearhead Goggles will protect your face from the wind and will allow you to keep your eyes on the road in front of you, even in limited visibility.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that all of your body is fully sealed off from the wind. It can be extremely unpleasant if a particular part of your body is exposed to the cold during a winter ride, so double check before you set off.
3 - Drive cautiously
In wet or snowy conditions, visibility is typically diminished, so act accordingly. Always signal for longer than you would during dry conditions to ensure other road users are able to see you. In regards to following distance, try and keep at least two cars length of space from the vehicle ahead of you - this enables you to react quicker to cars stopping as well as other unforeseen circumstances on the road.
Also, ease up on the accelerator! Driving fast on the open road is one of the key enjoyments of riding a motorcycle, but during the winter it’s just too dangerous. When roads are more slippery and visibility is lower, you need to reduce sudden movements and make everything more gradual, from turning corners to hitting the brakes. Driving more cautiously will help to round out your skills as a rider, so use the winter months as an opportunity to revisit your riding fundamentals.
4 - Prep your motorcycle for winter
One key difference of riding during the winter compared to other times in the year is that traction is diminished. Always check your tyre pressure is appropriate for cold conditions before you set off. Additionally, you may wish to purchase an additional set of tires specifically for the winter if you plan to be riding. Some tires are designed for riding in adverse conditions - they heat up faster and have unique tread patterns which provide greater traction on wet roads.
Give your motorbike a bit longer to warm up than usual and use anti-corrosion spray to prevent damage from road salt. Ensure that your lights are in working order and are free from and dirt before setting off. Your mirrors should also be thoroughly cleaned with anti-misting spray for safety purposes. These tips apply for all weather conditions put are particularly important during the winter when strong winds, slippery roads and reduced visibility can cause accidents!
5 - If heavy snow is forecasted, call it a day!
Wind and light rainfall can present unique challenges when riding, but heavy snow is exceptionally threatening, experienced riders equipped with snow-ready motorcycles are the only people who should consider tackling this condition. Check the weather forecast frequently and if conditions look too treacherous, leave your motorcycle in the garage. If you need to be somewhere urgently, seek out an alternative source of transportation.
Riding through a snowstorm might sound like an exciting challenge, but there’s no point in injuring yourself when it easily could have been prevented. In addition to heavy snow, extremely strong winds can also be dangerous as hazardous objects can be blown onto the road. Always be highly alert when riding during the winter, and if things seem too overwhelming, call it a day. Light snow can quickly accumulate so don’t be afraid to take the nearest exit to recuperate if conditions are rapidly worsening.
For those seeking to brave the frost, we salute you!