Tips for Safe Cold Weather Motorcycling
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
When temperatures drop, most motorcycle riders put their bikes up for the winter - without a fair amount of work, it just isn't as pleasant to ride a bike when it's below freezing outside. Safety is also an issue, and even following the best advice, it's still more dangerous to ride your motorcycle in the cold. If you insist on keeping your bike out all winter, follow these tips - they may literally save your skin, and avoiding accidents will definitely save you on motorcycle insurance.
Avoid snow, ice and salt
Whatever you do, stay away from snow and ice. A street motorcycle with factory tires simply isn't designed to maintain balance in these conditions, so if there's even a little bit of snow outside, you're better off finding another mode of transportation. AliveToRide stresses that you should avoid telling yourself that, "it'll be ok just this once," because there is an extremely good chance that it won't be.
Salt is less dangerous than snow and ice, but it won't go away when temperatures rise just above the freezing point either. Salt isn't just bad for the metal components of your bike, it's also bad for traction. Cities tend to overdo it a little with salt, so be extremely vigilant - especially right after the snow melts from a major storm.
Warm up your tires
Even when the ground outside is clear, you won't get the same traction that you would in warmer weather. The cold decreases the friction between the road and your tires, making them more likely to slip. This is why it's a good idea to warm up your tires in a controlled environment before you do any tough braking or turning. A few minutes riding around quieter streets should do the trick.
Dress for the weather
AliveToRide says that riding in temperatures any lower than 10 C will affect your ability to ride if you aren't wearing proper protection. The trick is to layer and avoid exposed skin at all costs. Long underwear will do the most to increase your overall body heat, so invest in a couple of pairs. By adding layers between yourself and the outside, you are creating pockets of air, slowing the rate at which heat can escape your body - it's the same principle that is behind double-paned glass windows.
A balaclava is also a great investment. You'll protect your face - which is among the most vulnerable parts of your body to the cold - without looking like you're going to rob a bank any minute, a la ski mask. For your hands, you should really go overkill. Even wearing two pairs of gloves won't keep your hands warm, and it will decrease your ability to safely operate your bike. Instead, buy a pair of heated gloves to keep your hands warm and able to operate your motorcycle.
Prepare your bike
Your bike also needs some preparation for the cold weather. Ultimate Motorcycling says that it is important to invest in a larger windscreen if you're going to be riding in cold weather - otherwise you'll lose warmth fast. Good hand guards are also important, because even with heated gloves, your fingers will get extremely cold if freezing wind is constantly blowing over them.
UM also reminds cold weather riders to check their antifreeze if their bike is water-cooled. Make sure that your coolant is fresh and properly mixed. While your at it, check on all of your hoses - cold weather is not favorable to rubber tubes.
You're still taking a larger risk if you're riding your motorcycle in cold weather, but if you're careful and follow these tips, you will most likely avoid an accident. Play it safe, even a non-fatal accident can shake your confidence and increase your motorcycle insurance premiums.