It wouldn’t be our first thought too, to ride that pretty Panigale in wintertime. Or to hop onto that Speed Triple for which you’ve worked so hard. So we get it, that you don’t want to hurt your mighty machine by winter motorcycle riding. We do advice you to hop onto that canon and ride it when it’s less warm and sunny. Riding through winter might be a bit much, but riding in bad weather does give you lots of insight in the character of your motorcycle and in your own riding technique. But what if you do want to ride through winter? What if you might not have any other choice? Or just do see the magic in winter motorcycle riding? Then we give you 10 tips for winter motorcycle riding that really work. Tips that sprouted from years of battling winters on our bikes.
The cold can be beautiful, it gives you a gorgeous sight from on top of your steel stud. But it’s less fun when that cold hits your body. To tackle that cold wearing multiple layers of clothing is the best solution. It starts with a great base layer of thermal clothing. Don’t wear a T-shirt, tanktop or something like that underneath it. Thermal clothing works best when it’s worn directly onto the skin. As long as your core stays warm it’s all perfectly doable. The biggest challenge you’ll face when it comes to protecting your body from the cold is keeping the wind out. Wear a thin layer of clothing over your thermal layer. Think of a thin sweater, vest or skipully. Especially when you wear a winter motorcycle jacket with a warm lining, that will be enough in most cases.
Want to wear leather motorcycle clothing in winter? You can! But keep in mind that leather will give you less protection against wind. That’s no big deal when it comes to your limbs, but it can be a struggle to keep your chest warm. You can wear multiple thin layers underneath your leather suit or jacket, but bear in mind your leathers will stretch quite a bit. Frankly, that’s a waste of your suit. Stick with just a really great thermal layer underneath your suit and maybe think about wearing a windproof layer over your leathers. Got some space to spare in your leathers? Than maybe wear a skipully underneath it. They provide great warmth. Just keep in mind that leather most often keeps you less warm in winter than textile motorcycle clothing.
Nowadays heated gear is a real thing. You’ve got heated shirts, socks, gloves and so on. It’s a cool thing technology stretches that far, but we’re not fully convinced yet. We have tried heated gear and yes, it works. It does the job quite well actually. But relying on technology is also the issue for us. It might work one day and the next one, it just refuses to work. Just like that old, stubborn motorcycle. It might start, or it might just not. Because one headache due to motorcycle mysteries is enough, we’d rather stick to our old school method and wear layers.
tip 2: Visibility
No, we’re not necessarily referring to a neonyellow vest. Do we deny the bloody (kind of not so fashionable) things work? No we don’t. ‘Cause they do. But we secretly understand why you’d rather not wear one. Does that mean looks get priority over visibility? Yet again; no. But if you refuse to wear high-viz motorcycle clothing and your motorcycle is also stealth black, just keep in mind you have to make yourself visible by riding in sight. Keep in mind at all times that other road uses haven’t seen you. Trust us. Even when you think “HOW could you NOT have seen me?!”, they just really haven’t. Lots of motorists don’t expect riders to be on the road when temperatures drop to around freezing point. So ride in sight, but keep a safe distance. It might be one of the most important tips in our list of 10 tips for winter motorcycle riding.
Tip 3 has to do with tip 2. A neon yellow vest does help, but a static moving objects stands out less than a dynamic moving object. Let us explain. A bright yellow car is more likely to be overlooked than a bright yellow flag. Motorcyclists often see more than motorists. Riding a bike is a more active way of participating in traffic. So to us, it might seem weird that one could overlook a bright yellow car. Still it happens, because that yellow car is moving with the masses. A yellow flag on top of a car (bear with me here) moves with the masses too, but also moves on it’s own. So it moves dynamically. That dynamic movement stands out way more. So a high-viz vest or even a bright yellow motorcycle is therefore less noticeable to drives than a yellow helmet. Your head moves while riding in different ways than just your direction. Think of the flag! Installing a flag on top of your bike is a bit much. So a flashy helmet in a bright colour or a helmet with a bright, colourful print might be a better solution. And let’s be honest, a colorful helmet is not such a punishment too.
It might sound a bit lame. But hard on the brakes on an ice, cold road is a whole different story than doing the same thing on a warm, dry road. So don’t be foolish and keep that in mind. Does that mean you have to keep a huge amount of distance to motorists in front of you? No, not really. You don’t want a driver to think “Hey, I can squeeze my car in that gap.” A proper distance is fine. Mostly keep an eye out to where there’s space for you to swerve to when things get tricky. Where could you squeeze in or where could you accelerate of swerve to? Find those spots. Expect the weirdest actions of everyone, then you’ll be the least surprised.
When temperatures drop is a smart idea to stop more often and drink something warm. Go for a coffee or tea break at a gasstation and take off your jacket. Acclimate a bit. Your clothing might loose their function when you keep your full gear on in a warmer climate (while being inside, for example). So take your coat off and warm your hands with a warm drink. Ladies with a small bladder; use that toilet. We all know what cold weather can do to our bladders. Non-stop pee breaks. Being all cramped up on the bike just because you have to go isn’t a pleasant thing in general. So stop more often, warm up and get back on the bike when you’re relaxed and ready to go again.
This might sound like a huge thing. But it’s not, really. It is wise to take a good look at your bike in advance. Inspect it for any flaws, broken things or worn down parts. Not in the mood to do it yourself? Then bring it to a garage for a check or service. Don’t just think of fluids, brakes and all that stuff. Also check your tires. Consider switching to good all-weather tires if your rims still show off these semi-slick street tires. Actually, don’t just consider it. Don’t be a nut, get some all-weather tires. Great tires do half the job for you while riding in winter. Keep in mind your tires hardly warm up during short winter rides, if they warm up at all. It just takes longer for them to warm up then roads are cold and icy. Cold tires equate to little grip, remember that.
We shouldn’t have to remind you to check your bike regularly. It should be something you do because you care. You don’t have to put your bike on a hydraulic lift every week and check it extensively. But a quick check before you hit the road is always a good idea. Check the fluids, lighting, breaks, etcetera. Also keep an eye out for rusted bolts and nuts. They might be made of stainless steel kinda material, but you never know for sure. In the end, no material really enjoys the mix of water, salt and mud. So just checkt it.
tip 8: LOW MORNING AND EVENING SUN
Be aware of the fact that a low morning or evening sun hides you from the sight of other riders and drivers. A low sun can make a whole car ‘invisible’, so don’t think “It won’t be that bad”. You won’t be seen and you might just have overlooked someone yourself, so check out that crossroad a second time before you cross it. Be sure that crossroad is empty. The same thing goes for roundabouts. The last thing you want is hitting the brakes hard with cold tires on a cold road, just because someone didn’t see you and thought the roundabout was clear. Be alert and watch out for that low morning or evening sun.
We can’t talk about tires enough in our list of 10 tips for winter motorcycle riding. Cold tires equate to little grip. We said it before and will say it again. Your tires will warm up on long rides, but it takes much longer than you might be used to when riding in warmer temperatures. And a short stop can cool down your tires quicker than you think. Want to warm up your tires a bit quicker? Then swaying doesn’t do much good. We all love a good sway every now and then. But it doesn’t generate extra heat in the tires. If you sway, do it because you want to get some extra connection with your bike and loosen up those hips. Do you want to generate some actual heat? Than accelerate and reduce speed by braking. Yet again, remember you’ve got less grip with cold tires on cold roads. So don’t hit that break with all you’ve got. Be mindful, but put your bike to work.
Speaking of tires; check them regularly on profile. Penny-pinching on tires is one of the stupidest things you can do, just as saving money on the quality of a helmet. Just don’t. We do encourage you to spent your money wisely, but buy those expensive but great tires (or helmet!). Bad tires are no joke in summer time, so don’t even think of riding with bad tires in winter. So go for the good ones. And check your tire pressure often. Tire pressure is always an important thing, but in winter you really want the best grip you can get.
You can be lucky and ride mostly in cold but dry weather. But it happens one day. One day, you won’t be able to outride that massive raincloud and you will get soaked. Unless you ride in full GORE-TEX motorcycle clothing perhaps. But chances are you will get wet one day. It might not be a stupid idea to ensure you’ve got an extra set of clothes at work. Don’t have the possibility to do that? You could also purchase a waterproof backpack to keep your spare set of clothes dry on the go. The same thing goes for shoes. Shoes can take up quite some space in your backpack. So can you keep them at work? Then that’s highly recommended. And that’s it for our 10 tips of winter motorcycle riding!