Winter motorcycle riding

Winter motorcycle riding. One loves it, one doesn't even want to think about it. Why would you ride through winter? Why wouldn't you store your motorcycle in wintertime? Why would you battle the cold, when you know you can't withstand it all? Why would you let your bike suffer while riding on salty roads? The answer is simple; because there's something magical about it.

Or even simpler; you might not own a car. Winter motorcycle riding is something different than riding in summertime, while you still do the same. Factors like slipperiness, bad weather and poor visibility all add to the risk of riding through winter. And don’t forget drivers in cars who no longer expect motorcyclists to be on the roads. But what are the benefits or winter motorcycle riding? For starters, you won’t loose the feeling with your bike. In case of commuting, you will reach your destination much quicker, as always. But is it all worth the risk? For many; no. But the icy wind, the slipping, the sliding and the suffering.. it still has its charm somehow.

Rigid, yet smooth

What do you have to take into account while winter motorcycle riding? Less then you might think. When you use your motorcycle regularly, it often automatically runs better. Of course, a motorcycle requires some maintenance here and there. But it doesn’t require twice the need of maintenance just because you ride through wintertime.  Yes, you ride extra miles. So your chain, sprockets and tires wear out faster. And an older battery can have some trouble with the cold.  But you will adapt your riding. You will be less aggressive on the throttle and less hard on the brakes. Your riding style will be smoother, even though it might not feel that way due to a cramped posture from the cold. So you won’t abuse the engine that much.

THE BOGEYMAN OF WINTER: SALT

The worst thing about riding through winter? Brine. Salty roads everywhere. Although the salt won’t destroy your motorcycle in just one winter, it of course isn’t very conducive to your bike too.  So we understand if you don’t want to put your beloved bike through all that. But if you rinse your motorcycle with lukewarm water after riding on salty roads, you will wash most of it off. So don’t fear the salty bogeyman. 

I must admit, I have never rinsed my bike after riding on salty roads. Shame on me, I know! But I ride my trusted Suzuki GSX-R 750 (K5) to work and back home again, every day. So my trusted donkey gets filthy everyday, too. ‘Cause let’s be honest.. keeping your bike clean while riding through mud, salt, rain and dirt is quite impossible. Out of sheer laziness, I never rinse her after riding. The number of times I clean my bike can be counted on one hand. And you won’t need all five fingers.. It goes against my good conscience to recommend you not to wash your bike, especially in wintertime. But a little bit of dirt certainly won’t destroy it. So don’t be afraid to ride in bad weather every now and then. You will learn so much!

You will gradually adjust your riding when you continue to ride in winter. At first, you’ll still be quick on the throttle. But more and more often you will notice your bike slipping and sliding a bit. A modest wheel spin at the traffic light, a slipping rear wheel in a turn. Those little moments are no disasters at all, but they are the first signs that you need to slow down a bit. Your tires won’t warm up as quickly as they do in summer. Do you only have to ride a short distance? They they may not even warm up at all. That has a significant impact on the behavior of your motorcycle. The same goes for cold brakes. Braking in freezing cold is less efficient and effective than braking on a warm, summer day. You will adapt more and more to the cold weather. And slowly, you will become more familiar with a slipping motorcycle. No doubt it feels uncomfortable at first, but give it some time. After a few winter rides it won’t scare you anymore. You will develop more confidence in your riding skills and in your bike. And the good thing is; you will bring that confidence with you into summer.

WINTER MOTORCYCLE CLOTHING: WHAT TO WEAR?

Most people would say; a GORE-TEX textile motorcycle suit with a warm inner lining. This makes your suit waterproof and keeps the wind out . And we fully agree, it’s a great choice. Are you planning on winter motorcycle riding? Then definitely invest in a great winter suit. A cold body is a cramped body. All of your focus will go to feeling cold, instead of to what’s happening on the road. We don’t want that. So invest in great motorcycle clothing for winter! We promise you, you won’t regret it.

Not a fan of textile suits? Then there is also the option to wear your leather motorcycle suit with an additional layer over it. Or underneath it.. I myself wear multiple layers of clothing under my leathers. Would I advice doing that? Nope. Not if your leather suit is dear to you. It stretches A LOT. In my case, it has stretched that much, that it’s become too big when I wear it in summer. Do you want the protection of your leathers? Then please wear a warm, wind- and waterproof vest or jackets over it and great thermal clothing under it.

GOLDEN TIP

Do you wear thermal clothing underneath your motorcycle suit? Then put your motorcycle outside and pack your things while wearing the thermal clothing and your suit. Thermal tops and pants don’t automatically warm you up. This time of clothing preserves your body temperature and keeps your warm that way. But for it to do that, you have to raise your body temperature. If you are already wearing the thermal clothing and motorcycle suit when you move around, your thermal layers can retain that generated heat. That way, you will stay warm longer.

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CHILLY NECK

A Buff is an ideal addition to your winter wardrobe. Incidentally, also for summer if you prefer not to be hit against the neck by small stones and flies. A Buff is a round, tube-like scarf around your neck. You can pull the scarf over your nose for added warmth in the winter. For summer, there are special Buffs that keep you cool. And you guessed it, there are aslo Buffs to wear in winter that provide extra warmth. By protecting your neck against the wind and cold, your entire body will feel warmer. A bit too much heat? Then you simply fold it up and put it away in an inner pocket of in the buddyseat of your motorcycle (no matter how small it is!).

HEATED GLOVES VS HEATED GRIPS

Finally, winter gloves are also a great idea. Numb fingertips will decrease the feeling with your motorcycle. Shifting and braking will be less smooth, which can entail unnecessary risks. So keep those hands warm! Nowadays, heated gloves also exist. The little battery that keeps the gloves warm can get in the way while riding. The designs get better and better, but we remain big fans of just proper winter gloves (perhaps with GTX-material). Heated grips have already proven themselves, they got lots of fans. But keep in ind that your handlebars will become considerably thicker. This gives a different feeling while riding. If you have been riding your bike for quite some time, it can take a while to get used to it. We prefer to invest in a good pair of winter gloves to keep the riding and steering of the motorcycle itself as optimal as possible.

Winter motorcycle riding isn’t as scary as it seems. You won’t spontaneously slide off a slippery road. You still have to do something for that to happen. By continuing to ride through winter you will learn to look further ahead, to anticipate quicker and above all, to ride ‘in the picture’. Many motorists no longer assume that motorcyclists are still riding around in winter. So make sure you ride in plain sight at all times. And let yourself be heard.. Yes, you heard it right. We encourage a loud exhaust. No, having your motorcycle running in front of the front door at 5 am in the morning is not that friendly towards your neighbors. So take that into account. But a loud exhaust on the road to let your fellow road users know that you are still riding around? We don’t see the harm in that. Exaggeration is also a profession, but know that it’s up to you to be seen and heard, especially in winter. Ride carefully and enjoy!

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