Motorcycle Rides

Winter Motorcycle Ride Planning Tips

Winter Motorcycle Ride Planning Tips

From spring to fall, almost every day is ideal for riders to head out on their motorcycles and enjoy little excursions. The open road, the sun overhead, and the wind rushing by make for memorable experiences while you sit behind the handles. Aside from rainy days, you can pretty much go wherever and whenever you want so long as you keep the rules of the road in mind. However, it becomes more difficult to enjoy riding your motorcycle when winter comes along.

For many motorcyclists, winter is the season they have to put their plans on hold. With shorter daylight hours, snow covering the ground, and freezing winds, there seem to be too many inconveniences for a ride on your motorcycle to be worthwhile. However, that does not mean all motorcyclists hunker down and wait for spring to come back. There are a few who have the willpower to endure the cold if it means getting to spend more time on their motorcycles.

If you consider yourself one of those people capable of handling a motorcycle during the winter, this article will help you plan accordingly. You will review what parts of your bike need to be inspected before taking it outdoors. Following this, you will be given pointers on what winter motorcycle clothes you should put on that will allow you to be comfortable yet mobile. Then, you will be informed of the types of road hazards to be aware of and how to ride responsibly so as not to be a danger to yourself and others. While you may think you can handle the cold, there are some days that you have to admit the winter is too much for you and you should just stay inside. On days you do get to ride your motorcycle, you might want to bring the right luggage to hold the items you may need during a ride.

1. Checking Over Your Bike in The Winter

Typically, most motorcyclists prefer to have their vehicles stored in their garages rather than expose them to the frigid elements. However, if you plan to take your motorcycle outside in the winter, you will need to make sure your motorcycle is in good shape. If there are any issues, it will be necessary for you to perform maintenance. Winter is a bad time for your motorcycle to break down due to mechanical troubles so make sure you fix any problems before leaving the safety of your garage

1.1 Tires

In cold climates, your tires will decompress more quickly which means you will have to check the tire pressure frequently. Tires that are full of air will ensure a smooth ride and save you a trip to buy a replacement when one goes flat. Make sure to look over your tires for any punctures or cracks. If you have been using the same tires since the warmer months, it is best you purchase some replacements. The type of tires better suited for the winter are the ones that prioritize traction over mileage.

1.2 Oil & Fluids

You do not need a special brand of oil for the winter. If the oil is contaminated, it is best to get an oil change. Otherwise, it might lead to corrosion in your motorcycle’s engine that could shorten its lifespan. It is possible for you to drain and refill the oil without having to go visit a mechanic. Antifreeze is the fluid that helps prevent the coolant in the radiator from icing over. Refilling this will make sure that none of the vital components will stop working while exposed to freezing temperatures.

1.3 Chassis

The reason many motorcyclists keep their rides out of the winter weather is because the heavy snowfall and road salt causes corrosion. The paint and integrity of the chassis can start to chip away. Regularly cleaning the surface with corrosion protectants will help ward off the damage to your motorcycle.

1.4 Chain

Upon returning home, immediately apply lube to the chain so that it settles in before the next time you decide to take your motorcycle outside again. Doing so will make sure the teeth stay attached to the wheel and prevent it from locking up.

1.5 Joints

Instead of using lube to keep the joints working, apply grease to the connected areas so that they will be in constant motion when your motorcycle is running. Make sure to apply enough so that the joints function nominally while still having enough resistance when turning and braking.

1.6 Battery

A motorcycle battery requires chemical reactions when you turn on the ignition to run properly. Low temperatures make it difficult for those reactions to happen at a steady rate. A suggestion is to run the engine for a few minutes to help it warm up before setting out. Also, tighten and grease the connectors to facilitate the flow of energy.

2. Winter Motorcycle Clothes

It will be difficult to ride your motorcycle in the winter if you are too busy shivering to stay in your seat. Putting on the appropriate clothing will help you keep warm while you are riding against the high-speed winds.

You should wear up to three layers of clothing, a base layer, a middle layer, and an outer layer. Each one serves a different purpose to help keep you warm. The base layer should help draw sweat away from your skin. The middle layer should provide insulation and keep in body heat. The outer layer should mitigate harm to your body during a crash, keep out moisture, and hold up against strong winds.

When picking a helmet, there are pros and cons you need to consider when choosing either a helmet with a visor or an open-face helmet. The visor will help keep snow and wind from getting into your face and hurting your eyes. However, condensation from your breathing may cause the visor to fog up which could impair your vision. An open-face helmet has no such issue and lets you breathe more freely as you ride. Unfortunately, this means your face is exposed to the chilly air and snowfall which could still leave your eyes vulnerable.

Bundle up with additional winter wear to help protect your extremities. Make sure you own winter riding gloves that allow you to move your fingers freely. This will prevent your hands from going numb and ensure you have a strong grip on the handles. Slip on long and heavy socks that go up past your ankles. The extra length will provide a seal that will prevent cold air or moisture from reaching your toes. If you decide to wear an open-face helmet, put on a scarf that can fit below your helmet and wrap it around your neck and mouth. This will help with regulating the circulation of heat to your head and let you breathe easier instead of inhaling the arid winter air.

2.1 Risks On the Winter Roads

Because of the freezing temperatures and the slick roads, you need to be extra careful when you are riding your motorcycle during the winter. Including the dangers that carry over from the warmer months, there are additional obstacles you have to keep an eye out for exclusive to the winter.

Regardless of the weather conditions, make sure to keep your eyes peeled on the road for black ice. Black ice is given that name because it is frozen over the black surface of asphalt roads and is almost invincible to the naked eye. If you do not spot it in time, your motorcycle will slide across a thin layer of ice.

Also, keep on the lookout for any wet leaves. After falling off any trees that are lined along the edge of the road, they can accumulate in piles or rest in the middle of the street. If your tires catch onto a wet leaf, you can lose traction and skid along the road.

Scattered across the ground, road salt or sand is used to melt snow and help provide extra traction for vehicles respectively. However, this can be counterproductive since your tires can easily slip on either road salt or sand if they are not evenly spread out.

When water gets into cracks and then freezes, it causes a rupture called a frost heave. As the freezing ice expands, it creates a small ridge and cracks form in the middle of the road. If you are riding at a relatively fast speed, you can be sent flying over the ridge or you could lose your balance riding over the uneven terrain.

Another kind of crack that is filled with tar is called a tar snake. Because the texture of a tar snake is a lot softer than the rest of the road, it creates an uneven surface. This may cause you to lose balance when riding on such bumpy terrain. If tar snakes get wet, they become even softer and slicker.

Following a snowplow passing through and clearing away snow from the road, snowplow grooves may be left behind as a result. Depending on how deep the grooves are, your tires may sink into them or may be forced to drive along their length. Even if you manage to keep your tires pointed in the direction you want to go, traveling over them means trying to maintain balance over bumpy terrain.

A general hazard that can be found on any road, potholes are holes or sudden dips in the road that continue to deepen due to the frequency of passing traffic. They are already dangerous since your tires can fall into them or throw you off balance due to the uneven surface. But during the winter, they can become covered by snow which can increase the likelihood of you passing over or falling into them by accident.

2.2 Driving Safely During the Winter

As mentioned before, you have to take extra precautions when you are on the road during winter, especially if there are other vehicles sharing the road with you.

During the evenings or days with overhanging clouds, you need to increase your visibility so that you can see what is ahead of you. Depending on where you live, adjust your motorcycle’s headlight(s) so that they illuminate the required distance in front of you. Usually, the farther the beam(s) of light can reach the better. If one can be fitted on the front of your motorcycle, try to install a fog light just in case you find yourself riding through snow, fog, or mist.

Equally important as being able to see, you have to ensure you are visible to other drivers. Even in dim light, reflectors on the front and back of your motorcycle should be able to reflect the headlights of oncoming and trailing vehicles. You should also make sure to wear bright clothing to contrast with the snow covered ground and darkened surroundings during the evenings and cloudy days.

Because of how slick the roads are, your motorcycle will still skid forward a considerable distance even after you use the brakes. When traveling behind another vehicle, make sure to give yourself a larger buffer space so to give you a few more seconds to react and lessen the chances of a rear-end collision. It is best if you ride at exactly or below the posted speed limit to ensure better control over your motorcycle and allow you to apply the brakes earlier. When switching lanes, make sure to signal early to other drivers which way you are going while there is still enough of a buffer space between you and them.

It is important to take care of yourself so that you are in shape to ride your motorcycle. Before you set out, make sure to eat a hearty and warm meal full of carbohydrates and proteins. Besides the warm food helping with your body temperature, the energy it provides will help you stay active and alert as you ride.

Whenever you are at a stop, take a moment to check yourself over to see if you are coming down with frostbite or hypothermia.

Signs of frostbite include numbness, your skin turning an unnatural color, lack of joint and muscle coordination, and blisters forming on the extremities.

Signs of hypothermia include intense shivering, feelings of fatigue or exhaustion, lack of joint and muscle coordination, your speech becoming slurred, and sudden memory loss.

If you believe you are coming down with either cold-related illnesses, immediately abandon your motorcycle ride and head home. Try to get your body temperature back to normal by drinking warm liquids, removing any wet clothing, wrapping yourself in a blanket, and turning up the thermostat in the room you are in. If the symptoms continue to persist, you should immediately call for medical help.

2.3 When To Avoid Riding in The Winter

There are just some days where conditions make it impossible for you to ride out during the winter. Before setting out on a motorcycle ride, you should always check the weather and temperature to make sure the area along your intended route will be safe.

Do not go out for a motorcycle ride if there is a high chance of snow. You would be buffeted by the heavy snowfall which would blind you as it hits you in the face or visor. The extra moisture would make the road even more slippery which would make it difficult for you to keep your balance and increase the chances of you crashing. Any moisture that lands on the surface of your motorcycle could freeze over depending on the temperature.

Do not go out for a motorcycle ride if the temperature is below 32°F or below freezing. The frigid environment could cause certain fluids, joints, or the chassis of your motorcycle to freeze over. This would drastically decrease your motorcycle’s capabilities to turn, brake, or adjust speed. Plus, it would increase the chances of you getting frostbite or hypothermia. If your body temperature drops or your limbs start to lose feeling, your reaction times will be a lot slower which could be fatal if any other vehicles suddenly stop in front of you.

3. Winter Motorcycle Saddlebags

In preparation for the winter, you will need to outfit your motorcycle with additional equipment that will help it be better suited to deal with the harsh conditions. During a ride, you may be inclined to carry items with you such as spare clothing, a thermos with a hot drink, extra food to help you replenish your energy, or tools in case your motorcycle needs to be quickly fixed up. However, your belongings could become wet or blown away if they are not properly stored. The best way to deal with this is to secure a motorcycle saddlebag onto your ride.

3.1 Hard Saddlebags

Hard saddlebags are made of a waterproof fiberglass exterior that helps them retain their shape. The sealed lid plus implementation of a lock and key system will ensure that no moisture will get inside. Check out the Lamellar Slanted Matte Black Motorcycle Hard Saddlebag and the Yamaha Bolt Painted Matte Motorcycle Hard Saddlebag for examples.

3.2 Tail Bags

Tail bags are able to stay secure on the very backend of your motorcycle so that weight distribution does not affect your vehicle’s performance.They come equipped with a rain cover to help prevent them from getting wet. Because of the extra it provides; tail bags are ideal for longer trips. Check out the Voyage Premium Large Motorcycle Luggage Rack Bag and the Voyage Collapsible Medium Luggage Rack Bag for examples.

3.3 Organizers

Organizers are weather-resistant roll-up bags with small pockets lined inside so that they are tucked in when secured. It is possible to fit a blanket or bundle of clothing inside as organizers wrap around them when you roll them up. Check out the Anarchy Blanket/Jacket Roll Bag and the Anarchy Roll Organizer Bag for examples.

3.4 Seat Luggage

Seat luggage is also referred to as “under the seat luggage.” This bag is ideal if you plan to carry a passenger since it can be fitted in the back without taking up space that could be used for seating. An added bonus is that seat luggage can be used as a more comfortable seat cushion. Check out the Cordura Black Tunnel Motorcycle Seat Luggage and the Cruiser Expandable Black Tunnel Motorcycle Seat Luggage for examples.

4. Takeaway

Winter is considered the worst season for motorcyclists and with good reason. It is already hard enough to remember motorcycle laws while being mindful of your surroundings so that another vehicle does not ram into you. During winter, you have to be even more alert for hazards on the roads, from other drivers, and even the natural setting.

Yes, winter does have its dangers when it comes to taking out your motorcycle. But do not let that discourage you from trying. Instead of dreading the colder months, try to treat them as opportunities for you to sharpen your riding skills. Why waste all that time letting your motorcycle gather dust when it could be carrying you to a destination through a winter wonderland. 

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