When cold weather settles in and heavy winds begin to blow, riding your motorcycle can be a demanding experience. Factor in snow, ice, or lack of preparation, and it can be downright dangerous – riders that don’t adequately prepare for cold conditions can be a serious hazard to themselves and others on the road. However, when you’re prepared, winter can be a uniquely wonderful time of year to ride. Review these tips to make sure you’re ready to ride your motorcycle safely this winter:
Perform a Motorcycle Inspection or Winterization
Make sure your bike is ready to ride or ready to store. If you wish to test the winter conditions, perform a safety inspection first. Different bikes have different needs, but be sure to check your battery, cables, breaks, and tire pressure before riding. Cold weather means cold tires and less traction, so use a gauge to measure your tire pressure and check that they have sufficient tread. It’s a good idea to get your bike serviced and make sure to change the oil and oil filter. If you plan to store your motorcycle until spring instead, it’s also important that you winterize your machine so it’s ready to go when you are.
Watch the Forecast and Plan Accordingly
It’s a good idea to check the forecast before riding no matter what time of year it is, but in the winter it’s particularly important to check so that you know when to avoid riding altogether. Ice and bikes don’t go together, so if there’s even a remote chance of heavy snow or black ice on the roads, it’s best to leave your bike at home. There’s a difference between exhilarating cold and frostbite cold, so keep an eye out for temperatures below freezing.
Thick winter gear protects you from road rash and injury while also keeping you warm. However, sometimes having the right equipment may not be enough during colder temperatures. You sweat when you ride, and riding at high speeds in low temperatures can turn that sweat into an extra cold layer of moisture on your body. To stay comfortable when you ride, add base layers of full sleeve moisture wicking fabric and socks beneath your waterproof gear and boots.
Wear a glove base layer, or try gloves with heated grips. A neck warmer is also helpful to combat wind. Your face shield is an occasionally overlooked but especially important piece of equipment during winter – make sure you use a fog-free face shield on your helmet so you can see clearly in cool temperatures.
Adjust How You Ride
When riding in winter weather, it’s important to review motorcycle riding in the rain, but Washington’s highways may also take you through colder areas like the Cascade Mountains where it’s not uncommon to encounter snow or ice. Regardless of where you are, riding safely in winter weather means adjusting your speed and riding defensively. More motorcycle accidents happen in cold weather, so even the most experienced riders need to allow double the following distance, if not more, and keep eyes further down the road than usual to give more time to react and prevent accidents.
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I would add that even when winter temps are not conducive to ice formation, one needs to exercise more care then usual. I had a very unnerving experience when I got into a remnant of the anti icing agent put on the road. Reduced speed was a critical component of keeping the shinny side pointed at the sky.
It is a good idea to watch the shaded areas on the road it can go from bone dry to ice depending on where the sun has or has not dried the pavement