Riding in the winter is not for everyone, most people are simply not willing to suffer through the unpleasant weather to take their bike out in less than favorable conditions but if you just have to get your bike out there are things you can do to make the ride safer and more comfortable.
- Stay warm. It may seem obvious considering you’re not going to enjoy your ride nearly as much if you don’t but it is a safety concern as well. You won’t be able to operate the controls if you are freezing and your reaction time will be slower. Depending on how cold it is when and where you ride you may just need a lined leather jacket, non-vented gloves, and a full face helmet or you may need a full set of heated gear. Not everyone’s tolerance for the cold is going to be the same. You are going to get a feel for how much gear you need with time and experience.
- Prepare your bike. There are a few things you do to make it easier on your bike and yourself. if you run 20w50 in the summer it’s not going to flow very well at 20 degrees, a lighter weight oil will be more appropriate at that temp. Always consult your manual to find the proper weight oil for the temps that you will be riding in. Give your bike time to warm up and go for longer rides occasionally to give your bike time to burn the moisture out of your oil. If you ride in an area that uses salt on the roads you’ll want to consider spraying your bike with an anti-corrosion spray or at the very least wash it as soon as you can after a ride in the salt. Make sure your battery is in good condition, your batteries cranking power will be lower in the cold weather. If your battery is weak it may still start in a nice warm garage but may leave you stranded if you stop to eat somewhere and the bike cools down. A jump pack can be handy to get you back home if your battery is a little weak. If you don’t already a windshield think about getting one, it will help keep you a little warmer by saving you from some of the wind. Heated grips are also helpful as well as a heated seat but the seats can be expensive so they aren’t for everyone. As always check your tires. The cold weather isn’t going to do anything good to them and they were not designed for sub-freezing temps so a little extra care will help maintain as much traction as possible.
- Stay vigilant. People don’t watch out for motorcycles enough in the best of times and it’s going to be worse in the winter when people don’t expect motorcycles to be out. Snow and ice can be dangerous but sand on dry pavement can be just as bad. Be careful turning and stopping especially at intersections. In low traction situations, your rear brake is going to be safer to use than the front. And most importantly don’t forget to have fun, that’s why we do this in the first place.
Keep it on two wheels, Jasper Scott.
J&P Cycles Anamosa, Iowa.