Preparation for motorcycle driving in winter
When you ask how you should do motorcycle riding in winter, many people will answer instantly; “Park your bike in the garage and wait for spring!”
It’s okay to be a motorcyclist in good weather … but just because you don’t have the desire to develop the skills and equipment to practice motorcycle riding in winter, don’t let the air out of someone else’s tires! Park your bike and wait for spring.
The rest of us are going to climb and split the wind!
The simple truth is; Motorcycle riding in winter can be done safely and sensibly … all it takes is a little thought, a few pieces of the right equipment, some common sense, and a conscious and deliberate concentration on riding the motorcycle correctly.
The first is the first; Make sure your bike is in top mechanical condition … it’s bad enough to ride a scooter in the summer with worn tires … Do that in the winter and you will likely find yourself riding your butt on the asphalt.
Second; Dress for the weather. Dress in layers. You’ve heard it before and it’s just the only way. Lightweight, insulated multiple layers are much warmer and more adjustable to conditions than a single heavy layer.
Fit, from the skin up and depending on the conditions, cotton underwear, insulated long johns, normal street clothes, wool sweater, ski type, high dungarees, insulated vest, winter jacket, insulated gauntlet gloves, a fleece hood, full face helmet, wool socks and boots with thinsulate insulation and gore-tex lining.
This equipment keeps my winter motorcycle warm at 20 degrees and below … this winter, the coldest I have ever ridden, without any considerable distress, has been 10 degrees. I speak of a distance of twenty miles and more.
On a longer trip, you’ll have to make more stops than you could in the summer to warm up a bit, but you should still be able to rack up considerable, comfortable miles enjoying the brilliant times of winter motorcycle riding.
One of the critical requirements of your clothing is the outer layer. It must be well woven and windproof. I’ve worn heavy cotton Carhartt canvas clothing and just over 50 mph the wind pressure starts to seep in and you get cold. I have found that thin knit, insulated nylon shell coats and jumpsuits are far superior when it comes to changing the direction of the wind.
If you have the alternator to get things going, and dealing with all the wires and thermostats doesn’t get in your way … or the price … you can cut the layers … and invest in heated clothing … but the fact is … not many bikes have the alternator power to run them … and you end up getting the necessary juice out of your battery …
I have found that, here in Colorado, I was racing very well, with a smile on my face … wrapped in totally ‘power-free’ winter motorcycle riding gear!
Once your bike is primed and ready … and once you’re dressed … how do you handle the road?
One word … Carefully and deliberately … Okay … I can’t add a real gud … but you get the idea.
First of all, people who drive those four-wheelers are going to be surprised to see a motorcycle rolling down the road when the thermometer reads a digit. So you have to be more vigilant … They will do even sillier things than usual.
Second, you need to pay special attention to the pavement. Cold rubber just doesn’t have the traction it does in the summer. You have to keep your speed low … and drive accurately. Save the hot doggin ‘for California summers!
You don’t have to wait until the roads are completely 100% clear … but if there is a lot of ice or snow, we recommend that you wait until it clears a bit more. Manufacturers still haven’t perfected snow tires and motorcycle chains … unless you count those wild men from the north racing their bikes on frozen lakes …
… but racing down the road with those deadly spikes in the tires is my idea of taking a good idea too far.
What you do have to do is pay close attention to the road consciously. The sand is going to be kicked towards the center of the lane or to either side. Where you should drive is on the ‘tire tracks’ as much as you can, to stay away from slippery sand and other road debris.
Keep your speed on the sweepers low to make sure you stay on that track and don’t fall into the accumulated sand on the margins of your line.
If you are filming and there, in the shade of a tree or a building, there is a patch of ice or snow on the other side of the road … don’t panic! Stay clear of the brakes! Keep the throttle steady. Don’t speed up, don’t slide and slow down. Just keep one hand steady. Watch your weight. Don’t lean one way or another.
If you’re in a corner, you practically have to stop straight, to cross the bad spot, and then, once you’re back on dry pavement, turn again.
My mantra is “gentle hands”. Just stay smooth when crossing that spot, usually small and slippery. A wiser rider will come out on the dry side.
Pay attention to your condition while driving, both mentally and physically. If you start to get too cold, it’s time to have a cup of coffee and warm up. Too cold and your reaction time as well as your basic judgment starts to freeze, and that’s not the way to enjoy winter motorcycle riding.
If you make sure your bike is ready; make sure your motorcycle riding gear is up to the task; and make sure your head is in the right place for motorcycle riding in winter; You too can enjoy the giggles that you will make inside your helmet, while you witness the surprised looks that you will receive from the people who come the other way, in their cars, when they see the crazy, fool, driving a motorcycle in the winter. !