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A guide to winter motorcycle riding

A guide to winter motorcycle riding

Some bikers decide against riding during the winter. Darker mornings and nights, icy roads and adverse weather certainly pose extra challenges. But with the right equipment, slight modifications to riding style, and some good old common sense – there’s no reason to be put off. Here are some top tips for winter motorcycle riding…

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
posted 23 OCTOBER 2019

Essential tips for winter motorcycle riding

1. Stay warm and comfortable

Ideally, invest in proper winter biking gear. One-piece leathers that don’t allow the wind in make a huge difference, and allow you to layer up beneath. Of course though, they come at a price.

If you are relying on simply wrapping up with layers, be sure they overlap, and at least buy some thermals. As you probably know, a cold wind that gets in can quickly chill to the bone.

On the question of how to keep your fingers warm, you should consider well-insulated gloves that still allow you to shift gear and brake with ease. You could also look for specialist items such as heated grips.

2. Maximise reaction times

The importance of a suitable pair of gloves goes beyond comfort alone. Cold fingers can lead to slower reflexes – the last thing you can afford on winter roads.

Make sure you’re using a quality pair of waterproof, thermal gloves to keep your hands dry and warm no matter the conditions. Ideally they’ll also be luminous or reflective, to up your chances of being seen.

3. Respect the winter elements

As a biker, you’re already acutely aware of cars and pedestrians, and have probably felt invisible at some point out on the roads.

Add in any of the following winter driving elements, and you know you’re facing extra challenges:

  • Black ice  
  • Slippery surfaces  
  • Leaf falls  
  • Fog  
  • Low winter sun
  • Heavy rain and snow 

But don’t panic. The key is to respect the elements. 

  • ride slower than you would in normal circumstances
  • position yourself in the middle of your lane to allow for any unexpectedly strong gusts of wind
  • leave as much space between yourself and other vehicles as you can

Remember, on wet and icy roads you’ll need longer to slow and stop your motorcycle. What’s more, reducing the distance between the vehicle in front will mean less spray from its wheels.

While it’s legal to drive a motorcycle in winter, be aware that other drivers don’t expect to see motorcycles on the roads during extreme conditions. Therefore, you should be even more careful driving at these times.

Finally, be aware that increased concentration can lead to tiredness – so be sure to allow for added rest breaks in winter.

4. How can I look after my motorcycle in winter?

When you ride in colder temperatures, you should warm your motorcycle up by running the engine for between 30 seconds and a minute before your journey. It can take 15 minutes for your engine to warm up on the road, depending on the driving conditions. Also:

  • store it securely, away from the elements
  • regularly check and clean your lights
  • check tyre pressure more frequently than usual – it’s even more important on icy roads
  • take care of your battery to avoid the risk of being left stranded with a flat
  • check and refill your antifreeze levels

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