Motorcycle Staying Safe on Your Bike: Winter Riding Tips
Motorcyclists always need to be on the lookout for their safety, but that’s even more true in the winter when cold weather and moisture make riding even more hazardous. If you’re hoping to do some winter motorcycle riding soon or in the coming years, here are some safety tips to keep you safe, warm, and dry, in Wisconsin winters.
Keeping your bike well maintained is, in general, essential to safe riding, but in winter conditions, it’s even more important. In addition to checking tire pressure and making sure it’s accurate before you head out for a ride, check your antifreeze level. Antifreeze should be changed yearly, and if you take part in winter rides, changing it at the start of the cold weather season is a good idea. Be sure to check that all your hoses and your chain are in good shape. If anything looks questionable, repair it or replace it.
Cold weather riding requires the right riding gear, and if you’re not willing to invest in it, you should skip the winter rides. Why? Because without the right gear, you risk hypothermia and frostbite — both of which put you in danger of an accident.
So here’s how to dress for a winter ride. First, start by layering with full leg and full sleeve under clothes so you can stay warm and let your skin breathe. After your base layers are on, a Gore-tex winter suit and boots are ideal, but so long as you’re in waterproof gear made for riding and you’re layered, you should be ok. A balaclava is a good choice for under your helmet and it can function as a neck warmer, too, without adding too much extra bulk. If you don’t have a winter helmet, consider getting one, and while it should be common sense — don’t ever do any riding in the colder months without a full-face visor. Lastly, if you don’t have heated grips, get yourself a good pair of waterproof, winter riding gloves — your regular riding gloves won’t be as effective against the cold.
Tire performance is all about pressure and tread, especially in the winter months. Cold tires mean compromised traction, so heating them up is essential to safety. You can warm up your tires by simply riding slowly for about 30 minutes. Or you might try speeding up and slowing down (carefully) at rapid intervals to produce more friction and get your treads warmed up. Be sure to be mindful of your traction while warming your tires, you don’t want to wreck while trying to make your ride safer!
If you don’t have quality snow tires with good tread, don’t bother with winter riding. Less traction is always more dangerous. Spend the money to get a good pair of tires or keep yourself and your bike at home.
Motorcyclists always need to pay close attention to road conditions, but in the wintertime, road conditions can really wreak havoc. Wet roads, black ice, potholes, and road salt all create potentially deadly road conditions.
Road salt can cause corrosion of the metal parts of your bike, but it can also create slippery conditions. Slow down when you see it and avoid it when you can. With wet roads and the potential for black ice, you need to increase your following distance and reduce speed on curves. Stopping distances can increase considerably on winter roads, so be sure to give yourself all the room you might need.
Wisconsin winters can be a spectacular time to get on your bike. The light is beautiful, the snow is quieting, and the scenery is majestic; but if you’re ever hesitant to ride, just stay home. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle accidents triple in the winter months. While you can certainly increase your chances of staying safe by following these safety tips, a doubtful rider is an unsafe rider. When it comes to winter weather riding, when in doubt, just don’t go out.