Prime riding season is over, but you don’t need leave your bike under a tarp all winter. If you prepare yourself adequately and ride carefully, you can still enjoy your motorcycle this winter.
Dealing with the Cold
Utah gets cold in the winter, and wind chill makes winter even worse on a motorcycle. If you are going to ride this winter, you’ll need the right gear. First, you need a base layer to wick sweat away from your body. Next you need a mid-layer; probably a sweatshirt or fleece. Your outer layer should be heavy and water resistant. Another option, especially for extreme cold, is heated apparel. You can buy gloves, vests, and coats that are electrically heated.
If you don’t stay warm, you can put yourself in serious danger. Hypothermia is a very real concern, since windchill from riding can cool your body much faster than normal. Even if you don’t get full blown hypothermia, your extremities can be in danger of frostbite if you do not have adequate boots and gloves. Just being uncomfortably cold can put you in danger, since it distracts you from the road. You won’t be in top riding form if you are shivering.
It turns out that the cold doesn’t just affect you, it affects your tires. Cold tires cannot grip the road as well as warm tires. After you ride for a while, your tires warm up and start to grip the road at full strength. In the winter, it takes a long time for your tires to warm up, so your traction will be reduced, even if there is no snow or ice on the ground. Accelerate and turn carefully at the beginning of your ride.
Dealing with Snow
If you find yourself riding in snow, you have to adjust your riding style. You shouldn’t accelerate or decelerate quickly. You should look farther ahead and leave more following distance than normal. Don’t attempt to make sharp turns. When you do turn, slow down ahead of time and don’t accelerate or decelerate while making your turn. Only give your bike one input at a time, and make sure you do so gently.
Dealing with Other Conditions
Unfortunately, there are conditions even more dangerous than snow. Black ice is particularly treacherous. If you know that the roads may be icy, you shouldn’t go out on your bike. If you do end up biking on icy roads, make sure to enter patches of ice straight, and avoid turning, braking, or accelerating until you are on the other side.
Fog can also pose a serious threat to motorcyclists. Drivers have enough trouble noticing motorcycles in the best conditions, and thick fog makes the problem much worse. Cold winter fog can ice over your visor, which can bring visibility down to zero. You can’t just wipe it off like most window fog, either. If you are caught in this kind of fog, slow down and look for a place to get off the road; it is too dangerous.
If you are careful, you can ride your motorcycle in the dead of winter, but be careful. Do not put yourself in situations that you are not prepared for. Trust your instincts, if you do not feel safe attempting a winter ride in bad conditions, do not go. Only brave the elements when you are confident that you will be safe.
If you have more questions or you need help figuring out what to do after an accident, give us a call at (801)506-0800. We want to help you and make sure you know how to keep yourself safe.
Photo by 1cenian via Flickr under Creative Commons License.