Riding a motorcycle in Winter happens for a variety of reasons. For some of us, the lack of a car or car license makes it a necessity. Scottie went through almost 20 years relying solely on two-wheeled transport, come rain, wind, sleet and snow. For others, it’s still worthwhile to avoid the endless traffic jams and the joys of public transport. But it isn’t all doom and gloom when the days get shorter, especially if you do it right.
Good Reasons to Ride in Winter:
- A dry, sunny Winter day is awesome. A dry, sunny Christmas day is even better, as most car drivers (And law enforcement operatives) seem to either be in front of the TV or in the pub. Which means empty roads away from town centres.
- You’ll still be sharp come Spring, rather than spending the first couple of weeks getting used to being back on a bike.
- You’ll also build up a good feeling of smug superiority over fair weather riders, and endless tales of Winter riding to bore them with when you speak to them.
- Winter Hacks: A chance to pick up something different and cheap, and then abuse it.
- Winter kit: It gets better, and cheaper every year.
- You might have to be a bit more careful, but you’ll still get there faster without having to worry about traffic jams.
Picking a Winter Hack:
Buying a new motorcycle is an expensive and nerve-wracking experience as you invest several thousand in your pride and joy. But buying a Winter Hack normally means setting a much lower budget and having fun looking at all the oddball bikes available on the likes of eBay.
It’s a great excuse to try something different. If you normally ride sports bikes, why not try a Virago this Winter? Tourer fan? Why not pick up a cheap dirt bike? And the fairly wide range of 125s around are worth considering as power isn’t a virtue in cold weather.
Some more tips include:
- Ignore the cosmetics when you’re buying. Check the engine for any nasties and that the electrics all work properly. Treat it to fresh oil and plugs and away you go.
- Cheap and effective hand muffs can be made from an old one gallon plastic container. Just make sure they don’t foul the levers.
- Remember to rinse it regularly. Winter road salt is a bastard.
- And don’t forget to wipe your lights. Salt and grime not only attack them, but headlights are pretty handy in the dark.
- Consider heated grips – they never seem to work properly for us, but many people swear by them.
- Scottoilers definitely make more sense on a winter bike.
- Mudflaps – look crap, but definitely protect your motor and bike from muck.
- ACF-50 anti-corrosion spray definitely works. Scottoiler also do the similar FS 365. Clean the bike up, cover it in the stuff, and wash it off in Spring. Personally we’d probably go for the ACF-50 having tested it on bikes in the past, and knowing it’s used on planes and U.S aircraft carriers.
- Ultra sporty tyres need warmth to work well. A more sensible option will warm up more quickly. And check your tyre pressures regularly.
- Check your cooling – too much antifreeze is bad, by the way.
Winter Kit Advice:
Textile motorcycle kit has come a long way, and the thermal and waterproof capabilities of even lower spec kit is pretty impressive when you consider what was around years ago. These days you can even get a complete set of kit (helmet, jacket, trousers, boots, gloves and kit bag for it all) for £300 (Currently available on BargainBikerBrands.com). And even though the BMF might not be the bargain market it once was, you can still pick up good deals by going for just discontinued stock online. Let’s face it, not many people keep up with the latest colour schemes for waterproof jackets, so you’ll be the only one to know it’s last year’s model and save cash. For instance, you save almost half on a Spada Dyno Jacket (BargainBikerBrands again).
- Invest in thermals and layers. Lots of them. Japanese bargain clothes shop Uniqlo do a range called Heattech which work well. And almost every bike clothing manufacturer has something available. EDZ come recommended by Angus in the comments below
- Newspapers stuff down your layers on a freezing night will help!
- Petrol station plastic gloves come in handy if your bike gloves start leaking. Or if they’re still wet next time you need them…
- Invest in decent boots – feet and hands are always the worst if they get wet, especially when you need to change gear etc…
- Have a look at heated kit – normally as a mid-layer like this StormChaser Jacket.
- Clear Visor time! Preferably either a fresh one for winter, or use something like a V2 Sponge to keep it clean.
- Fogging can be a massive problem. Fog City and Pinlock provide some solutions. Some swear by washing up liquid but it never works for us… And there are various anti-fog treatments available from the likes of Visorvision etc.
- Keep things that need to stay dry (wallets, mobile phones etc) in inside pockets, and stick them in freezer bags etc as an extra layer of protection. Trying to dry out soggy ten pound notes is a pain…
- Don’t be afraid of Hi-Viz clothing. You may look like an advanced riding instructor, but there’s a reason why they’re able to keep working year after year, and part of it is being visible to myopic car drivers.
- Yellow Work Wear is a good, cost effective source of visible clothing – you look like a road sweeper, but it works (Credit: Angus in the comments)
- Let your kit dry out slowly where possible, so you don’t damage it…
- Neckwarmers, snoods and scarves etc are all great for reducing the gap between your jacket and lid. A cold, aching neck is never good, especially if it makes you less likely to look around and perform lifesavers etc…
Winter Riding Tips:
Just like Summer riding, it’s all about keeping your focus and concentration. But that’s a little harder when you’re cold and wet.
- Never ride with a full tank – on twisty, icy roads you’ll find out why.
- Pay special attention to roundabouts near petrol stations – dozey drivers dumping diesel.
- Stretch your legs regularly whilst riding. Otherwise you might find your legs locked stiff when you come to a halt.
- Increase your braking distance – and remember drivers and pedestrians become even more careless in the cold.
- Strong winds are a massive pain – if you’re caught out be aware how they affect you, particularly when passing lorries, when you’ll get sucked in by the shelter before being blasted again…
- It may look sunny, but it can still be bloody cold. Don’t assume some sun will give you sunny road conditions. And it won’t make road salt etc magically vanish.
The important thing is that you can still have fun in the coldest conditions on a bike, for instance:Or how about road bikes vs cars on ice?