The worst time of year for motorcycle enthusiasts is almost upon us—winter. While many choose to stash their bikes for the winter season, there are still plenty of stalwart riders out there who keep riding despite cold and harsh conditions. If you’re someone who revels in the challenge of riding year-round, we’ve rounded up nine tips for staying safe this winter on your motorcycle.
1) Pay Attention To Dexterity In Your Hands
Maintaining a high level of fine control in your fingers makes all the difference when you need it most. When prioritizing winter gear, focus on keeping your hands warm with heated gloves, heated grips, and wind guards for your hands. If you’re out on the road and your hands start to become stiff and numb from cold, stopping to run some warm water over your hands or holding them under an air hand dryer can help restore blood flow to your fingertips.
2) Watch for Salt And New Breaks In Pavement From Plowing
Salt doesn’t just eat away at the metal on motorcycles—it also causes a loss of traction, often in the worst places. When you start to see these sparkly little crystalized chunks building up on the side of the road, be extremely cautious. These can pile up in corners, on the shoulder, and in the middle of lanes, eliminating traction in areas you need it most.
In addition to salt on the road, look out for hazards like new potholes and cracks in the pavement caused by snowplow trucks and salt erosion. These can cause damage to rims and tires or even lead to accidents. Be sure to keep your tire pressure in the correct range to prevent rim damage or blowouts.
3) Keep Eyes Peeled For Black Ice
One of the most dangerous elements of winter riding is black ice. This dark and deceptive substance appears to be a wet surface but is actually a razor-thin layer of ice that will put you down before you realize what happened. The best way to avoid black ice is to always avoid wet-looking road surfaces if temps are below 38º Fahrenheit.
4) Maximize Visibility And Increase Following Distance
While riding in the winter, increase your visibility by looking further down the road than normal to see hazards with plenty of time to react. A good rule of thumb is to look 15 seconds ahead.
When it comes to following distance, increase it significantly in the winter. You’ll want to have enough space in between you and the vehicle ahead to see hazards in the lane in time to react accordingly without having to make abrupt movements.
5) Always Avoid Snowy Pavement
If it starts to snow, get home right away. Snow can accumulate quickly, turning roads into slip and slides in no time. Wintertime is even more demanding of a close eye on forecasts and weather radar maps.
The best line of defense against getting caught out in dangerous conditions is to avoid riding on days where there’s even a slight chance of snow. But if you’re someone who can’t turn down a winter adventure, putting some studded tires on your bike can make safer snow riding a possibility.
6) With Colder Weather Comes Colder Tires
Cold weather means colder tires, which equates to a reduction in traction even if the pavement is totally dry and salt-free. While simply riding can increase heat in tires to safer levels, even the briefest stop can cool tires down fast, reducing traction when you get moving again.
A popular myth about warming motorcycle tires up is that weaving back and forth in the lane as a race car works—but it doesn’t! To heat up motorcycle tires in the winter, the best method is to accelerate and decelerate quickly for a few minutes when the road surface is dry and salt-free. Going from hard braking to hard throttle heats up tires more quickly than swaying left and right down the road.
7) Prepping Your Motorcycle Winter Riding
Protection from the elements can make a massive difference when riding during the winter. Mounting a bigger windscreen, handguards, and wind deflectors for your legs will help you get much better use of any heated riding gear you’re wearing. Keeping your extremities warm and fully flexible is incredibly important in the winter when having fast reaction times can be the difference between keeping upright or not.
If you have a motorcycle with a water-cooled motor, be sure it has antifreeze that is fresh and mixed properly for colder weather. Changing your coolant yearly is a good practice to establish if you ride year-round. Also, be sure all of your hoses are in good condition, free from cracks or dry rotting. Colder weather makes rubber hoses more brittle, increasing the risk of leaks at the worst time.
For those riding dual-sport or adventure bikes, swapping your pegs out for adventure-style pegs can provide better footing when wearing more bulky winter riding boots and dealing with slippery elements.
8) Ride A Beater Bike In Winter
As if we need an excuse to buy another motorcycle, one of the best cases for getting a second bike is for winter riding with lower consequences. Dual-sport bikes are one of the best types of motorcycles for winter riding. Aside from being inexpensive to buy and maintain, these bikes have forgiving throttles, are easy to ride, and can even be equipped with knobby tires that have metal traction studs. If you happen to drop the bike, body panels on dual sports are made to take impacts without easily breaking.
9) Keep Your Phone In Plain Sight
Easy viewing of your smartphone is one of the best ways to stay safe when riding in the winter. Being able to mount your phone where you can easily see weather maps or Waze reports of slippery roads can add a higher degree of awareness in the cold.When you combine Rokform’s Rugged Case with one of our Motorcycle Phone Mounts, you can keep your phone securely in sight and enjoy a safer winter riding season!