Riding your motorcycle in winter

Road in winter

When winter comes most riders put their bike to bed until spring but in the spirit of Christmas, here’s why it doesn’t have to be like that.

You can still ride in winter however there are some things you should definitely do to ensure that you stay safe when you do.

Tyres

You can get tyres specifically designed for riding in winter and in cold conditions for your motorbike. However, if you’re not on a sports bike, you’ll probably already be riding on dual-purpose tyres.

As you might expect, dual-purpose tyres aren’t just suited for riding in the summer months but are also suited to more rugged and uneven terrain. This will obviously help in winter road conditions. You can also go to the extreme and fit winter tyres to your bike.

Don’t reduce tyre pressure to increase grip – it’s a myth and one that won’t help you.

Coping with snow, ice and frost

These are three of the most dangerous road surfaces to ride on and the ones that should be avoided if at all possible.

There is little or no traction in these conditions and staying upright is near impossible at normal speeds. The technique here is to stay at home and if not, travel slowly, stay in low gears and brake and accelerate slowly.

If you come across the dreaded black ice, it’s best to travel slowly across it in a straight line – don’t brake, don’t accelerate and try not to turn. It should be avoided where possible.

In snow, it’s not just traction that causes issues, your visor is also likely to get covered meaning visibility gets very limited very quickly. Again, the best way of staying safe in snow is to not go out in it on your bike.

TemperatureMotorcycle tyre close-up after track time

If you’re cold, your bike and the road surface will be too, and it’s important to remember that your body is not the only thing that will seize up in cold temperatures.

Your bike’s engine and tyres will take longer to get up to optimum temperature for performance and grip. Try to get your engine ticking over before you set off and warm your tyres in a safe place.

It’s also worth remembering that the faster you travel, the more the wind speed increases and your temperature therefore drops – think about your bike and it’s temperature.

How to ride in winter

As is the case with most adverse weather conditions, the key is to slow down and give yourself more room to cope with any hazards.

In the cold, as mentioned, road surfaces become harder and more slippery, as do your tyres. That means traction is lowered so you should slow down to reduce your need for grip. You should also avoid braking and accelerating hard because a sudden change in speed when traction is low is a recipe for disaster.

It’s important to remember that stopping distances are increased, not just for you but other road users too. Again, slowing down and increasing the space between your motorbike and other road users is important – it gives you more time to react and more room for manoeuvre should you need it.

It’s also more likely to rain in winter and, with road gritters more common too, you should be aware of spray. Get a helmet with a good visor and be prepared to wipe it clean whilst you’re on your bike.

Signal early

You should also try to signal as early as possible. This gives other road users maximum time to know of your intentions and adjust accordingly.

Keep warm

If you’re cold then you’re going to be stiff and a stiff and rigid rider is a bad one.

There is a wide range of heated motorbike clothing and accessories on the market and they’re not gimmicks.

They keep you warm and comfortable and prevent your hands (which are quite important when you’re riding your bike) from becoming numb.

Be seen

Winter brings with it poor visibility for every road user and bikes are notoriously difficult to spot in good conditions. Wear bright, reflective clothing.

Rider on track in fluorescent clothing

Next page: How to ride your motorbike in the rain – a guide