Winter Riding Tips

Here is a list of 10 bits of advice for winter riding

snow4So, winter is approaching & it’s time to prepare the bike for essential winter riding. Just because summer is over, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the motorcycling season.. many people have no choice but to ride during the winter.  Some people may work on their bikes such as despatch riders or key emergency services, others may not have a licence for other types of relaible transport or don’t live on a suitable public transport route.  With this in mind, we’ve completed this short list to keep your bike moving & hopefully stay a little warmer this winter.

Before we move onto this list though, if you go out in the winter on 2 wheels, make sure you are prepared & confident enough for winter riding. Some people even have a bespoke bike just for the winter – you may consider doing the same. Put the high powered Superbike away & buy yourself a rat bike to use as a winter hack, something like an old 100cc bike that won’t cost a fortune to run & most important, won’t cost a fortune if you bin it.  Granted, some bikers on a budget won’t have this option, however it’s probably going to be cheaper to buy a rat bike than keep riding your pride & joy and having to pay for repairs in the springtime due to damage from road salt or if you fall off & bend it.

A slower bike will be better in the winter as reduced power will be more controllable in the icy condition & you won’t be hitting many motorway speeds in snow or ice.  Practice your slow riding techniques by making a simple slalom using some upturned buckets or cones in an unused car park (ask permission first) & perfect or relearn your basic skills.

Below is our list of 10 tips, although you may have tips of your own.
We hope you will find these hints & tips useful. You may also have some tips to share so why not submit your tips to us via our contact page & we’ll share the best ones here on the website or on our Staffs Biker & Biker Jack Facebook pages & Twitter feed over the winter months.  We’d love to share your advice with others.  We also like to hear if these tips have been helpful, so if this is the case spread the word by telling others or let us know.

  1. The winter sun
    Watch out for Low level sunlight especially between October & the spring.  Low sun can reflect off car windows & at times be in the field of vision as it’s directly in your eyeline. Not good as this is often also around rush hour during the Autumn & early spring when the roads tend to be busy.  With this in mind, it’s important to keep your visor clean & free from smears or fingerprints or greasy marks as smudge marks can disperse the light & make visibility more tricky. Another trick of course is to have an improvised sun shield by using a piece of electrical tape or even a sticker across the top of the visor – this will then do the same job as flipping down the sun visor in a car & keep low level or bright sunlight out of your vision.  Wearing sunglasses or a tinted visor may also help when light levels are bright.
  2. Keep things clean
    Hard to believe but keeping the bike & your riding gear clean is probably the best defence. Road salt or grime left on the bike can cause havoc with the metal parts or bodywork plastics & your riding clothes & leathers will soon perish if left unattended. Wash the bike down with warm water or a hose with a brush attachment to remove the thick grime regularly. Wipe down your riding clothes occasionally with furniture polish to remove thick grime as furniture polish is a brilliant degreaser (if you ever get oily hands, try squirting furniture polish into your hands & rubbing it in before washing them) & if you can, apply dubbin to your boots rather than shoe polish.  Also a wipe down of WD40 or a light oil on a cloth can help prevent snow & ice sticking where you don’t want & make cleaning easier.  Baby wipes are also very good for cleaning plastics, winter clothes or helmets.
  3. Keep a spare set of clothes handy
    Having wet clothes is not a good idea, consider taking some spare clothes & a pair of shoes with you to change into when you get to your destination or workplace – the boss shouldn’t mind you putting your wet clothes somewhere to dry off – & maybe pack a spare set of riding gloves & socks if your main pair get wet. Often you will discover when it’s to late riding in snow is always going to be wet & sometimes driving rain or even melting ice or fog can soak through your clothes as you are riding through it. Some riders also go as far as to wear rubber gloves under their bike gloves as they are waterproof (after all they are designed for washing pots & pans) & often keep your hands a bit warmer & don’t cost a lot. Some even put plastic carrier bags on their feet before putting their boots on. Waterproofs are cheap & provide protection to keep you dry & also a little warmer as they stop the wind a little.
  4. Get warm before you ride
    If you are out & about, it’s not uncommon to see bikers heading for the toilets before a ride home, simply to wash their hands in warm water to warm them up or to hold their hands under the hand dryers & warm their gloves or hands first.  When you wear clothes what you are essentially doing is trapping a layer of air between your clothes & your body & that’s what keeps you warm, if that air is cold you will feel the cold more so get as warm as you can first & trap that layer of warm air. Maybe take a hot bath or shower before getting dressed before a ride. The important thing is to keep your hands & feet warm as they are the extremities likely to get cold first & above all you need to keep in control of the bike. if your hands & a feet are kept warm, the chances are you will feel warmer for longer.
  5. Have something to eat before setting off.
    Don’t leave the house without breakfast or a warm meal first.  Eating food always provides your body with inner warmth, thus keeping you even warmer.  If you fail to eat then go out in the cold, you may begin to feel faint & potentially this can be dangerous on a long ride as your body is trying to keep warm.  Many professional bikers always have a piece of toast before setting off in a morning & take some fruit or biscuits with them for if ever they start to feel hungry.  it’s a great way of keeping yourself free from illness as well, as if you fail to eat you are more prone to cold weather related illnesses.  Stack up on those cup soups & breakfast cereals as they are a good way of getting warmth into your body quickly if you are in a hurry.
  6. Don’t layer up
    the instincts are if it’s cold, to put an extra clothes layer on to keep warmer or find the thickest clothing you have. This may sound bizarre but less layers are probably warmer, so one thick jacket, one jumper & one t-shirt is probably enough. some bikers also go as far as to use brown paper as a layer to help keep warm. Often it’s not about more layers, but keeping the air between the layers warm. Some professional riders always wear a string vest when riding as the string keeps little warm air pockets between your body & your clothing – it sounds odd that a string vest can keep you warm in winter, but it works. Wear towel type material as opposed to glossy fabrics, again because this keep warm air pockets before your outer layer of clothing. it’s also not unheard of for bikers to wear women’s leggings or woollen tights under their regular clothes – you may raise a few eyebrows but at least the warm weather will be here soon.  Woollen gloves under leather gloves is also effective.
  7. Pick your time to help reduce the risks.
    Riding a bike at any time can have it’s perils, but consider that temperatures will rise & fall during the day.  Often it can be warmer riding a bike in a late evening than around teatime during the winter even in the dark nights.  Always remember winter mornings are prone to fog & visibility problems from low sun levels.  Also consider going out later may mean the roads have been gritted or heavy traffic has naturally cleared the snow & ice off the roads, or if you are going to work, consider setting off earlier to avoid the heavy traffic which can prolong your journey & have time for a warm drink before you start work. Start earlier & stop a bit later – get your overtime in over the winter, Christmas isn’t far behind the onset of the cold weather.
  8. Protect the bike with oil & grease with better preparation.
    Spraying oil such as 3-in-1 or WD40 in all your bikes locks will prevent them from freezing up in the winter & repel water. A lot of people use light grease or oil & smearing it on chrome wheels & such to stop road dirt causing damage, these are all fine & make good common sense, however things like your motorcycle chain will also need protecting. Grit & dirt needs to be removed before applying fresh oil. Before oiling or greasing moving parts or anything you want to protect, it makes sense to use an automotive brush on engine degreaser fluid such as Jizer or Gunk to clean the old stuff off first as road grit or remains from rock salt will be embedded in the older lubricants & to apply fresh grease or oil, without getting the old stuff off first means your lubricant becomes more like a grinding paste rather than doing the job of lubricating your moving parts.
  9. Make sure you can see
    Check your visor is free from scratches before riding to reduce glare from oncoming headlights.  NEVER wear a dark or tinted visor in winter at night.  Winter often means dark nights so you will be riding a lot in the dark.   Some riders also now use night riding glasses, these are like regular sunglasses but instead have yellow lenses to help enhance your vision when driving or riding in the dark & can be bought from many auto accessory shops or stockists.  Some motorcycle shops may be able to supply you with a film which sticks inside your clear visor to do the same job as night riding glasses, if of course you wear spectacles. When snow falls, wearing sunglasses in the daytime can also help reduce glare from sunlight reflecting off the snow or even a strip of electrical tape across the top of our visor as highlighted in the 1st winter tip..
  10. Be seen
    Same as with any time of year, it’s important to be seen. Make sure you ride at all times during the winter with your lights on, wear a hi-vis jacket or sash & belt if you have one & make yourself as visible as possible.  Make sure you have clean lights on your bike & if you can, keep some spare bulbs under the seat. You could also go as far as to fit additional lighting but check with a dealer first if your bikes wiring can take additional lights.  Some riders also now are using clip on battery operated cycle lights & attaching them to their jacket (most have a clip to secure them to a belt or pocket) or attaching them to a jacket or riding belt as LED cycle lights can now be bought from most Pound shops & can be used as an effective way of being more visible to other road users.
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