For some riders, winter riding is simply not an option. For them, the bike goes into hibernation in the garage, protected by a thick layer of grease and covered by a tarpaulin until the spring shoots appear.
Don't over estimate your abilities. If it is snowing outside or if you know it’s going to snow do not venture out on your bike. Tempting as it is to think you have the experience and response times to keep safe, accidents do happen.
Even if the weather looks mild, ice patches could have formed overnight or black ice formed in the morning, which can radically reduce grip. Even though your tyres may heat up over time, cold tyres on a cold surface provides less traction than hot tyres and a hot surface.
A thermometer may tell you the ambient temperature, but it doesn’t consider the wind chill factor. Wind chill is effectively what the temperature ‘feels like’ and takes into account air temperature, relative humidity and wind strength.
For riders, wind strength is of particular importance. For example, if you are travelling at 30km/h the ambient temperature may be 0 °C, but the wind chill is approximately -6 °C. Similarly, if the ambient temperature is 0 °C and you are travelling at 70km/h the wind chill is approximately -9 °C.
With winter conditions increasing braking distances the chance of a biker being involved in an accident increases. There are a number of factors that can affect braking distances, be it vehicle weight, speed, braking force and thinking time. But, all of these factors are exacerbated during winter.
For a typical rider travelling at 30mph, with a 210kg bike, on average the thinking distance would be 9 metres, braking distance 14 metres with a stopping distance of 23 metres. During Winter these braking distances can increase up to ten times. To combat this, increase the distance to the vehicle in front.
Your motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment. Generally a typical helmet is good for five years, three if used regularly. Riding in temperatures below 10°C can affect a biker’s ability if they don’t have the appropriate clothing.
During the winter it is essential that you check your T-CLOCS. This stands for Tyres, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stands, and all should be inspected before you ride. In addition, make sure the drive chain is properly lubricated & check that the bike roles freely without resistance, which is a good indication that the brake pads haven’t stuck to the discs from salt corrosion.
When you do start your bike, if you haven’t run it in a while, let the engine warm up for a couple of minutes before revving it up. Best practice would be to get the bike to normal operating temperature before starting your journey. After that take your bike out for a short ride as one final check.
The simple advice is to take it easy. Save your carefree open-road riding for those glorious summer mornings. In winter the conditions need as much care as you can muster. Not only will there be much less grip on wet and icy roads, you will also be challenged by the wind and the rain as you ride along. So use your lane, and give yourself space to adapt, adjust, and slow down. And if you have a long ride ahead, plan to stop and warm up along the way.