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Motorbike riding in winter

Posted by Howard Trott on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 Under: Motorbike Riding Tips
Winter is here and night time is getting earlier and earlier, and this summer is feeling more and more like a distant memory. At this time of year, a lot of people will be putting their bikes safely in the garage for a few months – but what about those of us who like to ride for the whole year round? Whether you’re a winter riding newbie or a frost-hardened, full-bearded veteran, there’s always new bits of kit coming out to make life easier, and as riders, we’re always learning new tricks – we at Spartan Motorcycle Couriers have put together this short guide to help you enjoy riding in the cold months ahead.

My first suggestion won't appeal to everyone. If you’re going to commute to work every day on two wheels, then why not leave your pride and joy at home, away from all the salt and road crap and get yourself a beater for those winter rides to and from work? Something like a Honda CB500 or Yamaha XJ600 Diversion would make a great commuter machine, and needn’t break the bank. Whatever you go for, you’re going to want to make sure that it’s reliable, has decent parts availability, and probably that it gets reasonable fuel economy too if you’re going to use it every day.

In my opinion one of the best inventions for winter riding are heated grips, and will make a big difference to the amount of fun you have on your bike in winter! Cold hands are useless when you’re trying to manipulate your brakes or other controls – so applying some heat through the grips will make things much easier when the weather turns grim. If you are working as a motorcycle courier they are a must, as you'll be in the saddle for most of the day and sometimes night. So having heated grips does make a lot of difference. 

Cleaning your motorbike is essential. Unfortunately, unlike most other European countries, British roads are ‘gritted’ with rock salt in winter. Salt is a foul substance which will carry the dreaded tin worm to your bike if you leave it to go about its mucky business – so it’s best to wash it off with cold water at the end of every ride. Don’t use hot water, because you’ll just accelerate the salt’s appetite for your ferrous components! 

If your local council delivers a salty load on a regular basis during winter, then you might want to consider some further protection in addition to rinsing off the filth. If you haven’t heard about it already, then it’s time to get acquainted with one of the hottest anti-corrosion products around – ACF-50 spray. This stuff is actually used on US Navy aircraft carriers – where it’s been found to be very effective at stopping corrosion. If it’s good enough for real life Top Gun, it’s probably good enough for your bike!

Wearing warm winter riding gear is another must. You’ll want to be wearing more than just a dodgy sweater knitted by your Gran if you want to keep warm and dry on your bike in a typical British winter. As well as the heated solutions I'm talking about before, there are also specially designed motorcycle waterproofs and thermal base layers to consider. As well as heated grips, you’ll still want some decent motorcycle gloves to protect your hands and keep the wind off. Things to look out for in a good pair of winter gloves include a visor wiper (usually either a blade or fabric panel on one of the fingers), breathability, well-sized gauntlet cuffs to go under your jacket, as well as all the usual safety features like hard knuckles. Whilst warm gloves are good, you don’t want the padding to be so thick that you can’t operate your controls properly. 

High-Vis gear doesn't look trendy , but you’ve got to admit that it makes you a lot more visible. With dim-witted drivers getting more common by the minute, that can’t be a bad thing. If you don't want to get a full outfit, just a vest should do the trick which includes bright coloured panels/sections which are designed to make you more visible on the road. This will serve you a lot better than the ‘all-black’ look, should the worst happen on a dark evening – and will also make you a bit more visible in normal traffic.

I already mentioned that good winter bike gloves should have some sort of visor wiping facility, but the cold weather will also mean that your visor will fog up a lot quicker – from the inside! There are a few potential solutions to this – with the simplest being to use a mask.  A mask will stop your breath from easily reaching your visor – meaning that it shouldn’t fog up! If your helmet visor is compatible, then you could also fit a Pinlock system – where a specially designed inner visor will prevent fogging. There are chemical sprays on the market that also claim to prevent visor fogging, but care needs to be exercised here, because many aren’t designed for the specialist plastics used in motorcycle visors, and can damage them – sometimes to the extent that you’ll be needing a new one!

Tyres are another important factor in winter riding. It goes without saying that after the life-form sat on top of it, your tyres are the most important thing on your bike. Tyres don’t do an easy job, and in winter especially it’s worth paying them some special attention. Winter tyres aren’t really that popular in the UK – and studded tyres designed for use on icy surfaces may be illegal due to their potential to damage the road. You don’t necessarily need to go all Scandinavian to make some big improvements to the way your bike will handle difficult situations though – because a decent pair of tyres designed with wet weather in mind will help a lot. Highly rated tyres in this category include the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart 2 and Michelin Pilot Road 3 – both of which are designed to provide good levels of grip, even in wet and cold conditions. You’ll probably be surprised how much of a difference a decent pair of tyres can make to your bike’s handling during the cold months – and not having to worry about the bike sliding about quite so much will make a winter commute a lot more enjoyable!

A final point concerns those of you who’ll be riding to work during the winter months. This is something that veterans will probably be doing already, but newbies may not have considered it – leave some kit at work. You won’t want to ride your bike wearing dress shoes or a suit jacket, and at some point you’re going to get so soaked that just about any type of bag would leak – so why not leave them at work? Shoes especially are easy enough to leave under your desk – and this way you’re guaranteed to have some nice dry footwear to spend the day in. Of course this depends on the type of job you do, but it’s something worth considering all the same. Winter riding can be enjoyable if you take the proper precautions, and wear the right riding gear. 

In : Motorbike Riding Tips 

Tags: motorbike riding tips  winter riding   


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