The Cold weather is upon us, whether we like to admit it or not, the 'Ideal' summer riding weather is slowly drifting away and the, less than ideal, cold and wet UK winter is approaching. If you are a hardened all weather rider who doesn't believe in parking the bike up for the winter months then here are 9 tips for winter weather riding:
1.Get a Different Bike...
As outrageous as this sounds, it is actually a great way of keeping your current bike in it's good condition, instead of riding it through rain, sleet and snow. As we all know the UK roads get pretty bad during the winter, with pot holes, ice, and plenty of rain, making the chances of you have a spill and dropping your bike even higher, plus added corrosion from the water and road salt! If your usual summer ride is a naked bike or custom streetfighter, then buying a cheaper tourer or something with more fairings will help with deflecting that freezing wind which is one of the major downfalls of cold weather riding!
2.Maintain your bike
Following up on our first tip; whatever bike you do decide to use this winter, make sure you clean it regularly and complete checks on it even more often than usual. All of the elements that come with winter weather put extra strain on your motorcycle, whether it be the salt spread on the road or the freezing cold nights. Before, the temperature begins to get below 0 degrees it is essential that you consider using a different type of coolant/antifreeze, in order to prevent any of your cooling system expanding when not in use, which could cause blown hoses, gaskets or possibly cracks. It is also advisable to check your engine oil and think about once again changing it out for a lower viscosity which will lubricate better in the colder weather and operating conditions. Washing your motorcycle is an essential throughout the winter, as the water and salt on the roads can cause some serious damage and corrosion to any metal parts of your motorcycle (usually the most important bits!), also apply plenty of water displacing fluid to prevent this damage whilst riding.
3.Wear Warm & Comfortable gear
The cold weather can affect your riding in a lot of ways, especially your concentration, which is key when riding a motorcycle. Once your hands start to get cold the levers become harder to control, and you just start to wish you weren't riding at all, which is when the cold affects your riding even more as you begin to think about the cold more than the matter at hand, staying safe on the road! Motorcycle gloves are the most important bit of cold weather gear, however keeping the rest of you warm is just as important which is where base layer thermals come in to play, they work by trapping a thin layer of warm air on top of the skin and work to draw sweat away from the body, therefore keeping you dry and warm. When choosing winter riding gear think there are some things to look out for, including whether it is waterproof, showerproof, and or windproof, as these are the elements you want to keep out in order to be comfortable. Waterproof oversuits are a perfect solution to the problem of having to buy all knew waterproof jackets and trousers, a simple but very effective 2 piece waterproof & windproof set will keep out the old whilst still ventilating to prevent condensation inside! Balaclavas and neck tubes are also a great way of keeping the cold out from the gap between your jacket and helmet. Remember when selecting gear not to just go for the bulkiest gear as although it may offer high levels of protection, it may not be comfortable or flexible enough to allow you to ride your bike safely. Find the best selling winter gloves here
4.Consider some heating
Heated grips are probably one of the best winter motorcycle accessories out there! Usually by using power from the bikes battery, they heat elements within the grips which is then radiated out of the grips and onto your hands, keeping them warm throughout your ride. We currently stock a range of heated grips, at a range of prices to suit any budget, with simple on/off functionality or higher range temperature controlled systems.
If the idea of fitting new grips is too much for you, then it's probably a good idea to look at some handlebar muffs, which are arguably the most weather proof hand protectors out there. simply fit them to your bars and slide in to them for full control of your handlebars without the constant wind battering!
5.Get a grip! (or some grip)
Tyres are essential for rider safety at any time of the year even if the sun is blaring, (which it rarely does), but during the winter good tyres are even more important. Let's be honest the UKs weather is only ever predictable in the winter; there will be a lot of rain and ice, plus a high chance of some snow, which is why picking out some good tyres for winter is essential. A good winter tyre compound will give you added grip and water displacement on the road whilst providing more stability at lower temperatures and improving your stopping distances in the wet and on ice! Although we don't sell tyres here, our favourite winter tyre is the Metzeler M3 Sportec, in terms of all round performance and safety out on the road.
As much as we all hate covering up our expensive jacket or leathers with a high vis bib or strap; during the winter it is a necessity in our eyes. With the chance of regular foggy mornings and less light in the evenings, high visibility reflective clothing is the only thing that will help other road users see you, which is half the battle won when staying safe on the road. To convince you a bit more in to buying some hi-visibility gear, there are some waterproof hi-vis jackets available that will keep you dry and safe, so why risk not being seen and making winter riding even more risky! Even simple reflective piping on jackets and trousers can be a lifesaver on a fogging day.
Visor fogging is a real pain when you're riding, especially when its freezing cold and wet, the last thing you need is to have to open your visor and get a face full of frozen air just because otherwise you can't see. A great solution to this is to grab yourself one of our LDM Fogshield masks, that utilise a neoprene construction, which prevents your hot breath from reaching the inner visor and therefore, no fog! You can also get easy fog free riding by using an anti-fog spray, on the inside of your visor. A big problem that can be solved so easily!
8.Plan your journey
Planning any long journey is recommended at every point in the year, however in the winter it is essential for every rider over about half an hour long. Planning your route can help you avoid being caught out on long stretches of open road with strong winds battering you from every angle, also it allows you to find good places to stop off at and refuel the bike and yourself with a hot drink to warm you up! Also, some roads are prone to flooding and avoiding these roads is a good idea on any length of ride, so it is something to bear in mind before you set out on your next motorcycle journey during the colder months. See the map of biker friendly cafes here
9.Be open to the idea of not riding at all
Although, as hardcore riders, we love to ride our bikes in any weather and let other people know how macho we are; it can sometimes be a better idea not to ride. By taking precautions and preparing ourselves we can make any ride a good one even during heavy rain and freezing temperatures, however some days it is a good idea to find another form of transport if you need to get somewhere as riding could be too dangerous. If there are unsteady strong winds blowing and water on the road it would most likely be best to leave the bike at home as sudden gusts can throw a bike right off course and possibly into the course of a car or lorry, even with the most experienced rider on board. We would also go as far to say that any warning of ice on the roads should be a turn off for taking your bike out, because two wheels don't offer the best stability on a patch of invisible ice.
If you've got any more tips that we missed out, drop them in the comments below!