If You’re Winter Riding Your Motorcycle Consider This
It's a subject I bring up because with living in the Twin Ports area, actual good motorcycle riding weather is limited.
I was once the guy that had to ride my bike right up to when the road salt would be first applied to the streets. Likewise, even with snow on the ground and still some salt residue left, I would get the bike on the streets as early into Spring as possible. After a close call in the Spring years back, I almost dumped the bike and did twist my ankle. That Spring thaw was on and I was itching to ride and hit not one, but two patches of ice hidden under some water. You can call me a fair weather rider now if you want, but I don't get on the thing until the roads are decent.
It seems like every year though, I see more and more people out on their bikes when the snow is flying. Also, it's generally people on bikes that I know are not outfitted with some kind of good winter grip tires. It's hopefully also people who have the heated garage space to properly wash the bike when they are back from a ride. If you live up this way, you know the damage that road salt can cause and especially how it will pit chrome. To those people who ride all year in these parts, I salute you. It's just not for me and both of my bikes aren't dual-purpose rides, or even bikes I want to spend money on different tires for. If you are going to venture out for even a short dead of winter motorcycle ride, here's some things to think about:
GET GOOD TIRES:
Living anywhere with a decent winter, you hopefully know the value of winter tires. If you live where there is snow and you haven't done yourself the favor of a good set for your car, trust me that it will change your whole driving experience for the better. Likewise with a motorcycle, if you are venturing out because you just have to ride, consider winter or at least winterish tires for the bike. Much like winter tires for cars, winter tires for motorcycles are made with compounds that generally stay softer in the colder temps. A softer tire will help with it's grip on the road, and this is especially important if you are only on two wheels. The tread patterns will help with wet conditions too, and should equal a safer ride all around. Keep in mind though, unless they are studded, ice spots can still be a big problem. You can check out some decently rated winter motorcycle tires HERE.
WEAR PROPER MOTORCYCLE GEAR:
This might go without saying but if you ride, at some point you've probably done what I have and thought "It's only a short ride, I don't need more layers." That's bit me more than once, being either gloves that aren't insulated enough, not throwing on chaps or long underwear, or not covering my face enough. When you ride when it's cold, the ambient temperature isn't really what you're in, you have to factor in that wind-chill. When you hit the road and it's even a 30 degree day with the sun out, 30MPH on the bike is face numbing cold. No matter how much you want to be on the bike, frostbite is not worth it, so extremely layer-up. Also, if you do happen to go down, you know because you're riding a motorcycle in the winter, they extra layers might help protect you more.
KEEP THE BATTERY FULLY CHARGED:
If you are someone who gets the bike out on the regular in the winter, you're battery is probably okay. A lot of people who keep them in the garage through the cold months will generally have the bike on a battery tender and that should also be okay. However if you decide to just go for a jaunt in say February because it seems nice out and you battery hasn't been maintained, a stop on your ride might leave you stranded. Also, like anyone who knows winter, that's generally the time stuff quits working or goes bad, so be prepared. Bikes don't like to start when they have been sitting in the cold for too long, so make any stops brief.
TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING:
I know we're in the age of mobile phones, but if you do venture out, let someone know. This will help if you do happen to have an accident and are potentially seriously hurt in a low traffic area. If a significant other or a friend hasn't heard from you after a while, they can at least start trying to figure out if something went wrong.
TAKE YOUR TIME:
Winter isn't the season to be ripping down the road as fast as your bike will accelerate. Much like with cars, braking distance, and visibility can be impacted by the road conditions. Even with legit motorcycle snow tires, use caution and enjoy the ride at a safe pace.
For those of you that do or have road your motorcycle in the winter, what other tips would you suggest for a possibly snowy ride?