Just because temperatures are low doesn’t mean you have to put your motorcycle away until the tulips poke through the earth, but it does mean you have to adopt a different riding style.
Dress in Layers
Winter is cold enough on its own, but when you add wind speeds in the double digits, it’s like taking a polar dip when the polar vortex hit. Start with base layers like long johns and a thermal shirt so they’ll both keep you warm and wick away moisture that can turn cold in a hurry. Next, add mid-layers like a wool shirt or sweater that have a higher collar than the thermal shirt so air will be trapped between the layers and heat up.
Top it off with outer gear, donning a hardshell jacket like Gore-Tex for maximum warmth and wind-blocking. Wearing Gore-Tex boots also adds breathability and waterproofing, two things important for a comfortable ride. If you find your Gore-Tex boots slip a bit, you can add grippier pegs to compensate.
Finally, pick out lobster mittens that are lined and well-insulated, a neck warmer that fits snugly between your coat and helmet, and a fog-free face shield.
Prep Your Bike
The colder the weather, the colder- and harder- the tires. And for safe driving and maximum stopping time, motorcycles need winter-appropriate tires that can handle cold temperatures. Although driving can help warm up the tires, regular ones still stay hard and translate to decreased stopping time. Your tires are two tiny patches connecting you to the ground, and skimping on ones that don’t have the proper tread and resistance is a death risk.
Watch the Road
It’s never more crucial than in winter to see how the road actuallylooks. The freeze-thaw cycle causes its own havoc from the road constantly expanding and contracting, but the bigger problem is snowplows coming along and tearing up the asphalt, leaving cracks and potholes that can easily trip you up. But after every trip, make sure to clean your bike off for salt to minimize corrosion.
Stopping time is increased in the winter, and especially important in motorcycle because it’s uncovered. In ideal and dry conditions, it takes a good rider about 85 feet to stop at 35 mph. And with an average car measuring about 16 feet, that’s 5 car lengths…and snowy or winter weather increases that. But the faster you go, the more distance you’ll need to maintain between you and the car in front of you.
Mind the Weather
If it starts snowing or the roads are frozen, keep home. There’s almost no occasion that necessitates using your motorcycle in bad weather, and there’ll always be another day for you to take your bike out.