For many motorcycle enthusiasts, winter spells the end of the riding season. But for others it’s just a reminder to bundle up and take a few extra precautions. Cold weather doesn’t have to mean the end of your two-wheel fun, as long as you know what steps you need to take to keep yourself – and your bike – safe.
“If you’re going to ride all winter, there’s not a whole lot that you need to do different for your bike,” says Jason Higginbotham, service manager for America’s Motor Sports Nashville. “When you store your bike, there are a lot of things you need to do for the winter. But if you’re going to ride every day, there’s not as much involved.”
However, there are still a few things for you to note. For starters, keep in mind that cold weather can wreak havoc on your tires’ air pressure, so check the pressure every time you ride. “You always want to make sure your air pressure is [adequate] before you take it out on the road,” Higginbotham says.
Since traction is often decreased on wet or icy roads, keep an eye on your tire treads as well. And you’ll also need to keep an eye out for such things as salt that’s been put on the roads to remove ice because that can hamper your ability to control the bike and can damage your paint and engine. (To prevent corrosion, it’s always a good idea to wipe down your motorcycle after riding in an area where salt has been used on the roads.)
Finally, make sure the antifreeze in your bike is fresh as the new winter season begins.
What to wear
Wearing the proper clothing can make all the difference in staying warm throughout the winter, and that is particularly true when you’re on a bike.
“The main thing you want to do is get a neck warmer,” Higginbotham says. “You don’t want any exposed skin when you’re out there riding in the cold.”
That also means trading in anything with vents – whether it’s your jacket, gloves or pants – and getting something that is designed to block out the cold. Some of the things you should have on your list include:
- A tightly sealed, full-head helmet with a fog-free face shield. This will keep you protected from wind and moisture but won’t necessarily keep you warm. Add a warm neck wrap or an open face balaclava to protect your head and neck.
- Warm gloves. Cold hands can be hazardous because they may have trouble operating the clutch or brake. Look for quality waterproof insulated gloves, even adding an extra layer of warmth with a pair of glove liners worn beneath the gloves.
- Riding boots. Feet can get cold quickly, so look for insulated, waterproof riding boots that will keep you warm and dry.
- An outer shell. Regardless of what’s going underneath, you want a waterproof, windproof outer layer to keep moisture out and body heat in.
- Base layers. Wearing a warm base layer under your clothes can keep you more comfortable on a long ride. Look for wool or synthetic fibers with moisture-wicking properties.
- Heated gear. If you’re going to be riding in extremely cold temperatures, consider some of the heated options such as vests, gloves and boots to give you extra warmth.
One other way to help keep things warm during winter rides is to have a windshield installed on your bike, if it doesn’t already have one.
If you love hitting the road on two wheels, keep in mind that, with an extra emphasis on safety and a few common sense precautions, your fun can continue all year long. Just bundle up and enjoy the ride.