When local news reports are filled with the next polar vortex, snowmageddon, or sleetpocalypse, it’s a sign that riding season is probably over. However, there are a few brave riders out there that insist all weather is riding weather. With the proper prep and gear, they’re right: winter is riding season. Take a quick look at some advice for the best winter ever.
Like the Boy Scout motto says, the best way to prepare for any potentially risky task is to prepare in advance by knowing what you are getting into. Winter weather varies by the region, so if you are new to the area, ask around. Specifically, ask about dry and wet snow, and if there is a high chance of sleet. Riding on a dry dusting of powder is one thing, while riding on a half inch of fresh ice is quite another. Similarly, riding in a 31 degree coastal Washington winter is a different experience from the negative 10 Minnesota winter. Be sure you are ready for what you will face.
There’s always an excuse for more bike gear, and winter safety is one of the best. Winter gear starts with your base layer of clothing. Think of them as long underwear for the tough guy. They will keep you warm, even at highway speed. Don’t forget the socks and neck collar. Then there are the winter jackets, boots, and gloves. These are a little pricier, but don’t skimp, and buy the best you can afford. Some high end jackets are electrically heated, and guaranteed to keep you comfortable even in backwoods Alaska. This is where knowing your area comes into play, as you will be able to know if you can get by with water resistant gear, or need the full water proof outer layer. Finally, make sure you are using a fog-free face-shield.
It’s always a good idea to “pre-flight” your motorcycle, taking a quick look over everything to make sure it’s good to go. In winter, be sure your anti-freeze mix is fairly fresh, and inspect the coolant lines for cracks or damage. If your bike is carbureted, you may have to do some adjustments if you live in an area with temperature extremes. A properly jetted bike set for a 100 degree summer won’t run too well when it’s freezing. Heated grips are very affordable and can be installed by a DIY’er at any skill level. Finally, check into winter tires. Sure, your Hayabusa will look goofy with knobby tread, or even studs out back, but either option sure beats sliding.
The last bit of winter riding advice is to make some adjustments to the rider. Take it slower, and increase your following distance. Look farther down the road than you normally do, and watch for black ice. Consider taking an alternate route, if your usual cruising road seems like it would be slick and/or packed with cars. With all this in mind, you can have an enjoyable winter riding season. Stay safe out there.