'Extreme' Winter Motorcycle Riding
I’ve lived in MinneSNOWta all my life, over 20 of them as a biker. Winter motorcycling isn’t particularly fun for me, even with crazy PMS (“Parked Motorcycle Syndrome”) right about now. But if you simply MUST ride a motorcycle in the winter, here are our top tips for doing so.
Layer. Start with a long-sleeve base (such as Under Armor) that wicks moisture away from your body. Add an insulating layer (like fleece) and/or a heated vest with controller.
Your jacket is no place to skimp; get the best. Gore-Tex is popular for its breathability and waterproof features. Same with boots and gloves – think like a snowmobiler but buy like a biker! Add a neck warmer and a full-face helmet.
A motorcycle windshield goes without saying here, and extras like the Desert Dawgs Rain/Wind Guards and motorcycle hand guards are a huge help as well. If you’re able to install heated grips, they’ll go a long way toward keeping your hands warmer.
If your bike is water-cooled, make sure the antifreeze is fresh and mixed properly and that all hoses are in good shape. Tires: make sure you have awesome tread if you plan to ride in snow. Check your tire pressure, as it can change with temperature swings. Also, be aware that cold motorcycle tires offer less traction.
First, the obvious: if it even remotely looks like ice, stay away! If you live in an area that uses salt on the roads (like we do), be very cautious; it can cause you to lose traction (just like snow can). Also remember that snow, salt, fluctuating temps and equipment like plows can really do a number on road surfaces. I swear some of the cracks and pot holes around here are big enough to swallow a motorcycle!
Visibility and Following Distance
During winter riding, look further down the road so you can recognize hazards before they occur, and/or react to a potential problem more quickly. And give the vehicle in front of you plenty of space. You might not have the same space available for stopping (or avoiding) due to less traction.
Keep an eye on the forecast; if the weather folks are calling for multiple inches of snow, leave the motorcycle at home. And if you’re out riding and it starts snowing, get home. The white stuff can accumulate quickly and make for some seriously slippery conditions (even in a car).
If you’re really into winter riding, consider a snowmobile. Just kidding! (But you can buy studded snow tire kits here in the northland.) Riding a motorcycle in the winter can be challenging, but it can be done with the right attitude!
- Tracey Cramer