Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Winter Riding

From the Motorcycle Travel America site:

How to Keep Riding in the Winter

For some bikers, winter riding is simply not an option. For them, the bike goes into hibernation in the garage, protected by a thick layer of grease and covered by a tarp until the spring shoots appear.
But it doesn't have to be that way. With the right kit, a little common sense, and some minor changes in your riding style, you can carry on riding safely through all but the worst of the winter weather.
Riding anytime of the year demands caution, however winter in particular can be treacherous. Whether you’re a winter riding newbie or a frost-hardened veteran, there’s always new bits of gear coming out to make life easier, and as riders, we’re always learning new tricks – so we’ve put together this short guide to help you enjoy riding in the cold months ahead.
Wrap up against the winter
It may sound obvious, but investing in specialist winter riding gear can make a massive difference to your winter warmth and comfort. One-piece leathers are clearly the best as they offer less opportunity for the icy wind to find a way in. If you can't afford these, make sure your layers overlap well.
Keeping your hands and head warm is crucial - most body heat escapes there. If you can only invest in one piece of winter gear, then make it a quality pair of gloves. Modern technology has created a range of waterproof, thermally efficient gloves that will keep your hands warm and dry as you ride. To seal the gap between jacket and gloves, invest in gauntlet-style gloves. Failing that, make sure you keep a spare pair of inner gloves in your pocket so you can change them if they get wet. The wet pair can then dry in your pocket from your body heat ready to be changed again. In addition, invest in a neck warmer or balaclava to prevent cold air from entering your helmet.
Riding in the correct gear is not just a comfort issue either. If you're wet and cold, you will tire more easily and will not respond as sharply to events around you. This is particularly true of cold fingers. Combine these slower reactions with the more hazardous roads of winter, and you've got more potential problems.
Layering will keep you insulated and warm. Start with a light base layer that's breathable - microfiber is a good choice. Your base layer should trap warm air next to your skin and wick away sweat. Make sure your top layer is made of tough, windproof material, such as leather or nylon. Be sure layering clothing hasn't restricted the movement you need to ride safely.
Central Heating
Longer trips often require additional protection, such as electric vests and gloves. These accessories use your bike's electrical system to provide heat. A vest, electric or regular, is essential to keeping the torso warm. A warm torso prevents frostbite by allowing the heart to focus on pumping blood to the hands and feet. Or, spring for the heated grip option available on many touring bikes. Heated grips will make a big difference to the amount of fun you have on your bike in winter! Cold hands are useless when you’re trying to manipulate your brakes or other controls – so applying some heat through the grips will make things much easier when the weather turns grim.
Be sure your alternator can handle the addition of electric accessories, such as heated vests and gloves. Check your owner's manual to find out how much wattage your alternator generates and how much of that wattage is used to run lights and other electrical components. Then, subtract the wattage the electric gear needs to be sure you have the power necessary, and some to spare, when running the accessories. 
Respect the winter roads
From the autumn storms, when rain falls on roads which have accumulated grease and oil all summer, to the treacherous black ice of winter frosts, the riding conditions in winter demand your utmost respect.
The simple advice is to take it easy. Save your carefree open-road riding for those glorious summer mornings. In winter the conditions need as much care as you can muster. Not only will there be much less grip on wet and icy roads, you will also be challenged by the wind and the rain as you ride along. So use your lane, and give yourself space to adapt, adjust, and slow down. And if you have a long ride ahead, plan to stop and warm up along the way.
Before you hit the open road, check the weather forecast and road condition reports so you can prepare accordingly. Be aware of changing conditions such as rain, snow, ice, freezing rain and black-ice are very dangerous on a motorcycle. If there is a chance of any type of freezing conditions, it is best to leave the motorcycle at home and take the car.
Stop, revive, and survive
It's worth remembering that poor conditions affect everyone else around you too. Motorists, who struggle to see bikes at the best of times, are even less likely to see you when their windows are misted up. Even pedestrians become a real hazard, as they bow their heads to the rain or hunch up against the cold, leaving them prone to walk out in front of you without looking properly.
Wet Roads
Increase the breaking distance between you and other vehicles to account for wet and greasy road conditions. By increasing your distance you will get minimal spray of other vehicles and will be able to judge and anticipate other road users driving much easier. Watch out for wet leaves on the road. These can make the surface slippery and could make you lose control.
There is an illusion created by pot holes. Appearing like puddles, they conceal their depth...that is until you ride over them. Never assume a puddle is just a puddle.
Bad weather such as fog or even low winter sun can restrict your view. Be aware of the hazards; ride to suit the road conditions.
Check your lights regularly to make sure they are working. Also ensure your lights are visible and clear of dirt.
Rider Visibility
Bikers need to be as visible as possible to other road users. By wearing reflective clothing it helps other road users to see you, especially on dark mornings and early evenings. By making contact with drivers using their mirrors, this also makes you visible to the driver.
Signal earlier to give as much notice as possible to other road users of your intentions.
Check your tire pressure to ensure it's suitable for winter riding. Let your tires warm-up. Rubber gets harder as it gets cold. As this happens, the tires are able to provide less traction than they can in warmer temperatures. Friction with the ground will cause the rubber to warm as you ride. Until the tires are warm, it is a good idea to limit high-traction situations as much as possible.
In winter months, use anti-misting spray on your visor and mirrors. Visor fogging can cause hazardous visibility problems during cold weather. Wear a half-mask inside your helmet over a wind-proof balaclava. This combo allows your breath to escape without causing condensation inside the visor.
Strong winds
Try to avoid riding in strong winds, however if it is absolutely necessary then be aware of hazardous objects being swept onto the roads such as bags, boxes, branches of trees, cones etc. Consider installing a windshield. Motorcycle windshields can be very effective for diverting the wind away from the rider. Other types of wind deflectors divert wind around the hands and legs.
Direct chilly air away from your body by adding a functional, not just cosmetic, fairing. Your height and torso length will dictate the proper height of the fairing - if a stock product doesn't dispel the airflow correctly, have a fairing custom cut.
Maintain your bike
Make sure to have a qualified mechanic inspect your bike before winter riding. Check your bike frequently yourself. Changing winter temperatures may cause tires to lose pressure, and light bulbs to burn out. Corrosion during winter can be avoided by washing off the salt and road dirt causing oxidisation. Wax your alloy rims with a nice hard wax to prevent the outboard motor effect. Try putting a little grease or Vaseline in areas you think should stay dry. Frequent checks ensure a safer ride. 
Using the proper oil for your motorcycle is also top priority. The 10w - 40w oil is sufficient enough. Using thinner oil during the cold months will improve your bike's performance, especially during start-up, but check your owner's manual for recommendations. Some manufacturers recommend only one weight of oil, no matter what the temperature. For those with liquid-cooled bikes, make sure that the reading on the anti-freeze is sufficient for the temperatures you'll be expecting.
Your winter riding can be a great adventure. Just make sure that while you're having fun, you and your motorcycle are also safe and sound. If you do have to go out this winter on your bike, stay alert and ride well within your limit.
But For all the problems of winter riding, it still beats standing at a bus stop in the rain, or struggling to de-ice your frozen car every morning. With a little planning and a little care, you'll be enjoying the sunshine of spring before you know it.
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1 comment:

  1. Great post Biker Babe, I think it's really important that all bikers maintain safety during the Winter months, where I guess most accidents happen.