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7 essential tips for riding your motorbike through the winter

Just because the colder months are here doesn’t mean you have to put your bike into storage.

Riding in winter can be just as rewarding as during summer. But you need to take some extra precautions to stay safe and keep your bike in good working order.

By keeping on top of maintenance, there’s no reason you won’t be able to keep riding until you’re ready to get your bike ready for spring.

Motorbike rider in winter


Make the right preparations before you set off

Unlike during the warmer months, it’s crucial during winter to carry out some thorough safety checks before the start of each journey.

The T-CLOC method is a great starting point.

This involves checking the following before each ride:

  • Tyres
  • Controls
  • Lights
  • Oil levels
  • Chassis.

Making sure your tyre pressure is at the right level could be vital when riding in treacherous conditions.

If you haven’t been out on the bike for a while, then let your engine run for a few minutes to ensure it is fully warmed up before you set off.

And if you aren’t using your bike regularly because of the weather, think about using a trickle charger to keep your battery in roadworthy condition.

The start of winter is also a good time to change your bike’s oil. This means it should be completely free of contaminants, which could also corrode engine parts.


Fight winter dirt and corrosion

Salt from gritted winter roads could be a major threat to the health of your bike. As is the crud and mud that can attach itself when you’re riding in poor weather conditions – even when you’re not heading off road.

To protect your motorcycle, seal the bike’s finish with a good surface-protection fluid.

And the bad news is, during winter you’re going to have to give your bike a thorough clean after each and every journey.

This is preferable to having to replace rusted or broken parts – and especially to breaking down while you’re on a trip.

Ideally you should wash the underside of your bike with cool or cold water.

Warm water could simply melt the salt crystals, allowing them to get into the bike’s inner workings and cause even more problems there.

If you damage your bike beyond repair, you might find yourself having to buy a new motorcycle.


Protect your bike from ice damage

Freezing water could be one of the most serious hazards bikers face during the colder months.

If moisture gets trapped in your bike’s inner workings it could freeze when temperatures drop and make metal brittle.

This means there’s a real risk that key components are liable to jam or, in the most serious cases, break.

This could leave you to foot a hefty repair bill, and one that might not be covered by your motorbike insurance.


So what precautions can you take to stop moisture entering your bike?

First, be sure to clean and lubricate your drive chain on a regular basis.

This is something you should be doing even when weather conditions are good, but in the winter this task assumes the utmost importance.

If your drive chain freezes it can make it difficult to accelerate smoothly, and it could even end up snapping. Your clutch cable might also benefit from the same clean-and-lubricate treatment.

If you’re riding the type of bike that has a liquid-cooling system, check regularly that there’s fresh antifreeze in the water tank. And make sure that it’s flushed properly through the bike.


How to dress for winter motorcycle riding

There’s no more important time to ensure you’ve got the right motorbike riding gear than during winter.

The right gloves, boots and underlayers won’t just keep you warm, they could also provide you with extra protection in the event of a motorbike accident.

Remember, icy or wet road surfaces in the colder months might increase the chances of you coming off your bike at some point.

Wearing several layers could be much more effective at keeping you warm than simply going for a top-of-the range jacket.

Don’t forget to factor wind chill into the equation. If you look only at the expected temperature you could find yourself unprepared for how cold it’ll feel. This is because you need to account for how your body will respond to wind chill.

And you should think about staying as visible as possible with a fluorescent outer layer.

There’s a wide range of extra equipment that could help you stay warm if you’re planning some long rides in cold weather.

These range from heated insoles that can plug into your motorcycle’s 12v outlet to heated grips and handlebar muffs.


Riding safely in cold weather

If you do decide to head out, though, it’s vital to think about how to ride safely when conditions are at their worst.

On icy roads, stopping distances can increase by a factor of 10, according to research from road safety charity Brake.

Consider how you handle your motorbike, especially in icy conditions. Try your best to ride in a straight line and don’t brake or accelerate too hard.

If the road is providing low grip, apply your brakes lightly and then with increasing force when you can feel that your front tyre has dug in.

In general terms, you should ride cautiously and assume that surfaces are icy unless you can see clear evidence to the contrary.

If you’re riding when there’s no natural light or visibility is low, make sure your headlights are clean and that your visor is clear and unscratched.

And be sure to wear high-visibility clothing and always assume that other road users can’t see you, just to be on the safe side.


Know when to stay off the road

Just because you’re planning to keep your bike operational over the winter months doesn’t mean you should be happy to head out in any conditions.

Sometimes you just need to take things easy, stay at home or find alternative means of transport.

Keep a keen eye on weather forecasts so you’re not caught out by unexpected storms or snowfall.

If conditions are generally changeable – as is often the case in the UK during winter – it might be better simply not to take the risk.

Think about the effects of wind-chill as well. This could lower the temperature you feel by several degrees.

Also, be sure to choose your routes carefully, as not all roads will be gritted during the winter.

And be aware of how much light you’ll have. Ideally you don’t want to be on the road in the dark, and the temperature might drop sharply after sunset, creating a higher risk of ice.


Stay covered

Knowing what factors are going to affect your riding in the winter is a good start. But the darker days, icy weather and increased chances of something going wrong should be a reminder to make sure you have suitable motorbike insurance in place.

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