Winter is here!
Six tips for riding during the colder months
Winter’s not coming. It’s here. And if you want to get the most out of riding through it, you’ll need more than a change of wardrobe. So here are some top tips on how to increase your enjoyment and your safety through the coming months.
Preparing your bike correctly can make all the difference to winter riding. Make sure the tyres have plenty of tread, no damage and are correctly inflated. If they’re in need of replacement, think about something optimised for cooler temperatures and wet weather performance: the difference in confidence they can give you is worth every cent.
Suspension can make a big difference too. You’ll find plenty of advice to help you set up sag, preload and damping here on the Ride Forever website. In winter, you may want to set the suspension just a tad softer because you won’t be pushing it so hard and it will give you better feedback and grip in cold, wet conditions.
Also, make sure your bike’s electrics are 100%. Batteries can perform less well at low temperatures, and wet conditions can expose weaknesses in connections and insulation. Invest in a battery charger if your bike will be laid up for longish periods, and think about getting an auto electrician to give everything the once-over.
Sometimes, there is a huge difference between morning and afternoon temperatures, so use layers that let you control your body temperature. The key is to trap a thick, insulating layer of warm air between your body and the outer, wind-proof layer of clothing. Choose gear with close-fitting openings and covered zippers, and avoid loose garments where cold air will sneak in and push out the warmth. Got the option of heated grips, seat or clothing? Don’t hesitate
If you get wet on a bike, wind chill sucks more heat away with every extra kilometer you ride. Leath-ers can keep out a light shower, but beyond that they’ll get sopping wet. So invest in something de-signed specifically to keep you dry, like a waterproof, breathable textile combo or a one-piece over-suit. Team up with waterproof, breathable winter gloves and boots, and you’ll shrug off the worst weather. There’s some good advice on winter gloves here, on boots here and on waterproof clothing here. And remember always to check MotoCAP for the latest evaluations and ratings.
It’s wetter, meaning grip levels reduce but not evenly. The first thing to look out for is damp or wet patches that the low, weak sun hasn’t managed to dry out. Another is the surface. Avoid shiny patches where you can, and try to stay on well-surfaced areas. Also, painted road markings that you didn’t think twice about in the dry can now cause a skid or wheel-spin. Give yourself room for error. And, wherever possible, change your line to avoid areas of reduced grip.
Low winter sun can be a nightmare. The glare can make it almost impossible to see where you’re going. The best solution is to plan your journey so you won’t be heading into early morning light from the east, or westward in the late afternoon. Afternoons can be worse because if you wait out the glare you have to deal with the dark, and if you’re fatigued that’s another problem.
If you’re being dazzled by sunstrike, ducking your helmet down so the top of the aperture cuts out the sun can sometimes work. Adventure-style helmets with a peak are better. Otherwise you might be reduced to using your left hand as a sun visor. In any event, slow down and give yourself time to read the road. If traffic is behind you make sure you touch the brakes to signal that you’re slowing.
With shorter days riding at night, or in lower light, becomes more likely. Keep your headlight glass and helmet visor clean. If an oncoming vehicle’s lights shine right at you, direct your gaze to the left of the road until you can look past the vehicle without being dazzled. Again, slow down to give yourself time, space and options.
Riding in winter can be challenging but, like anything that’s harder won, when it goes right it’s all the sweeter. Have fun and stay shiny side up.