What are the most important things when riding in the winter?
As the winters sets in and chilly conditions start to set in even during the day, many riders will pack up their motorcycle. This is ideal as riding in the cold is not only uncomfortable to an extent, but can also become dangerous very quickly. However, if you are one of those for whom winter is just another season and doesn’t hold enough persuasion to stop riding for a couple of months, here are a few tips that will make you more comfortable on the bike.
Stay warm: This seems like an oxymoron considering it is winter. However, this is for you if throwing on a light jacket is your idea of staying warm. Subjecting your body to the cold outside will not only make you uncomfortable, it will also dull your responses. Dull responses as everyone knows is not something you want on a motorcycle. Wear appropriate riding gear that shields you from the cold, and make use of base layers to keep your body warm. This will reduce the chattering of your teeth and increase your focus on the road.
Warm up your tyres: This might seem like an oxymoron once again but you need to warm up your tyres to make sure you have the most amount of grip available to you. Contrary to popular belief, swerving about on your motorcycle will not quickly heat up the tyres. The best way to do that is hard acceleration and hard braking. Even these manoeuvres can be risky so make sure you do so without any obstruction ahead of you, or somebody tailing you. Swerving about unnecessarily will lead you to slip out. Also, stopping even for a little while will lead you tyres to become cold again, so do that as little as possible.
Look further: Vision is quite important on a motorcycle and all basic riding instructions have one thing in common. Look where you want to go. This is applicable even more in the winter as hazards on the road need to be recognised well in advance and looking further will help in that. Hazards need to be recognised in advance as you need to be lighter on the controls in winter. This is primarily because if there is any kind of dew on the road, in late winter nights and early mornings, the chances of losing traction is greater. Furthermore, if there is snow by any chance, losing traction becomes child's play. So looking further will help you spot obstacles and hazards in advance, be light on the controls when negotiating them and ride away safely.
Inspect your motorcycle: Just like excess heat, excess cold can make things go bad for your motorcycle. This is especially true for older bikes as their components will be more worn out due to age. Specifically inspect rubber hoses, tyres and all other rubber components as rubber can become brittle in cold weather and crack easily.
Kick-start the motorcycle - This is not an option if your motorcycle does not have a kick-start option. However, if your motorcycle does have a kick-starter, use it to start the motorcycle. Cold weather can require multiple cranks to start a motorcycle engine and doing that can drain your battery, if you use the built-in self-start mechanism. Multiple cranks using the self-start feature also has the potential to destroy your self-start mechanism. Kick-starting will not only keep your motorcycle battery charged, it will also generate body heat which will keep you warm.