Brace yourselves. Winters are coming! Most bikers would agree that winter months are the best time to enjoy riding. However this time of the year brings its own challenges like fog and road visibility. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make riding in the winters enjoyable and safe-
1. Gearing up for the winter: Many bikers often underestimate the importance of riding gear designed specially for the winters, thinking that they can get away with layering inside the summer riding gear. This could work sometimes – depending on one’s tolerance for chill, temperature and time of day, speed, etc. But a makeshift arrangement like this never works as effectively as purpose-made winter riding gear. Your best bet is to wear riding gear with a removable thermal liner. REV’IT! Jupiter 2 jacket and OXFORD Toledo jacket are great examples. Of course the quality of thermal liner matters, as it ought to do the job of keeping you warm, but without adding too much bulk. Staying dry is also really important, as being wet with sweat in winters is not desirable. We swear by Gore-Tex gear for this purpose. A balaclava is also quite useful in the winters as it helps prevent wind chill from seeping in through the collar.
2. Riding in Fog: Using fog lamps and turning on hazard lights is always a good idea when riding in thick fog. The Oxford Commuter X4 lights are wearable lights designed to make you more visible on the road and very useful while riding through foggy conditions. Use an anti-fog visor for your helmet. Sometimes when fog causes mist to settle on the visor’s outer surface, simply stop and clean it. The inbuilt wiper in winter gloves like the REV’IT! Crater WSP gloves come really handy in such a situation.
Always maintain slow and steady speed and maintain reasonable distance from the vehicle ahead in such weather conditions.
3. Warm up the engine and tyres: In cold months it's always a good idea to let the engine idle for a few minutes before heading out, as it brings the engine parts to optimal working temperature and lubricates bike internals properly before loading on them. Idle time needn’t be more than 30-40 seconds in summers and 60-70 seconds in the winters. Colder weather also means colder tyres that take time to warm up, resulting in reduced traction. Avoid aggressive throttle input and high speeds for the first 5-6 minutes of the ride.
4. Heated grips and seats: Hands are the hardest to keep warm during winter months and heated grips are the best way to do so without losing the feedback. Check out the Oxford Heated Grips that are a great option. Heated seats also help and come as a default feature in some of the high-end bike models.
5. Stop often, eat well: A long ride in chilly weather can numb the hands and feet, resulting in loss of feedback and control, putting you and others on the road at risk. Stop when needed, have something warm to drink and eat well as the digestion process produces heat and thus keeps the body warm. Let your body recuperate from the weather extremities before heading out again.
Riding in the winters can be a lot of fun, if you keep the above points in mind. So stay warm and ride safe! After all, the winters don’t last long in our part of the world!