Some tips for cold weather riding
It is one week before Christmas and for several weeks the weather has deteriorated. That is, morning with temperatures between 0 and 2-3 degrees and maximum temperature during the day up to 10 degrees Celsius. Also for a few weeks or more, I see videos or articles on how to get your motorcycle prepared for the winter break, promotions from various companies that offer hosting in the winter or all kinds of questions posted on Facebook groups with questions like this: “How is it better to let the motorcycle during the winter, with the tank full of gas or empty?” Or “if I keep it at a certain temperature,do I remove or not the battery?”, “To start it from time to time? and if so, how much do I keep the engine running? ”. Everyone puts their motorcycles into hibernation … You can’t find any materials about how to ride in the cold weather if you really want to do this.
Why would you do this?
Of course, many will say why would anyone want to do this, why would anyone want to ride a motorcycle in winter? I don’t know why anyone would want to go on a motorcycle in the winter, I’ll tell you why we want to go. First of all, you saw how many problems and dilemmas can arise if you park your bike for the winter !? Kidding.
A first reason is that we like to ride the motorcycle (we are 2Ride). I find it difficult to resist more than a few weeks without getting on the bike. In all the winters of the last years there have been few days with high temperatures and sunny weather. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss these beautiful days just because you have parked the motorcycle for the winter? I remember about 3-4 years ago on January the 19th on Transbucegi, on the top, on the plateau at over 2000m altitude, there were 12 degrees, sunny, dry asphalt, snow near the road and nobody on the road. It was a unique experience. And if it happens less often in the winter months, there are many beautiful days in November or early March when many still have their motorcycle stored for winter.
There is another reason why we prolong the season as much as we can: the infernal traffic in Bucharest and I suspect that there are many other cities in the same situation. Winter is probably the busiest time of the year. We have children who go to school, others to kindergarten and are taken by their parents by car. That’s because more than 60% of the children no longer go to the school in the neighborhood. They go to a better one … that one in the neighboring neighborhood. Then we have students who use the car to go to classes. There are still those who use the car as a coat and an umbrella. Then the holidays come and everyone is going crazy. So who would want to spend hours in traffic? it seems that many. Why would you want to do this when there are alternatives?
Okay, let’s say you found the motivation to ride the bike in these unfavorable conditions. You will have to deal with the main adverse elements: the cold, rainfall and road conditions. Basically you will have to invest in motorcycle accessories and rider equipment. Let’s take them one at a time.
Obviously, the colder the winter, the thicker you will have to wear. But it’s not that simple. Because when you go with the motorcycle, the air speed factor also appears and then, for example, if the temperature in the thermometers is 2 degrees, at 60Km / h, you may feel it as at -15 degrees Celsius. You could take all the clothes out of the closet and put them on you. But still, you don’t want to look like the Michelin man. And anyway, the thicker you get, the harder it will be to move, which is not desirable on the motorcycle. The idea is to find equipment solutions that are as thin, comfortable and efficient as possible.
The best option is to counteract the main factor that accentuates the cold sensation: the airflow. The basic rule is to have a layer on the outside that does not let the wind pass, and inside to have the best thermal insulation. So obviously you have to take a jacket and some pants that doesn’t allow the air to pass. You can invest in good equipment, or you can wear rain gear on top. Any solution is good as long as you turn off the airflow. The most important thing is not to have weak points where the air passes. You have to be very careful about the area of the wrists, the feet and the neck area because you will usually have the biggest problems there. So look for gloves as long as possible, pants long enough to cover your legs, keep in mind that when you sit on the motorcycle, your legs are bent, and sitting on the saddle will cause the bottom of your pants to rise even more. Another option is a pair of boots or high boots that overlap with the pants.
Let’s say you found the right equipment and solved all the above problems. There’s another problem. As I said earlier, the main reason you go on two wheels when it’s cold outside, is the bad traffic. And then you will most likely use your motorcycle to go to work. The good news is that the travel time to the office usually does not exceed 30 minutes
The problem is that you can’t dress like a skier when you go to work. Or you could, but it seems too uncomfortable to carry with you a set of spare clothes and change once you arrive at the office and again when you go home. You will have to use some tricks. For example, I go in normal street pants but I wear a pair of tights under my pants. The tights are good stop the wind and keep the legs warm. Likewise, you can use body blouses for hiking then you can take them out when you get to the office.
The more expensive option is to invest in equipment. There are all kinds of solutions: jackets, pants or shoes with normal, casual clothing appearance, except that they come with protections, thermal insulation and motorcycle equipment features. Even more expensive is the equipment with heating system with batteries or powered from the motorcycle electrical system.
Another great problem that you have in cold and humid weather is the helmet visor. It will steam pretty easily and then you either have to go with it open or open the vents. Neither of the two options is too pleasant, because all the cold air will come to your face and especially in your eyes. The situation becomes even worse if it starts to rain or you run into thick and moisty fog. The visor will be full of drops, and if it’s during the night, the visibility will drop to near zero. In this situation you don’t have much to do but to go with the open visor. The water will come directly to your face, so it will be a real pleasure … Sometimes it helps to have rubber blade on your gloves forefinger and you can use it same as a windscreen wiper.
Although there are several models of winter tires for motorcycles, we have never used them for several reasons. First of all, we are not so extreme that we ride when there is snow and ice on the road. Secondly, it is quite expensive to invest in a set of tires just to use it only 2-3 weeks a year. However, if the budget is not a problem for you, you can equip your motorcycle with such a set of gums because they are much more adherent in low temperatures.
Regardless of which tire you use, when riding a motorcycle in the cold months, there is a much greater chance that it will be wet and slippery on the road. So you will have to go more smoothly. No hard throttle, no sudden brakes, kept the distance from the front car and avoid filtering. The good news is that for a few years, it is mandatory for all new motorcycles to have an ABS system. We, in 10 years of motorcycle riding in the cold season, apart from a few small rear wheel skids, we didn’t have any problems with adherence, following the rules listed above. It helps a little off-road experience because the grip is somewhat similar and the fact that you experienced back wheel slip, it helps.
What you could do would be to lower the tire pressure a bit, to increase the tire’s contact surface. But do not exaggerate with the low pressure because you will wear the tires much faster.
In addition to the grip issues you need to pay attention to a few improvements that can be made to the motorcycle that helps a lot. By far the best upgrade is the heated grips. Some motorcycles have them as standard or optional, otherwise you can install an aftermarket system. The heated handles will be even more effective if you have handlebar protections, those defenders that you see on enduro or adventure motorcycles. They help divert airflow that will no longer come directly on your hands.
A high windshield is also very useful because it also helps divert airflow away from the rider. It helps a lot, and in rainy weather, you will see that you will get less wet and you will be able to keep the visor open, which is especially useful at night.
Other useful accessories are those wind protectors that you see mostly on scooters but which are also available for motorcycles, those blankets that cover your legs while riding. I didn’t use them but I suppose they greatly increase the thermal comfort of the rider.
In conclusion, what you should keep in mind is that we do not recommend riding in winter time unless you feel comfortable with the idea. You will see that whatever measures you take, many times you will not be able to completely counteract the cold.
The optimal version for us, which we reached after about 10 seasons of riding in cold conditions is the following: adventure jacket with 3 layers, a thermal layer, a rain layer and the outer wear layer; casual motorcycle pants, ie they look like blue jeans but also have protections and are slightly longer, which also helps in the cold; winter gloves, motorcycle with heated handle bars and high windscreen. In this formula we are ok to somewhere around 0 degrees on a trip of about 30 minutes.
However, you will discover that after several days of riding in the cold, your body will become used with the low temperatures and you will resit better in the cold.
What I did, and helps with safety but also with morale, I bought an outdoor thermometer, and every morning before I leave home, I check to see what is the outside temperature, just to know what to expect.
Once you begin to overcome all the physical and psychological barriers, you will also begin to enjoy a series of small satisfactions and see how many things can be solved by riding with the motorcycle during the cold period. From buying the Christmas tree and Christmas presents to getting pass the traffic jams in the winter holidays period. And when some traffic participants make room for you and open the window to show you a big “thumbs up” you will forget about the cold and traffic and you will know that you have made the right decision not putting your bike to hibernation.