It’s at this time of year that many within the motorcycle riding classes begin to think twice about taking the bike out…or even decide to put it away for the winter months. However there are still many great riding days ahead and those crisp winter rides are some of the best that you can do all year.
Perhaps it’s the low sun of the horizon or even the decluttered roads from fair weather riders or drivers…even the dirt trails will make many an off roader to shy away, but some of my best rides and most enjoyable come within the autumn and winter months.
I don’t exactly love the cold but I don’t fear it either. I wrap up warm as best I can, don the waterproofs and head off seeking muddy trails and wet roads…however even I will think twice and thrice before heading out onto the ice.
I fully understand if people aren’t comfortable, in every sense of the word, to ride out in the winter and I also fully understand when many riders do not want to get their pride and joy dirty or covered in road salt, but for the life of me I cannot understand the blanket refusal to go out and ride because the perception that the poor weather conditions can make for a dull ride or the scenery will be the lesser for it.
The fact is that there are many areas that are more beautiful in the winter than at other times of the year. Sitting atop a hillside and watching the freezing fog develop in the valley below is a wondrous sight indeed, or watching a storm blow throw with a deluge of rain is a most powerful sight too…when viewed from a comfortable position.
The Scandinavians have a saying that, “There is no such thing as bad weather…just inappropriate clothing” or words to that effect. With that in mind I relish the prospect of the winter…not only for my riding but also for the long dark nights and the piping hot food that would warm the coldest of bellies. Perhaps it’s from my childhood but winter was always a playtime whilst summer was time to get down and work hard.
Winter is still my playground and I love the challenge and the bleakness of the day and the blackness of the dark. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t get cold or rue the decision to go out on the bike when I’m slipping all over the place or that I can’t feel my appendages after a cold ride…but beneath my heavy frown there is a smile beaming brightly.
As an off road rider, the added bonus of winter riding is that the trails are mostly empty…even at the weekends but they can also get cut up quite badly so I am quite selective about which tracks I ride and what kind of impression I leave.
My view is that I don’t want to leave huge ruts along tracks that are not usually ridden by motorcycles as this will ruin them for the subsequent spring and summer. So I’ll stick to the major byways or at least ones that are still open all year around and preferably those covered in stones or gravel.
However, you would be living in cloud cuckoo land if you thought that any kind of winter ride is not going to get you very muddy. Deep muddy holes are the norm, endless puddles, tyres that fail to grip and ruts that never run out of steam. It can be hell on earth or it can be a challenge to savour…either way it’s no picnic out there but just making it out the other side, you’ll get an amazing feeling of achievement and adventure too.
There are however a couple of extra tools and tips of the trade you may want to consider. Get yourself a pressure washer so that when you return home you can hose off the bike but also yourself. Invest in warm weather clothing and waterproofs. Get some knobbly tyres if you really want to get out into the muddy stuff, otherwise hard trails will still be fine on road tyres. However the most important thing to take with you is a positive attitude and a big flask of coffee or tea…or hot chocolate…whatever your fancy is and get ready to go get dirty.
This is the rallying cry for all the two wheeling adventurers and heroes out there to go find adventure on the winter trails. It won’t be pleasant or even very comfortable but it will be one of the best things you’ll end up doing on your ride.