Colder, Darker, Wetter! 

As we proceed through autumn and then into winter riding, both rider and driver will encounter, overall, deteriorating weather and road conditions. Some regions and countries (depending on latitude) will notice this sooner in the calendar and for others…later.

As we know many seasonal riders lock away their motorcycles for the winter and revert to other forms of transport and others continue riding regardless either through necessity or through choice. Some will store away their pride and joy and use a less regarded motorcycle (the winter hack) instead and some will only venture out on the drier, warmer winter days.

Regardless of method or preference, what a rider and driver should consider, are the limitations imposed upon them in deteriorating weather. These limitations should not necessarily deter the use of a motorcycle for safety reasons but should be a catalyst for a rider and driver to modify their practices.

For some riders…continued riding throughout the winter months brings a change in their approach to riding. Be that wearing weather appropriate motorcycle clothing, paying closer attention to weather reports, modifying their riding style, performing more maintenance checks and being more selective about routes and ultimately deciding whether a ride in certain conditions is appropriate.

For others…continued riding is merely a continuation of their use of a mode of transport. There isn’t a lot of consideration of other factors, merely just to wrap up a bit warmer and carry on! 

Continued riding in winter is perfectly appropriate and ‘safe’ when effective consideration has been afforded to factors that can limit the performance of the rider, the motorcycle or moped/scooter and the driver, etc.

Road conditions will change with wetter, muddier and potentially icier roads. There is also likely to be more smaller debris (such as grit, gravel, tree matter etc) on the roads. Temperature is a big factor, therefore any temperatures that are forecast to approach zero degrees will potentially be cause for consideration. However linked into this is the choice of route: whether riding in urban areas or rural areas, riding at lower altitudes or higher. What is the local weather forecast and local weather patterns and how the weather and ultimately the road conditions may change along an intended route. Will the condition of the road surface change…either in terms of traction due to wet, ice or oil residues or due to the road surface being in need of repair.

Motorcycle performance, tyre performance and braking will be affected and likely be reduced. The stopping distances will increase and overall grip will reduce. Riding with the bike more upright and less use of high lean angles will help to compensate for reduced traction, especially in a bend. Allowing increased distances in between vehicles will allow more time to react and longer distance to safely brake or steer to avoid.

Wearing appropriate clothing, gloves & boots for the weather conditions; be those waterproof or with thermal linings. The key consideration is rider comfort and whether that can be maintained throughout the ride. If it can’t, will that affect concentration levels and reaction times and the physical ability to control the motorcycle appropriately.

Many riders will choose to wear bright colours and high visibility clothing in the winter months…especially at night or in low light conditions (of course some wear this all year around) This may add to the rider comfort if this gives them confidence that it will enable other road users to see them easier…but never over rely on this! Some drivers will take note of the brighter colours and some will not! Wearing of bright colours should be a tactic used in conjunction with modified riding practices and not instead of them.

Personal performance may be affected in the winter months. Many drivers and riders will be getting used to travelling in deteriorating conditions or in the dark and riding and driving errors and misjudgements are commonplace. Preparation and allowance for these ‘frailties’ can be achieved by using more appropriate speeds for the conditions…and that may very well mean riding and driving slower, and allowing more space in between vehicles. For riders who are not riding on a regular basis, then recent riding experience should also be factored for as this may lead to errors of control and in misjudgements.

Riding in winter demands greater emphasis on sound decision making by both rider and driver and notably; many if not most of the accidents involving motorcycles in the winter months are determined by misjudgements of rider and or drivers and not necessarily because of ‘reckless or excessive speeds’ Many accidents that I have attended over many winters have been caused by riders and drivers making the wrong decisions with particular road and weather conditions.

Remember:

What can you see at night?

Can drivers see you in the dark?

Are you ready for the cold, wet & icy roads?

How do you get ready for winter riding and driving?

What should you consider?

Prepare for winter riding and driving!

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