For many areas as autumn beds in there will undoubtedly be a deterioration in weather conditions. Depending on where you live in the world, this will be a more rapid transition with greater changes in air and ground (road) temperature at different times of day and night. There will also, for many riders, be a need to wear extra layers of clothing or suitable cold & wet weather clothing to combat these changes.
Not only do these changes in weather and road conditions affect motorcycle performance and handling, but they also affect rider performance. It is a known fact that for many riders, this time of year heralds the ‘oncoming hibernation’, where many put the bike away for the winter…only to re-emerge in the spring.
For many riders that ride all year around, in all weather conditions, there is a distinct change in their approach to riding during the winter months. Most utilise the appropriate clothing for the season and most ride more conservatively, taking extra note of the conditions and weather forecasts and ultimately reducing speed, increasing distance between the rider and other vehicles to compensate for reduced braking and tyre performance, and generally allowing more time for the journey.
Whilst motorcycle accidents still do occur during the winter months, they are generally fewer in number. This is primarily due to less riders on the roads due to the hibernation, but also due to riders adopting a conservative & economical riding style.
Many accidents still occur in wet riding conditions and this is primarily due to the loss of motorcycle control under braking or due to loss of tyre performance on the road surface. In wet conditions the road surface characteristics change enormously and there is less resistance (Grip) between tyre and surface. The wet actually creates a boundary layer between tyre and surface, but oil residues are also lifted (especially during ‘first rain’). Combinations of wet conditions and temperature also cause debris (dirt and stones) to settle on the road and in some combinations, the road surface may actually start to break away, hence the road surface itself is progressively providing a diminished solid platform ( We have all seen potholes appear and extra care should be taken when riding through puddles and standing water as this can mask a deep pothole. We should also not forget that other debris, such as leaves, twigs and branches will cause a reduced tyre performance and wet brakes will reduce in performance.
Many other motorcycle accidents occur during the autumn or in the winter months as riders either make use of the ‘last dry road day’ or venture out after a long period of not riding to seek out the ‘dry day of winter’
We in the emergency services also see this phenomenon during the spring as many riders return to riding again, at a time when their riding proficiency is greatly reduced. This combination of factors leads to a sudden increase in accident statistics.
As with any riding, mental preparation & approach is a major influence to a safe ride. Whilst it is great to get out on dry roads, the rider should not be so eager to ride that they ignore their reduced proficiency and the potential affects of the weather and road conditions. If a rider eases down into autumn and eases up into spring, then they are better prepared for riding on the road.
Rider comfort is also key in maintaining concentration levels. If the appropriate motorcycle clothing is worn and it still allows unrestricted movement, then the rider will not be distracted by how cold or wet they are, and will be able to focus on the riding and road conditions.
Most of the factors discussed here also apply to the driving of other vehicles and many drivers have a reduced proficiency and competency during the autumn and winter months. This is a combination of weather conditions and reduced visibilities either due to weather or low sun angle, but also due reduced attention of the driver because of the physical effects on the mind and body associated with the poor whether.
A rider should always be conscious of their riding and how others are driving. Allow extra time and space to compensate for reduced riding and driving performance. Adopt a defensive riding style and adjust the mental approach to riding during the autumn and winter months.