Riding in the winter is often a necessity rather than a pleasure. With some forethought and planning this necessity can become a pleasure. I’m sure you can all think of those cold clear dry days found in January and February, the leaves have gone and the rain has removed most of the road debris.
There are three main things to consider whilst riding in the winter.
Your brain is a primitive machine, it will devote energy to keeping you alive. So, if you are cold and wet most of your brain’s power will be used for self preservation with little left to concentrate on your riding. Wear the right kit for the weather; several layers do a better job keeping you warm than one thick one. It sounds simple but stay dry, a £10 pair of over trousers will make all the difference and act as a windproof barrier as well. Cleaning and reproofing fabric kit will ensure it stays functional for years, if it is dirty the water is absorbed into the fabric and the fibres cannot do their job. Most waterproof boots just aren’t, consider waterproof windproof socks, they do a much better job. Heated clothing is becoming much cheaper, heated gloves do a much better job than heated grips as do bar muffs. Heated jackets and socks are also available. This largely depends on your budget and how much winter riding you do. Consider a high viz over jacket. I accept this is not the coolest item of clothing but neither is spending time under the front of a car driven by a driver who was half asleep on a cold winter’s morning. Visors misting up is an age old problem. I have tried almost every product ever launched.
The only solution I have found to be any good are visor inserts such as Pinlock or Fog City. There are numerous products to allow water to bead on the outside, I use squirt of furniture polish rubbed in every day just make sure this is compatible with the anti scratch coating on your visor.
Prepare your bike
Tyres are designed to get rid of water. Less tread means less water shifted and less grip. Why fit new tyres in the spring ready for the summer when they would do a better job if fitted in the autumn. Although the legal tread limit is 1mm across ¾ of the tyres breadth this is not enough to allow the tyre to perform at it’s best. If you don’t wash your bike at least wipe the lights and number plate. The plate is the largest reflective area on your bike. Lube the chain, chains hate rain and road salt. An unlubricated chain will overheat, stretch and cost you money not to mention the chance of it snapping. Give your bike a rinse when you get home, road salt destroys alloy and consider a protective spray.
Water reduces the available grip especially on anything that is not tarmac such as drain covers, tar banding, white lines and paved areas. The key to wet riding is smoothness. No harsh braking or accelerating and no sudden changes in direction. To ride smoothly you need to plan well then nothing will come as a surprise.Be aware of piles of grit in the areas where car tyres don’t travel, this is very slippery when wet and forms ridges when dry.
Ice and frost brings it’s own problems if it is icy try and avoid riding if you can. If you hit black ice your chances of staying upright are almost zero. If it has been icy overnight bear in mind micro climates which may be present until well after lunch time. These are areas of ice or frost in shaded parts of the road. They have not been warmed by the sun and are often difficult to see due to them being in the shade. Bear in mind that local authorities limit gritting to primary routes. Try and avoid riding through puddles and floods not only because you will get wet but you wont be able to see the big pot hole of lifted man hole cover.
Finally riding in snow. Unless you are on some sort of KTM having fun on green lanes then don’t!