Ah the eternal conundrum…to ride or not to ride your motorbike during the winter months! Is it something to aspire to or not even consider doing until spring has firmly set in?
I personally love to ride in winter and there is a common theme with those who do too. There is a different mindset and perhaps a healthier respect from other road users too. Us vulnerable riders just got the relative nod of approval but it is also that most are driving and riding more slowly too and the ‘hooligans’ are still hibernating.
You’ve got to be serious about riding to want to continue riding in the winter. You have to put up with the elements but have strict rules about your limitations too. Those that do ride know all too well that any misjudgement, and erratic control input will likely mean you sliding down the road on your behind…and you’ll be lucky to get away with just a bruised ego too.
However there is also the ‘FAFF’ factor and that is having to constantly think about keeping warm and dry. Investing in winter appropriate clothing, possible heated jackets and gloves. Neck warmers, balaclavas, water impenetrable boots…and the amount of time needed to change into it too.
It isn’t a simple act of jumping on the bike and going for a ride. Everything is more considered, more measured and takes just that little bit longer to get going…and also to clear down at the end of the ride too.
The other big FAFF factor is that your motorbike will be murdered by the elements too. Trying to keep it clean is impossible. Being overly protective of your bike will likely send you to an asylum so settling for a quick spray of water to remove most of mud and road salts is the best you could hope for too.
However the treachery of the winter road is real. It can lure you into thinking all is well but then like a whip of a scorpion’s tail, it will blindside you and be your worst day too. You become an avid follower of weather news and how it might affect your ride.
Temperature is a massive deal! Anything getting near freezing will mean you may have to rethink your travel plans or pick routes that are well travelled and gritted. Anything off the beaten track, side roads or in the shade with any kind of moisture and you’re dancing with black ice. There will only be one winner!
So if you do venture out, you’ll be riding on crappy roads, the bike will get a beating as will you. You’ll be dressed like some space explorer and you’ll be riding on the edge wondering whether you dare ever lean the bike over again for fear that your tyres will slip out from under you. You’ll turn down a side country lane only to be face with a wall of mud and filth from famers and tractors or any other organic matter that has decided to rest itself in your path.
All these things you should expect in the winter months. All these things you should consider when riding in the daylight hours…but then try to do this in the dark. When nobody else is around, all the sane people are at home, in the pub or moving around on foot or 4 wheels. You will be alone! You will be left to fend for yourself! Your decisions become critical and the wise rider will know which decision will be best…but nobody is immune from making a wrong turn or an error in judgement. It comes with the territory that can be cold, dark and wet…but knowing this can also give you a huge sense of freedom and fulfilment that you will not find in any other kind of riding. And when you do sense this, everything else becomes mediocre and mundane…even those glorious rides int he summer pale into insignificance.