Winter can often be a rather challenging time for motorcyclists of all shapes and sizes, but with a few alterations, you can remain safe while biking all year-round.
The main objectives of winter motorcycling are staying warm and staying safe. With some thoughtful preparation, there’s definitely no need to hang up your bike keys until March. A few alterations to your clothing and your bike, plus an adjustment to your riding style, mean you can safely stay on two wheels until springtime arrives.
1. Staying warm and dry
It’s astonishing how quickly you feel the harsh cold on the bike and how profoundly it can affect your riding.
Layering is a really important part of keeping warm. Though your outer jacket and trousers will protect you from the worst of the rain and wind-chill, you need to think insulation and add plenty of extra layers underneath.
Thermal base-layers with full-length sleeves and legs work miracles for keeping your core warm, but don’t forget extremities either.
Glove liners and thermal socks under decent boots will do wonders and a balaclava or snood will keep both neck and face warm. Did you know, you can even get heated, battery-powered socks and gloves that wire into your bike’s electrics? Our Artisan Electric Scooters offer USB charging so it’s definitely a route to consider.
Dry hands are warm hands, so a brilliant tip for unpleasant-weather emergencies is to stop at your nearest petrol station and get a pair of the free plastic gloves available at the fuel pumps – worn under your bike gloves they provide a waterproof lining and trap a layer of warm air next to your skin.
Always take the time to make sure there are no gaps between your clothing that an icy wind could whistle through before setting off. Invest in a one-piece bike suit or zip your matching separates together, tuck gloves and socks into sleeves and use a snood to fill the gap between your jacket and helmet.
2. Being seen
Although you can improve your own concentration on the bike by staying as warm and dry as possible, you need to remember that motorists and pedestrians are also battling through the cold conditions.
You can counter this by making yourself as visible as possible. When choosing winter bike clothing, consider opting for high-vis or bright-colored jackets and helmets.
You can also add high-vis patches to your clothing or a visibility vest over the top of your usual ensemble.
3. Bike preparation
Keeping your hands warm is especially important, as icy fingers will not only affect control but also your concentration.
Most bikers will tell you that heated grips are surely one of the greatest inventions of modern time - they’re relatively cheap and straightforward to fit or have fitted at your local bike shop.
Alternatively, a decent pair of handlebar muffs will provide a good windbreak over your hands, extending your riding time.
If one’s available for your bike, an add-on windscreen will help avoid buffeting from the wind and makes it easier to see in grim conditions.
Heated grips or a windscreen will most likely be counted as a modification by your insurer, so you’ll need to tell your provider. The majority of non-performance modifications won’t have an impact on your premium price, though.
It’s not normally necessary to switch to different tyres to tackle the worst of winter, but you do need to pay attention to maintenance.
Check your tyres regularly for damage and excess wear and make sure the pressure’s right - it’s particularly easy to skid at this time of year and having low tyre pressure certainly increases the risk.
In the UK, the legal minimum tread depth is 1mm, but making sure you have at least 2mm in winter will aid you better on wet or icy roads.
In winter, tyres will take more time to warm up so be aware that your cold tyres will have less traction when you set out and ride accordingly, especially on sharp bends.
Due to the added road debris, punctures are a lot more common in winter, so breakdown cover could prove priceless to keep you moving.
In dim, dark conditions you need to make sure you’re as visible as possible to other road users, so make sure lights are kept clean.
If you have room, carry a spare set of bulbs on your bike so you’re not caught out by one unexpectedly blowing on a dark winters night.
6. Care and maintenance
Gritting vehicles can eventually cause large salt deposits to build up and cause an unpleasant amount of wear and corrosion to your bike in winter, so you might need to spend more time keeping it clean.
You could opt for a scooter in winter - they give better weather protection than most bikes and can be easy to care for and cheaper to insure. We would recommend the Artisan Electric EV2000R.
If you’re extremely cold and being battered by hail and rain, it’s easy to let your level of awareness dip.
This is why it’s crucial to pay attention to the clothing and motorbike adjustment tips listed above to help avoid distraction through discomfort.
Make allowances for other road users’ distraction too - if they’re struggling in the weather like you are, they’re less likely to see you, so be on the side of caution at roundabouts and junctions.
Be sure to always check for pedestrians crossing roads with their heads bowed to the weather also.
Strong winds in winter can be every bit as dangerous as rain for us fellow bikers.
Beware of crosswinds blowing you off course as you overtake larger vehicles and moderate your speed to suit the conditions.
Heavier rain can make roads dangerously slippery, so pay attention and avoid drains or clumps of leaves.
Remember to increase your stopping distance to reduce the chance of having to brake hard in the wet.
Icy roads are the arch nemesis of winter bikers - one false move could trigger a dangerous crash.
Exercise extreme care when venturing out into sub-zero temperatures – try to stick to gritted roads and remain vigilant for patches of black ice.
9. Know your limits
It’s more important than ever to know your own skill limitations in winter.
Avoid pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of speed, distance or terrain. You should be preserving the majority of your concentration for dealing with the more challenging weather conditions.
An advanced riding course before winter sets in could also be a valuable investment for your skills and awareness. It might even net you a discount on your insurance as well.