The freedom of the road is one of the reasons why motorcycling is so popular but, in our modern world, it comes fraught with dangers.
The sheer volume of traffic, distracted car drivers and sometimes appalling road surfaces can make riding risky especially as we descend into winter. Here are some tips to make motorcycling a pleasure, not a pain:
Motorcycle Machine Condition
A properly serviced motorcycle is a safer motorcycle, that's a given. Riders should ensure their machines are up to the task in winter, paying special attention to the tyres and lights. Cold tyres are a risk factor as they lack traction and might lead to slipping and, potentially, accidents.
Always check tyre condition before setting out and make sure they have a chance to warm up. Switching to winter tyres may be an option. Avoid where possible areas with snow, ice and melt water; better still don't ride until conditions improve. If out and about and it starts to snow, get home as soon as possible.
Remember too that water-cooled motorcycles need anti-freeze. Ideally, this will be changed annually as part of a routine service but it is not something that can be neglected.
The winter brings with it shorter daylight hours and the need to see and be seen is paramount. Make sure all lights are functioning and thoroughly clean and perhaps consider a motorcycle replacement LED headlight to enhance night and low-light vision.
Being cold and uncomfortable does not add to the motorbiking experience. Hands and feet can be numb and body temperature can drop: That's not good. The best way for a rider to keep warm is to layer up.
There are plenty of modern, technical base layers available today that can provide excellent insulation without being bulky, ideal for wearing under suitable outer gear.
A large windscreen and hand guards can help protect from the chill as can heated grips, so consider them as part of the winter arsenal.
The Inner Rider
In cold weather the body's metabolism slows down and that's when shivering sets in; we've all been there. So, just as it pays to ensure the motorcycle's fuel tank is topped up, so should our bodies be. This is especially true in cold weather.
Start out with a good, warming meal and carry if possible some nutritious snacks and a flask of hot drink, remembering to stay hydrated. We often tend not to drink so much when it is cold and that's a mistake.
The Safe Rider
Even in normal, everyday riding conditions motorcyclists, as vulnerable road users, need to be super-vigilant and aware of all that is happening around them, because motorists sometimes are not, especially at road junctions.
In winter conditions keep in mind giving other road users extra distance. Seventy metres between motor biker and the vehicle in front is an often quoted figure that makes sense, allowing for extra stopping time especially in winter conditions.
It is entirely possible and even enjoyable to ride in winter. It's just a question of being prepared and facing up to the cold temperatures and the less than ideal road conditions. That said, if it is snowing, stay home. There's always another day for a motorcycle ride!