The nights are starting to draw in and the weather is becoming wetter and colder. If you continue riding your motorcycle through Autumn and Winter, rather than locking it away for next Spring to arrive, take a read of our advice for riding in the Winter weather…
Riding your motorcycle
Look after your visor
Clear vision is even more important in heavy rain. This is doubly important as rainwater also tends to cling to a mucky visor, further reducing what you can see.
Use an anti-fog device such as a Pinlock on your visor to prevent it steaming up, and try to avoid opening your visor, as once rain gets on the inside it can be very hard to clear.
How far should I be from the vehicle in front?
You need to double your braking distance in heavy rain for two reasons. Firstly because you physically can’t stop as quickly as in the dry and, secondly because your visibility is impaired, which will give you less time to react.
Which lane is safest when it’s wet?
Generally speaking, on dual carriageways and motorways the inside lane holds the most water. This is because trucks often create two ‘gutters’ – deeper channels of water where the lorry wheels run. Beware, especially when moving back into this lane.
Danger lurks in dips
Dips or undulations in the road will hold water. One classic location is where a road passes through a tunnel under a larger road.
Take particular care in autumn as leaves can block drains causing flooding.
How do I ride a motorbike in deep water?
With extreme caution. Are there any obstructions you can’t see? Do you know for certain how deep it is? If you decide to enter, do so slowly and try to avoid braking.
Get the right motorcycle tyres for riding in the rain
Over the years tyre development means the level of grip in cold and wet conditions has improved vastly.
Even so, sport or trackday tyres aren’t going to work as well as all-purpose/touring tyres in the wet. If you intend to ride throughout winter choose the correct rubber. The difference between a trackday tyre and a winter tyre in the wet is huge.
Tyre pressure is vital too; the grooves in the tyre won’t work correctly in the wet if the pressure is too high or too low.
Do I need electronic aids on my motorbike?
From 2016 when Euro4 regulations came into effect, it became a legal requirement to have anti-lock braking systems (ABS) installed on all new bikes over 125cc capacity, and for bikes of any size you also now need either ABS or a linked braking system.
If you’re lucky enough to have rider aids on your older bike, use them. Turn up the traction control, turn down the power and make sure the ABS is activated. All too often we forget about rider aids or just don’t bother. If applicable, also adjust the suspension as some bikes have a wet mode which makes the suspension softer.
How do I brake in the wet on a motorcycle?
Like most other things in life, braking in the wet is straightforward if you plan ahead.
The first part of the plan is to practice applying the brakes on a traffic-free stretch of road with a consistent road surface.
Start out slowly, focusing on the front brake and building up the lever pressure gradually so that you get more and more of a feel for the power of your brakes and the feel of the tyre on the road.
When a tyre is getting close to skidding it loses speed rapidly before lock up.
If you are focused on your braking you’ll feel it in your hands and all you’ve got to do is release lever pressure and the tyre will speed up and you’ll continue to slow down in control.
And the great thing about the wet is that although the ultimate limit is earlier, the zone when it starts to break away is wider so you’ve got more time to react.
But that doesn’t mean you can ride up close to other vehicles because the fact is they can stop harder than you can and if you don’t leave plenty of room ahead you could be picking your bike up off the floor, so make sure you plan to have plenty of distance between you and other vehicles.
Be smoother too, as sudden changes of input will unsettle your bike and make it harder for you to keep that vital feel for what’s happening under your backside.
When you are braking more smoothly and gently in the wet that will bring your rear brake into play more as there’s less weight transfer, so get a feel for that too, making sure the pedal is positioned just under the sole of your boot.
Riding in high winds
Encountering a rainstorm on a motorcycle can be intimidating. But riding in high winds comes with its own unique set of problems.
Follow these tips to avoid getting tossed around by a strong gale:
Know when to stay off the road
Just because you’re planning to keep your bike operational over the winter months doesn’t mean you should be happy to head out in any conditions.
Sometimes you just need to take things easy, stay at home or find alternative means of transport.
Keep a keen eye on weather forecasts so you’re not caught out by unexpected storms or snowfall.
If conditions are generally changeable – as is often the case in the UK during winter – it might be better simply not to take the risk.
Think about the effects of wind-chill as well. This could lower the temperature you feel by several degrees.
Also, be sure to choose your routes carefully, as not all roads will be gritted during the winter.
And be aware of how much light you’ll have. Ideally you don’t want to be on the road in the dark, and the temperature might drop sharply after sunset, creating a higher risk of ice.
Maintaining your motorcycle
Fight winter dirt and corrosion
Salt from gritted winter roads could be a major threat to the health of your bike. As is the crud and mud that can attach itself when you’re riding in poor weather conditions – even when you’re not heading off road.
To protect your motorcycle, seal the bike’s finish with a good surface-protection fluid.
And the bad news is, during winter you’re going to have to give your bike a thorough clean after each and every journey.
This is preferable to having to replace rusted or broken parts – and especially to breaking down while you’re on a trip.
Ideally you should wash the underside of your bike with cool or cold water.
Warm water could simply melt the salt crystals, allowing them to get into the bike’s inner workings and cause even more problems there.
If you damage your bike beyond repair, you might find yourself having to buy a new motorcycle.
Freezing water could be one of the most serious hazards bikers face during the colder months.
If moisture gets trapped in your bike’s inner workings it could freeze when temperatures drop and make metal brittle.
This means there’s a real risk that key components are liable to jam or, in the most serious cases, break.
This could leave you to foot a hefty repair bill, and one that might not be covered by your motorbike insurance.
First, be sure to clean and lubricate your drive chain on a regular basis.
This is something you should be doing even when weather conditions are good, but in the winter this task assumes the utmost importance.
If your drive chain freezes it can make it difficult to accelerate smoothly, and it could even end up snapping. Your clutch cable might also benefit from the same clean-and-lubricate treatment.
If you’re riding the type of bike that has a liquid-cooling system, check regularly that there’s fresh antifreeze in the water tank. And make sure that it’s flushed properly through the bike.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself when you get home
A hot shower, change of clothes and a good brew (whether that be tea/coffee or a beer) and a sit down will be in order after getting soggy.
Take care and ride safe.