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Safe Riding

Riding safely in winter

Fighting the cold

1. Fighting the cold

Raise your body temperature by getting active. Move around on your motorcycle, one leg after the other, one arm and then the next. Take more frequent stops to warm up and move! Roll your arms and wrists around, even when stopped at traffic lights.

Make the most of your vehicle's in-built heating device: its engine. During short breaks, put your bare hands close to the engine (without touching it, of course!) to warm them up. Stopping for a few minutes? Place your gloves close to the engine, wedge them under the fairings or on top of the cylinders for a flat twin engine.

To warm up afterwards, place your hands near to a heat source (radiator), but never put your hands directly on it! The cold numbs: there's nothing worse than plunging frozen hands or feet into very hot water. You're sure to burn yourself. Immerse them slowly in luke-warm water and gradually increase the temperature.

At the end of a long winter journey, it can be tempting to speed up or skip a stop to get to your destination sooner. It's a fatal mistake! The last few miles are when you're most tired and least attentive and are therefore when most accidents occur.

Be careful on the road

2. Be careful on the road

Increase the distance between yourself and the vehicles in front of you. Not only could the road be icy, increasing stopping distances, but if there is snow or ice on the road then lumps of dirty snow can build up in the wheel arches of cars and lorries. These can fall very suddenly and land right under your wheels.

Another hazard is the film of frost that can form on the bodywork or plastic covers of lorries and can fall off at high speeds or with a gust of wind. Watch out for falling ice!

It's worth keeping your distance from gritters spraying salt, sand and snow to the sides and behind them. Don't follow too closely and if you come across one, slow down and keep left, as far away as possible.

Don't assume that following a gritter will make for an easy ride. The salt that they spread on the side of the road will take around 20 minutes to melt the snow and ice. Even worse, gritting means that the surface is constantly wet and can even create a film of grime, a mixture of melted snow and all kinds of things, which is very slippery.

The speed/cold ratio

3. The speed/cold ratio

Bear in mind that the faster you ride, the more wind you'll feel and the colder you'll be.

  • For an ambient temperature of 10°C when stationary without wind, the felt air temperature on the bare skin of a motorcyclist behind the handlebars of a non-streamlined motorcycle would be around -2°C at 50 km/h and -6°C at 130 km/h.
  • Similarly, 0°C when stationary would become -20°C at 90 km/h and -21°C at 130 km/h.
  • For a -5°C ambient temperature, we quickly reach -25°C at 50 per hour, -28°C at 90 and -29°C at 130...
  • If you start off at -10°, it would be -33°C at 50 km/h and -37°C at 130 km/h!
Rain, fog and condensation

4. Rain, fog and condensation

In cold dry weather, no particular problems are expected. Just don't forget that since the air and road temperatures are colder, it will take your engine longer to reach its working temperature and your tyres will take longer to reach their optimal grip.

In rainy weather, reducing your speed is a must as grip levels automatically reduce for any given surface. Remember that your body cools down five times faster when wet too. Cover up in waterproof clothing to stay dry and warm! Or simply stop to dry off.  Its important to have your tyres correctly inflated to maximise their water clearing abilities.

In fog, the road will be wet so the same advice applies. Note that visibility will be even lower, both for you and for other road users. So slow down even more if necessary!

Check that your low beams are on and switch on your fog lights if your motorcycle is fitted with them… If possible, wear a reflective jacket or bib or put on an LED armband to make yourself more visible.

If you wear glasses, don't make the mistake of lifting your helmet visor because condensation will form on the lenses of your glasses and more or less blind you. You can open the visor a little if it fogs up, but don't open it completely. Wipe the outside of the visor with a finger of your glove, if possible one with a built-in squeegee to protect the visor from scratching. If you know you'll be riding in wet conditions, make use of anti-fog products or a Pinlock visor insert and use a good polish on the outside of the visor to help water bead off.

Ice, black ice and snow

5. Ice, black ice and snow

If it rains and then freezes, it's likely that you'll come across some black ice. If that happens, you might risk losing your grip. Pay particular attention to windy areas (bridges, valleys), tunnels, wooded areas where the sun can't reach, north-facing hillsides etc.

If you're riding in a straight line and the section of black ice is not too long, don't brake! Look into the distance straight ahead, don't flinch and you have a good chance of making it to the other side. If you're travelling around a bend, it's all over, you'll be on the ground before you know it. And all roads must turn in the end... Don't tempt fate.

If it's snowing, things start to get really fun... If you know that snowfall is on the way, avoid taking to the roads on two wheels. Firstly, you're bound to slip and slide, and above all you'll struggle with visibility. Snow will stick to your helmet visor and it won't be long before you can't see anything at all. You'll be wiping your visor every ten seconds.

Riding in fresh, powdery snow isn't a great deal more complicated than riding on a waterlogged road. As far as possible, try to stay in the tyre tracks of the vehicles in front of you while avoiding areas where the snow is packed down, compressed and often frozen. In the snow, it's best to ride in second gear at 10 km/h with both legs out to the side in case of any little slips. Try not to brake or accelerate. It's all about the clutch! Get comfortable with your clutch's bite point and go easy on the accelerator.