7 things to know about riding motorcycles in winter

Motorcycle enthusiast Chris Best offers some advice before revving up that sweet beast when the sleet, snow and mercury drop

Just because winter has rolled in across America’s roadways, that’s not an excuse to hibernate the motorcycle for the season. 

You can still ride year-round, even in frigid temperatures. However, there are some things you need to know. 

Journalist and motorcycle enthusiast Chris Best is the frontman behind Biker Dad, an online community for bikers and nationally syndicated TV show. He offers some advice before revving up that sweet beast when the sleet, snow and mercury drop.

"There is going to be at least a day or two during the winter where the conditions are good enough to ride," Best said. "There are ways to make the ride safe and comfortable if you really want to do it. Safety is the most important part of it."

Dress for the ride, the chilly ride

Proper layering is essential.

Best said he uses Under Armour as the bottom layer. 

"I find them more comfortable than donning leather chaps, and they surround your entire leg, not just the front and upper body," Best said. "Up top, multiple layers. Usually another long-sleeve shirt over the Under Armour, a short-sleeve T-shirt over that, then a hoodie and finally my leather jacket." 

And don’t forget to break out the heavier boots and winter socks. 

"Heavy winter gloves are a must. But the trick is finding a pair that doesn’t cause you to lose all the dexterity in your fingers," Best said. "You want to be able to feel for your controls without looking down."

Best offers a little life hack from his years of riding: Put on latex gloves under the winter gloves. This adds an extra layer of wind protection.

"I always wear a full-face helmet, but the extra wind protection comes in even more handy in the winter," Best said. "Remember, too, that comfort is a safety issue."

Best said if you’re focused on shivering and freezing your behind off, you’re not focused on the road. And that is dangerous. 

"There’s plenty of heated gear out there too, but it can be expensive," Best said. "I did find a relatively cheap heated vest at Cottonmouth Customs Motorcycles. It doesn’t cover your arms but heats your core pretty well."

Winter gear for your bike

There are winter accessories for your bike, from heated handlebar grips to seats that warm up.

"I don’t have either of those, but I do have extra wind protection for my hands and soft lower fairings on my tour bike," Best said. "These soft lowers keep the wind off my legs in the cold and are easily removed in hotter weather to cool my body and the engine." 

Best said windshields and fairings go a long way in the winter, as well as hand guards. 

Check your bike

Winter elements can do all kinds of things to a motorcycle, like kill the battery. 

However, a decent trickle charger can prevent that, Best recommends. But more important are your safety checks. 

"Cold air outside means cold air inside your tires. That can and likely will lead to low tire pressure, Best said." "That impacts the handling of the bike and traction of the tires."

You want to check the tire pressure before hitting the road. A loss of traction coupled with some frozen precipitation on the road, maybe in a curve, could be a dangerous combination.

"People don't want to stop and take five seconds to check their tire pressure. You should really be doing it every time you ride, but especially when it's cold," Best said. 

Pay extra attention to road conditions

Not only could ice or snow pose a risk, but the sand and salt used to clear them can also as well. 

"Be extra vigilant about salt and sand on the road as they will eat up your traction," Best said. "The trucks that deliver them also cause damage to the road that can be a hazard too." 

Remember to slow down and pay closer attention. It’s also a good idea to keep a greater distance from other vehicles.

Wash your bike

If you hit some salt on the roads, it can quickly start corroding your bike. 

It’s bad for cars but even worse for all of that chrome. Plus, the smaller, more-exposed parts will rust faster. 

"It’s a greater safety hazard for motorcycles, too," Best said. "If parts rust and fall off, they can pose a danger to you and others you’re riding with. I had a heat shield fall off from a bike that had been exposed to too much salt air near the beach."

Riding safely

The same basic rules apply for riding in the cold as when it’s hot. 

"It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true; make frequent stops. Eat and drink plenty of water to make sure your body can handle the travel," Best said.

Also, be sure to check in on your biker buddies to make sure they are safe and sound.

Ride in groups

Winter riding can cause you to get tired faster.

"It’s mentally challenging," Best said. "You lose dexterity in your hands. All of this makes it a bit more dangerous than summer months."

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to join you on a winter ride, so you can check on each other and be ready to help if any problems arise.

After all, riding is all about the brotherhood and sisterhood.

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