Many New Englander motorcyclists decide to hang it up in the fall and put their bikes in storage for the cold winter months. They eschew the snow, ice and cold and opt for more comfortable forms of transportation. And sometimes, this is the smart move.
But other people – either out of necessity or because of the allure of the road – choose to ride their motorcycles year-round. If you’re one of those people who plan to be on two wheels as the weather starts to turn, taking precautions and following these safety tips could mean the difference between life and death.
1. Layer, layer, layer
We all know that having the right gear is an important part of riding. In the warmer months, this includes a helmet along with durable gloves, boots, pants and a jacket. You still need to wear all that in the winter, but also add a thermal base layer to keep you warm and to protect against frostbite. Textile gear is warmer than leather, and it provides flexibility in the cold. Consider wearing a neck warmer to minimize exposed skin and, as always, wear a helmet with a fog-free full face shield.
2. Prep your bike
While properly layering clothing is going to offer you the most protection, modifications can be made to your bike to make your ride more comfortable. Though they may not be aesthetically pleasing, large windscreens, handguards and windgaurds can deflect the biting cold. Heated grips and heated seats are also available and can make riding more comfortable.
Before the weather gets too cold, make sure your bike’s antifreeze is fresh and properly mixed, and check the hoses and radiators to ensure everything is in tip-top shape.
3. Ride for conditions
It should be a given, but it’s critical that riders take extra precautions on the road during winter months. This means looking out for ice and snow, extending your following distance, being careful not to accelerate too quickly and just slow down in general. Cold weather also means colder tires, and colder tires have less traction. This might be especially noticeable at the beginning of your ride before the tires warm up. Combat this by making sure your tires have good treads and are inflated to the proper tire pressure.
4. Find a reliable tow service
Accidents happen. And more accidents happen in the winter. Poor conditions, less traction and other motorists driving poorly increase the likelihood of you eventually needing a tow. It can be difficult finding a towing service that specializes in motorcycles. And when you’re stuck on the side of the road in sub-zero temperatures, that’s not the time to be researching companies. Be prepared ahead of time by getting to know a tow service you trust and know to be reliable.
5. Know when to stay home
When riding in the winter, the bottom line is that you must have the wisdom to understand when the conditions are too poor to go out. Winter weather in the northeast can be unpredictable, so it’s important to keep an eye on the forecast and to err on the side of caution. Remember, no trip is worth your life.