As we’re in the coldest, darkest months of the year here in the UK, we thought we’d reach out to the team at RideTo to offer us their hints & tips for riding in winter and the dangers that can come along with it.
Let's start with something that is of course important all year round. But is especially important during the winter months, which is maintenance. Ensuring that your motorcycle is in tip-top condition can make a difference in both safety and comfort on the roads. RideTo recommends an ‘M-Check’
Starting at the front of the bike, work backwards in an imaginary M Shape checking:
Find out more about the M-Check in RideTo’s maintenance guide.
Another very important factor not to overlook is your own riding gear. Is it up to the job?
Staying warm and dry during winter rides is crucial. Your concentration can be severely hampered by being cold and/or wet, particularly at the extremities. Thankfully modern riding gear can offer excellent protection from the elements at very affordable prices. And you’ll be surprised what difference a good base layer will make to your overall comfort. If you can stretch to the higher cost, Merino wool base layers are an excellent way to help regulate body temperature and wick away sweat.
It’s also important to avoid wearing cotton layers if you can. Cotton offers little in the way of thermal qualities. But once wet, the garments are very slow to dry and will lower your body temperature over time. RideTo has produced a number of gear guides on everything from top to toe.
Without question, the most important factor in winter riding is the road conditions and being able to read them. There are many additional hazards when riding in the winter to take into consideration. Now although it’s something that plagues UK riders all year round, riding in the rain is obviously more prevalent during winter.
Despite modern motorcycle tyres being very good, reduced traction needs to be accounted for. This is why smooth, gentle control is key. Slowing things down and being less aggressive with braking, acceleration and cornering are all things to be mindful of. As are manhole covers, road markings and cat’s eyes. These will be slippery in cold and wet conditions. It's important to be on the lookout for the telltale multicoloured rainbow-like sheen markings on the tarmac which indicate spilt oil or fuel, never a motorcyclist's friend!
Ice is also a phenomenon best avoided on two wheels on very cold days. It can be very difficult to spot. So once the temperature drops below 3c take even more care and be especially gentle with the bike's controls. Be alert to possible micro-climates, patches of danger on an otherwise unaffected road, in shaded areas.
Sometimes a dry bright crisp day can offer a lovely riding experience, but those too can come with danger. Not only the obvious potential ice issues but also that gorgeous sunshine, which in winter can be very bright and low in the sky. Try to remain aware of the sun's position when riding so that you can anticipate turning a corner and not being blinded as the sun moves in front of you. A helmet with a drop-down sun shade is convenient in this scenario, as can be a peaked helmet to help shade your eyes.
A great way to help you ride safer not only in the winter but all year round is to book yourself some Advanced Rider Training. IAM RoadSmart is the largest independent road safety charity in the UK and has been championing increased road safety and awareness for well over 60 years.
Their aim is to improve the standard of riding, improve road safety and offer a nationally recognised Advanced rider test. As a motorcyclist, the Advanced Rider course is designed to provide you with the knowledge and practical skills to make riding not only safer but more fulfilling and enjoyable too.