That takes care of you the rider, but what about actually riding the bike. When on the road there are a number of things that you will need to think about in some cases more than you would during the warmer summer months. For example, on a bright sunny winter’s day, the road may give the impression of being dry and problem free but in the shaded areas there may still be damp patches and, one of the biker’s biggest enemies, “Ice”. Just because the road looks dry is no guarantee that it actually is so be suspicious.
Leaves that have become damp and rotten over even a short period of time can often be found spread across the carriageway and damp leaves do not afford particularly good grip.
Many riders complain about the brightness of the sun during the summer months but I often find it is a bigger problem during the winter when the sun sits much lower in the sky and can blind very easily. Ride accordingly, but remember that other road users, especially car drivers will be suffering from a similar problem, so take particular care that they have seen you.
Another area to consider is the possibility of fog and/or mist, possibly in the top 2 of the motorcyclists most disliked weather (the other being snow and ice).
In the colder months, always be prepared for the unexpected. Most bikes have hard wired headlights these days, but there are many road users out there who drive and ride around in conditions of poor visibility who assume that because they think they can see OK, then everyone can see you. If you suddenly ride into fog or mist, drop your speed as quickly and as safely as you can, make sure your headlights are on and assume that nobody can see you, but that there will also be others on the road totally oblivious to the fact that they cannot be seen.
This is where a horn warning can often be beneficial. There is a reluctance for riders and drivers to use the horn here in the UK compared with some other countries, but if you feel that another road user has not seen you, or you want to re-emphasise your presence, don’t be afraid to give a quick horn warning. You may get a few choice hand signals from these drivers, but at least it confirms that they have seen you.
The “Have they seen you” comment can be taken a stage further by considering what you are wearing not from a comfort point of view, but from a visibility perspective. Not everyone wants to wear HI VIZ or Sam Browne belts, but a multi coloured helmet or something other than plain white or plain black may have a better chance of being seen. Brightly coloured riding equipment can enhance the view others have of you and of course dipped beam headlights and even the colour of your bike can contribute to helping other road users see you earlier especially near to hazards and junctions. How many of you remember the early Triumph Daytona’s and Honda VTR1000’s that were available in bright yellow? Not everyone’s choice of colour I grant you, but boy, could they be seen from a distance…
Paint, such as that used in road markings, can be slippery at any time, but during the colder months the combination of paint, water, ice and cold weather can be a lethal cocktail. Therefore make sure that wherever possible you cross over these lines while the bike is upright or, when travelling through a corner consider modifying your line slightly.
Manhole covers can be particularly slippery when wet and a hazard when they are cold as well. Whilst considering the road surface it is worth checking the overall condition of the carriageway for cracks and debris caused by frost damage.
Finally keep your bike clean and well maintained to avoid nasty surprises such as seized brakes or rust building up on important components. The salt used by our Highways Authorities to keep the roads clear of snow and ice tends to be particularly corrosive, and once it gets into the braking system you are looking at a major strip down. Before your first journey of the day make sure everything is working as it should and then give the bike a hose down or wash when you get home, this will keep corrosive damage to a minimum and ensure that the bike is in tip top condition.
Winter and cold weather riding can be fun, you just need confidence, awareness and the right equipment to make sure that you won’t get cold or wet and you will stay safe.