1. Respect The Road
Winter is a special beast, and particularly of note if you are not inside a heated car, but out in the elements aboard a trusty motorcycle. There are a lot of factors to consider on a winter road surface so you need to stay on point at all times. Rain, snow and hail have an annoying habit of falling on winter roads and those same roads are often already slippy and slidey from a summer of having oil and grease dripped on them from drippy exhausts. Liquids freezing on oily tarmac can cause black ice to form on the road surface and turn it into an ice rink so it's wise to always ride at your most frosty, carefully and with your wits about you at all times. It is also wise to be prepared for wind, rain, sleet or snow in winter which can make visibility worse and mean that you are not functioning at your best due to the cold.

2. Slip Slidin' Away
It is always a good idea to leave a longer braking distance between you and other road users in winter, as slowing down might take longer on a slippery road with less grip for your tyres. Leaving longer gaps between you and other road users can also mean that you are out of the spray and sludge thrown backwards by other vehicles ahead.  More space also gives you more time to see what other road users are doing in reduced visibility, they may be struggling with bad conditions too and could make mistakes. As well as wet or icy roads, they and you may have to contend with wet leaves or rubbish on the roads causing an additional hazard.

3. Rest Cure
Remember to take extra breaks in winter to warm up and give your eyes and reflexes a rest. It's sensible to stop frequently for a hot drink or a hot meal to warm yourself through and raise your blood sugar so that you are more alert and therefore safer when you're back on the road. If you have to make a longer trip in winter give yourself extra time so that you can take more breaks along the way.

4. See And Be Seen
Be aware that pedestrians, struggling grimly along with hats and scarves pulled up and maybe rain, hail or wind in their eyes, may not be as aware of the road as they should be and might step out in front of you. Equally drivers may have misted windscreens or be dazzled by the increasingly bright headlights from oncoming traffic and also can have reduced visibility so may not see you. Always ride as though you are invisible to compensate for others and make sure that you wear hi vis and keep your lights on, to give yourself a better chance of being seen. Make eye contact with car drivers or pedestrians whenever you can to check that they really have spotted you.

5. Weather Watcher
It may sound obvious but be aware of the weather forecast and ride accordingly. If snow or gales are forecast and you can, then postpone your trip, it's the safest thing to do. If you have to ride in bad conditions ride advisedly and slowly, keeping your eyes peeled for flying plastic bags, road cones and falling branches. Give yourself extra journey time and make sure that you are properly dressed for the conditions.

Pimp Your Ride
Winter Bike Maintenance Checklist:

Check that all your lights and indicators are clean, not obscured by road dirt and are working well with nice bright bulbs. Lights are even more important in winter when the world is dark and the days are short. Even in the middle of the day if it is stormy it can get really dark, so be prepared.

Check your tyre pressure really regularly in winter as this is essential for safety. Do it when the tyres are cold before you set off so that the readings will be accurate – some riders recommend that you reduce your tyre pressure by about 2psi in winter to give the tyre more surface area on the road and therefore a better hold on the road. Also do frequent tyre checks to make sure that the tread is fine and will give you enough grip on slippery roads. Also keep an eye out for wear, cuts bulges or sharp things sticking into your tyres.

Clean your mirrors frequently as visibility is essential in the darker months and use an anti misting spray on your visor and mirrors to prevent fogging.

Check your manual for the right coolant for your bike and keep it topped up in winter at all times.

Check all your brakes, they should feel firm and be fully applied without the levers reaching their full travel. Equally when you release the brake the wheel should turn freely without catching. Check the brake fluid levels regularly in winter too as brakes, important at any time of year, need to be on point in the slippy old winter.

Make sure your horn is working so that you have the ability to warn other road users if necessary.

Make sure that your chain is well lubricated, if it looks dry or gritty clean it and spray it with some chain lube. If it feels at all slack then adjust the tension till it is correct.

Move your handlebars round fully, to check that they are not snagging on any cables or tank bags or other obstacles which might reduce their movement.

Have a look in your bike handbook to check your service schedule. Make sure you stick to the schedule and get it done if it is due, so that you keep your bike running at its best during the winter when road conditions are not necessarily at their loveliest.

BLTS - It's No Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich!
This useful Mnemonic is really handy to help you remember to check your brakes, lights, tyres and steering before each trip, especially in winter. As well as this, before you set out, it's a good idea to make sure your fuel and oil are topped up and you have checked the weather forecast so that you can ride prepared for whatever it has decided to chuck at you out there.

So if you employ these simple tips, which, let's face it you probably knew already, and wear the right warm hi-vis gear, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a good winter of riding ahead. Do you have any patent tips for us? Let us know how you get through the winter without any stress.

If you need any parts for your bike to get it winter ready – for example: lubricants, cleaners, oils, batteries or chargers, brake pads etc – have a look around our website, or get in touch with us via email or Facebook!

Posted by Lucy England
for Wemoto News on 01 December 2020 in How To Guides



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