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6 Safety Tips for Riding a Motorcycle in the Winter

Posted on in Car Accidents

Winter in Illinois presents a variety of hazards and extra considerations to drivers. Motorcycles are even more susceptible to hazardous winter driving conditions. Pay attention to these hazards and follow the associated safety tips to ensure you or the motorcyclist in your family avoids a motorcycle accident this winter.

Winter Hazards

These winter hazards present extra danger for winter motorcyclists.

  • Cold. Due to the design of a motorcycle, no structure surrounds the driver to protect him or her from exposure to cold temperatures. As a result, cold temperatures and the associated wind chill can quickly harm a rider’s skin, particularly in the extremities which experience poorer circulation. Another side effect of cold weather is reduced tire pressure, oil response, and battery response. Motorcycles are susceptible to reduced performance in colder weather just like other motor vehicles. Poor handling and equipment breakdowns may endanger winter riders.
  • Precipitation. Rain is a consideration at any time of year, but winter rain is significantly colder and can quickly lead to hypothermia for motorcycle riders. Roads become slick from rain, snow, and ice – a particular issue as a motorcycle balances on only two wheels. In addition, precipitation may reduce visibility.
  • Road conditions. Aside from the presence of snow and ice, other winter factors can affect the overall condition of the road. The presence of salt, gravel, and other non-slip measures can be hazardous for riders. Cracks and pits as a result of snow plows can present additional concerns.

Safety Tips

To address the above winter weather and winter road-related concerns, we have compiled a list of winter tips for motorcycle riders.

  1. Dress in layers. Dressing in layers can help keep the cold and wind from penetrating your clothing as well as providing an opportunity to remove layers that have become wet while maintaining proper riding attire. Use moisture-wicking fabrics for base layers, fleece or wool for insulating layers, and waterproof fabrics for outer layers.
  2. Do not forget your head, feet, and hands. Cold weather gear for your extremities is even more important – riders who cannot feel their fingers are often more susceptible to poor handling crashes. Use gloves that provide good warmth as well as good grip, moisture-wicking socks, sturdy boots, and head gear.
  3. Check your tires. Cold weather can reduce your tire pressure, so be sure to maintain ideal fill levels for both tires, exercising particular vigilance when it is colder. Ensure your tires have adequate tread for the winter season. If you have time while beginning a ride, give your tires a chance to warm up – ride cautiously for the first few miles.
  4. Check your fluids. Your bike’s fluids will likely work significantly harder in winter weather, so be sure they are at adequate levels. Additionally, ensure your oil is a proper grade for winter riding. In many cases, it is best to have a mechanic look over your motorcycle for winter safety before attempting a winter ride.
  5. Slow down. Give yourself more time to react to potential hazards such as snow, black ice, road cracks, and patches of gravel, by slowing your speed. You will have more time to stop if an accident happens in front of you, as well as maximizing the grip of your motorcycle’s tires.
  6. Avoid jerky motions. Aggressive braking, acceleration, or turning is never a good idea, but all can be particularly dangerous in the winter months when traction is less than ideal. Exercising smooth maneuvers on all of these functions helps maintain your tread’s grip on the road and prevents you from slipping, sliding, and crashing.

Above all, keep a close eye on road conditions and watch out for changing weather conditions – if it begins to snow or the rain begins to freeze, conditions are likely too slippery to safely ride. Consider leaving your motorcycle at home.

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