Winter cycling in Georgia can be pleasant on the best of days, and even on days when the weather is less than ideal. But when the mercury drops and you need to get out on the road, you should take extra precautions—with your bike, your clothing, and your attention―to ensure your comfort and safety in avoiding any preventable motor bike accidents.
Wintertime road conditions can create challenges for all drivers, but especially for those on a lighter and less stable two-wheeled vehicle. If possible, plan your route in advance, avoiding areas where ice is likely to appear, such as bridges, which tend to ice up before the rest of the road. An unexpected patch of ice can send you spinning out of control, sand and salt accumulations can cause you to lose traction, potholes can appear where there once were none, piles of plowed snow on the sides of the road can obscure your vision and, when they infringe on the pavement, create obstacles that may require tricky maneuvers.
Because there are fewer motorcycles on the road in cold weather, drivers may become less alert to their presence; you may find that you have become “invisible” to drivers who have allowed their awareness of less visible two-wheeled vehicles to fade. So be extra alert to others on the road, exercise additional caution in situations where another driver’s violation of your right-of-way could result in a crash, and equip your bike and jacket with reflective strips to improve your visibility.
Another good piece of advice passed along fellow bikers is that if you see snow falling, consider ending your ride. Not only can snow stick to your helmet and limit visibility, but other drivers will have reduced visibility. It’s a good idea to seek shelter from the snow when you see it start to fall, and either promptly head home if you are going a short distance and proceed with extreme caution, or simply wait it out.
As always, your bike should be in tip-top shape for winter riding. Inspect it regularly, paying special attention to tires, brakes, suspension, lights, and chain. Check your battery terminals for corrosion, which may increase this time of year. Double the frequency of oil changes, and use a good quality gas additive. A larger windshield can protect your face from icy winds, and a fairing can help cut down on wind drag and offer protection for your body. It’s important to maintain a good amount of tread on your tires. It’s recommended to keep at least 50% of your tire tread during the winder for extra traction. A good way to test your tread is with the simple Penny Test. A little extra attention can improve your bike’s function and safety as well as your enjoyment of a cold-weather riding.
Of course you will not want to venture out in winter driving conditions without your helmet. Important in all types of weather, a helmet is even more essential when the weather is cold. Your helmet―which should be a full-face one―not only protects you in the event of a crash, it helps prevent the loss of heat through your head and can prevents windburn and chapping of your face. The headliner should be in good condition and the vents fully functional. Use an anti-fog spray to prevent the face shield from fogging up and obscuring your vision.
Maintaining a comfortable and healthy body temperature is important; this is best achieved by selecting waterproof clothing that fits snugly, to preserve body heat and prevent wind-drag, without being so tight that it restricts your movement. Invest in gear that is specifically designed for cold-weather motorcycling: a jacket with a zip-out thermal lining, well-fitting riding pants that allow you to move freely, and removable chaps that cover your legs—either fully or in part. To protect your neck, wear a warm turtleneck or a specially designed neck guard under you jacket. Avoid scarves, because a loose end can become entangled in the moving parts of your bike.
Protect your hands and feet from the cold. As with your other cycling garments, gloves should be a precise fit for your hands, neither too loose nor too snug, and should allow enough movement to operate your bike’s controls safely. Choose a pair that have skirt-like cuffs that overlap your jacket sleeves to protect your wrists and arms from the cold. Wear heavy leather boots, with good traction, that come up over your pants for safer stops.
Now that you’re fully prepared for winter, get out there and enjoy your ride. Comfort and safety make for cold weather fun for the dedicated motorcycle enthusiast.