Motorcycle Safety in Cold Weather
Winter is the worst time of the year for motorcycle enthusiasts in virtually every respect. The days are shorter, the wind chill sharper and less inviting, the winds blow colder across the body as you ride. Then there's the question of the weather, the plunging temperatures making the air itself sharper and harsher. Most importantly, however, the cold winter weather presents all kinds of treacherous conditions for cyclists, and it's the time of year when the greatest amount of caution should be practiced.
Make no mistake, these are not healthy tips or friendly advice. These are suggestions that should become ingrained habit, a regular part of your conscious navigation while riding. Motorcycle fatalities and injuries rise exponentially during the cold weather months, and a little precaution and careful training will keep you safe in poor conditions.
Perhaps the most treacherous condition when driving on winter roads, especially in northern climates, arises from wet or frozen stretches of concrete that, most often during night, appear normal when seen in a rapid glance from the seat of a bike. Potholes can fill with rain, becoming camouflaged against the road's surface.
Consider that even short trips in rainy weather can be deadly. It is true that most motor vehicle accidents occur within just miles of the home, and this statistic is true for motorcycles, as well.
Worse, the threat of black ice: ice that freezes with enough road grit and dirt so as to become virtually invisible, while retaining the slick texture of ice on roads. As with any other kind of driving, pay attention to weather advisories, and when planning a trip during inclement weather, err on the side of caution: if you suspect the roads might not be safely navigable, make other arrangements of stay put. Cycling includes an attitude of daring and bravery, it's true, but unnecessary risks defy common sense and sometimes become foolhardy.
So the weather can be formidable, but there are steps to take to offset injury or worse when riding. Preparing your bike and riding accessories and wardrobe is an excellent step, and should be done in late summer or early fall, definitely before the advent of permanent cold weather. Make sure the tire tread on your bikes is safe and adequate; use a tread gauge available at any motorcycle outfitter or auto parts store. Make sure the frame of you bike is solid, without corrosive rust and with sufficient frame protection.
Take care of yourself, as well. Riders in cold weather are particularly susceptible to colds and the flu due to their added exposure to the elements. To avoid debilitating sickness, wear thermal shirts and undergarments when driving; buy fleece-lined or otherwise insulated leathers. Make sure your helmet has adequate insulation, and wear a high-collared shirt or facemask when driving through cold and damp air. Best of all, get a motorcycle windshield! Windshields reduce fatigue and keep bodies warm in the winter.
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