In our part of Texas, there are two types of riding weather. Either it’s so hot you have to ride with a bag of ice in your lap to avoid spontaneous combustion, or you deal with the opposite end of the extreme. Cold weather riding can be a pleasure, but only when you have the right gear and know-how to do so safely.
Sometimes new riders just don’t have the experience to know what to watch out for. Even seasoned riders sometimes forget the most important basics. Make this your cold-weather riding checklist.
Check Your Tires
Everybody who ever took a motorcycle safety course heard they should check their tires before every ride. A lot of us started out doing so, but over time, that sort of fell by the wayside.
Every time we checked, the tires were fine. So it seemed like an inefficient use of time when we just wanted to be riding. But even if your tires look the same after a temperature change, chances are very good they’re not.
Cold air contracts. Your tires contain air. So they’re not going to be inflated to the same pressure as they were when you rode at 70 degrees as they are after sitting in your 30-degree carport overnight. Cold tires mean limited traction, especially at the beginning of your ride.
Check your tire pressure. Compare it to the PSI recommendations on your bike. Then check your tread and tire wear. If your tires need to be replaced, take care of it before you go for a cold-weather ride.
Get the Right Cold Weather Motorcycle Gear
Anybody else go for a January 1 ride and end up with ice claw hands and frozen knees? Until now it’s been so mild there have been plenty of opportunities to enjoy riding without needing much in the way of cold weather riding gear, but there are some pretty chilly days ahead. Here’s what you need.
Protect Your Core
Your hands and feet experience cold first because they’re your extremities. Provide them with warm, oxygen-rich blood by keeping your core warm. Start with base layers like our thermal knit Henley, add a Thinsulate mid-layer, then put your riding jacket over that. When you have three layers the wind can’t get to your core, and as the day warms up, you can adjust to stay comfortable. Stop by Motorclothes and we can hook you up.
Wear the Right Gloves
During cold weather, good riding gloves are a must. Otherwise, your fingers get painfully cold, then they start to get numb. Since you need your hands for the clutch, brake and throttle, that just won’t do. Shop for insulated gloves that completely block the wind. Heated gloves are even better.
Protect Your Head and Neck
A full face helmet and good winter riding jacket block a lot of the wind, but they leave your neck exposed, and helmets still allow cold air in through vents. Balaklava’s are some of the most inexpensive pieces of riding gear you can buy and they last forever. Try one out, your face and neck will thank you.
Take rain gear with you when cold weather riding, because you can’t stay warm if you’re soaked through. If a sudden storm develops, you’ll be able to throw on your rain gear and stay dry. We recommend getting rain gear in bright colors even if you prefer more subtle tones for the rest of your gear. Rainy weather is dark and it limits visibility. It’s okay to look like a highlighter for a little while if it saves your life.
Add Heated Motorcycle Accessories
Have you ever sat in cold weather at a stoplight and sort of hunkered down trying to soak up the warmth emanating from your motor and exhaust? Your bike itself can be a heat source that drastically improves riding comfort, you just need the right accessories. A heated seat cranks out warmth for your core and legs. Heated grips are relatively inexpensive and available for a huge range of models.
Check the Weather
In Texas we don’t have to worry about snow very often, but roads do get icy and the weather experiences dramatic shifts. Check the weather before you head out and make sure you’re prepared for any changes in the forecast.
It’s bad when afternoon sweat turns icy as a cold front rolls in and the temperature plummets 30 degrees. Sudden gusty winds or driving sheets of rain can obscure visibility and make it harder to get home safe.
Watch for Road Hazards
When freezing is a possibility, road crews put sand or salt on the roads. Gritty debris affects traction. If you see crystalized chunks on the road, slow down, especially when cornering.
Watch for black ice, thin coats of highly transparent ice that almost blends with the pavement. Even if it hasn’t rained, black ice can form from condensation or moisture dripping from vehicles.
Increase your following distance so you have increased reaction time. That way if other drivers encounter hazards and make mistakes, you have time to correct your course and avoid a collision.
Verify Your Destination is Open
You don't want to brave the cold to get somewhere amazing only to find out it's closed due to COVID or for some other reason. Don't trust what Google says about business hours. Call ahead and talk to a live person to verify the place is open and it's worth making the trip.
At Dallas Harley-Davidson in Garland, we always update our hours if there's a change, and there haven't been many even during the pandemic. Stop by for cold weather riding gear, motorcycle accessories and everything else you need for motorcycling throughout winter 2021.