How to prepare your bike if you are going to just ride on through those winter months.
If you are one of that hardy breed who are determined to carry on riding all winter, there are a few things which are worth thinking about to make sure that you have a happy winter and stay safe on the road.
Carry on riding
|Always make sure your pillion is the right way round|
Obviously it is a whole different ball game riding in the winter. Rain falls on the road which has been acquiring a coating of oil and grease all summer from dripping exhausts, invisible black ice sheets can form over the road surface, snow can turn the road into an ice rink - to name but a few hazards.
So stay frosty at all times, remember how treacherous the road surface can be and drive carefully with your wits about you. Be aware that you might be challenged by wind, rain or snow when you are riding - all of which can make visibility worse and conditions generally harder.
2 Slip slidin' away
Always leave more space between you and other road users in winter as slowing down can take longer on a slippery road when you will have less grip. Increasing your braking distance and giving yourself this extra space will also reduce the amount of spray which is being thrown up at you from other vehicles. You will also be able to see what other drivers are doing if you leave a reasonable gap between you and them and remember they will be subject to the same conditions as you are and may make mistakes. In autumn watch out for wet leaves on the roads as well as these are really slippery and remember to brake earlier as your stopping time will be longer.
3 Brake for breaks
Make sure that you take plenty of breaks when you are riding in winter. One of the best ways to warm up is to have a hot meal or at least a hot drink as the process of digestion creates internal heat and will warm you up brilliantly from the inside out. If you are planning a long trip then schedule in a bit longer time so that you can have reasonable breaks along the way. You will improve your safety this way as well, as it will keep you alert and keep your blood sugar levels up.
4 Stay visible
Remember that it is harder for pedestrians who are hunched up in winter scarves and hats and turned up collars to see you so they may walk out in front of you. The same visibility problems also apply to car drivers with misted up windows who may be using windscreen wipers and therefore have reduced visibility. Because of this it's a good idea to keep yourself visible at all times by keeping your lights on. Obviously it's darker and the weather conditions are worse in winter so you should always wear some high visibility reflective clothing so that you can be seen easily. Keep checking your mirrors so that you know what is going on around you and make eye contact with drivers using their mirrors if this is possible as they are more aware of you that way and may realise that there is a human being out there inside that crash helmet! But most importantly always be aware of the road and weather conditions and keep your wits about you.
5 Watch the weather
Try to avoid riding in strong winds or heavy snow, however if it is unavoidable then be aware of the danger and look out for plastic bags, branches of trees, cones etc blowing about. Allow extra journey time so that you can drive slowly and carefully and make sure that you are properly dressed for the weather.
Winter bike maintenance, what to check:
Make sure that your lights are clean, not obscured by dirt and grime and are working well with nice bright bulbs. Lights are essential on dark winter mornings and evenings - anytime of day in fact as, weatherwise, you never know what's going to happen next in the UK in winter!
Check your tyre pressure as getting this right on a bike is essential for safety especially in winter. Always check the tyre pressure when the tyres are cold, not when you have been riding as the tyre pressure increases when they're hot so your reading will be inaccurate. While you are doing the tyre pressures check the tyres for wear, cuts, bulges or anything sharp sticking into them. Some people recommend that you reduce your tyre pressure by about 2psi in winter so that the tyre has more area on the road and therefore more grip
|Soon be like this again|
Make sure that your coolant is topped up check in your manual for the right one.
Check each of the brakes. They should be firm and be fully applied without the levers reaching their full travel. They must also loose off completely when the brake is released so that the wheels turn freely. Check the fluid level of hydraulic brakes by looking at the level in relation to the master cylinder reservoir and if it is too low then top it up.
Check this is working you never know when you might need it, winter or summer.
7 Drive Chain
If your bike has a drive chain to the rear wheel make sure that it is well lubricated and is not slack - if it does look slack then adjust the tension. If the chain looks dry then spray it with some chain lube.
Make sure that your steering is moving properly. Do this by moving your handlebars round fully so that you can see if they are snagging on cables or tank bags which might be blocking their free movement.
Check your service schedule, the bike handbook will give you the mileage intervals at which your bike should be serviced - make sure you stick to this and get it done when it is due so that you keep your motorcycle running smoothly and safely all winter.
Check your sandwich...what?
Before each trip check the brakes, lights, tyres and steering (bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwich might help you remember - BLTS) - also make sure that you have enough fuel and oil before you set off and check the weather forecast so that you know what mother nature intends to throw at you - and then, if you maintain your bike properly, dress warmly and visibly and do the essential checks before each trip there is no reason why you shouldn't have a happy winter of riding.
Got any tips?
What, if anything, do you do to make things more bearable when winter is approaching? Leave us a comment if you have any useful tips we'd love to hear them.
If you need any parts for your motorcycle, lubricants, cleaners, batteries or chargers, brake pads etc - have a look at the wemoto website to see if we can help.
Watch out for our next instalment - what to wear and riders tips - could be the most entertaining section....