Safety Tips For Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding
Until recently, the unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow caused a lot of my fellow motorcycle riders to take their bikes out at a time when they'd normally be up for the winter. But, regardless of the relatively warm temperatures, riding a motorcycle during the winter in Iowa requires additional safety precautions beyond those always followed when riding. Let's talk about some of them. There are many more, but these are a few of the big ones.
Assume That Drivers Don’t See You
Assume that drivers are not expecting to see or looking for motorcycles December through February. That increases the chance of a driver not seeing a motorcycle and pulling out or turning in front of it. And don't underestimate the effect that the sun's constant low angle in the south can have on driver's visibility. Unlike during the summer when the sun's high in the sky for much of the day, the winter sun stays low and could potentially be inhibiting a driver's vision at any time of the day. I don't even want to discuss the issue of lazy people clearing a small circle from the frost on their windshield and rear window, allowing them to see virtually nothing, particularly a motorcyclist with a small road profile.
Pay Extra Attention To The Road
Be extra vigilant for road conditions. There have been freeze and thaw cycles this season; potholes have formed. If there's been any precipitation, areas that remain shaded for all or most of the day may be icy or slushy, rather than just wet. There may be salt from homeowners or municipal chemical treatments on the road that will reduce traction.
Expand Safe Riding Practices
Because of the previous two points, expand all of your safe riding practices. Allow even more distance between vehicles in front of you. Ride slower. Assume a longer braking time. Take corners and turns more slowly. Signal your turns earlier than normal.
Wear layers (and gloves, but that goes without saying unless you enjoy a sub-freezing windchill roaring against your hands). It'll feel colder on your bike because of the windchill caused by the bike's movement. Temperatures may drop quickly throughout the afternoon because of the minimal solar hearing that quickly dissipates as the sub begins to set. You might also have wider temperature fluctuations than normal as you travel through wooded or shaded areas or into valleys or other low-lying areas. The cold can make you feel fatigued. It can also stiffen your body, making it more difficult to maneuver your motorcycle or take evasive action. Being too cold can lead to shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness, low energy, slow reaction times, and stiff and sore joints. Warm and comfortable riders are more alert, more supple, better able to deal with emergency situations and therefore safer road users.
Check Your Tires
Finally, you should never forget about your tires when riding a motorcycle at any time, especially in cold weather. It's always important to check the treads and air pressure, doubly so when riding in the cold. Cold tires have less traction. Your tires may eventually warm up as you ride, but they may be colder than usual when you first set out, and will lose heat in the cold air every time you stop for more than a brief second.