This question has a lot to do with personal preference and what you personally feel comfortable doing, but there are some general rules and safety that go into what the limits are. The winter months are extremely harsh on motorcycles, let alone you riding it.
I’ve been there, hitting ice and sliding. However, riding in the winter isn’t really impossible, I would still ride (in safe condition) rather than suffocating in cars. Below is what I’ve learned during the winter.
So how cold is too cold? It is not recommended to ride a motorcycle when the temperature is below 32 degree (0°C) as ice will form at these temperatures. I wouldn’t recommend anyone riding a motorbike during extremely cold or harsh conditions.
Wear Enough Layers
Riding comfortably in cold weather begins with correct gear choice, and it’s all about layering.
The base layer is the most important component that keeps your body warm. Get those that are covered your full legs and sleeved. Even while riding we will sweat, the base layers allow our skin to breath, drying up the sweat gathered moist. This helps sweat evaporate rather than soaking it and makes you get even colder.
If the weather gets cooler, a turtle neck zipped-up fleece that covers over the base layers is good enough. This will help to create an insulating barrier. You can even add another mid-layer clothing if you feel it isn’t enough for your comfort.
For your outer gear, I would recommend waterproof, windproof and breathable clothing and boots. Of course, you also need a pair of winter gloves, and a tight sealed helmet with a fog-free face shield. Fog free is absolutely necessary! You wouldn’t want a blurred vision. If your helmets have vents, I would recommend keeping the rear ventilation open, so you won’t sweat much.
Heated Gear (maybe?)
Though I’ve tried a couple of them, I am not a fan of it. The above mentioned layers keep me warm (enough), and are protected from direct wind, it’s really all good to go. I simply think heated gear is sometimes too hot to the point it burns. I will stick with the layering.
Winter Weather = Winter Tires
We all know that now, we should use winter tires in the winter. Cold tires equals limited traction. Heated tires will increase its traction. You can accelerate and decelerate quickly for a bit to check on the traction. I wouldn’t recommend swaying to heat tires.
It is very important to check your tire pressure especially in the winter months where you need the best traction possible. I check mine religiously before every ride, I’d recommend you to do the same.
When to head back?
If it begins to snow, get home quick! You’ll know how fast those white stuff piles, you wouldn’t want to ride in that condition. I know riding on snow can become quite an addiction, but still it’s better to do it in a controlled environment.
What about winterising your beast?
Winter Riding Rule 101 – element protection. You’ll need a huge windscreen, and hand-guards. I also handcrafted some wind-guards to keep direct wind off the legs.
To keep your grip heated, you should also install sport heated grips, it really isn’t hard. You can find a lot of aftermarkets available online.
If you have a water-cooled bike, double check antifreeze. It should be changed once a year. Very important to keep antifreeze fresh and mixed properly. Nothing can be more devastating than a busted radiator or hose in the cold.
Make sure all moving parts are well lubricated
Some of you readers here might have a bike stored for more than a few months, make sure you cover essential internal components with a coat of oil to prevent unwanted moisture buildup.
Follow the following steps:
- Remove spark plug
- Apply a tablespoon of oil into the holes
- Turn engine over, coat cylinder walls (spin rear tire in gear)
- Put spark plug back
Don’t wait until it’s too late. This should be done immediately before storage. Make sure other components such as chains and cables are lubed up too.
Bad winter conditions can last for weeks to months. If you’ve invested in a bike, you want to make sure to perform all the proper maintenance when you’re unable to ride it regularly.
You wouldn’t want your battery to die. You can either remove the battery entirely or keep it on the bike. If you do not want to take off the battery, make sure you turn the bike on every month to charge the battery. Another better approach is to remove the battery and store it indoors and hook it up to a trickle charger.
Fuel is a component that can break down quickly, especially when it isn’t being cycled and used regularly. So while your motorcycle is just sitting there for the winter, it continues to vaporise. This means that over time the ability for fuel to combust will weaken. Top off your fuel tank and add fuel stabiliser to keep moisture down on the tank walls. It’s not done yet, take it out for a short drive for the stabiliser to mix into the fuel system.
Another friend of mine who is a motorbike collector taught me this. The most suitable for long-term motorbike storage is to drain the fuel tank completely, then apply fogging oil to prevent rust. He recommends this method if you plan on storing your motorcycle for six months or more.
Oil & Filter
Old oil that sits for a long period can corrode engine components. It is definitely not good for any motorbikes stored longer than a month. I would recommend you top off the fuel, change the oil, replace the filter, and add antifreeze to your coolant system after the one “last” ride.
Give her a blanket
Show some love to your bike. Covering it up will protect your bike’s paint and body from abrasive dust as well as minor impacts that can occur when a bike is in storage. It will also keep moisture out so it doesn’t get trapped underneath and create corrosion or rust.
Rodents love to hide inside exhaust pipes and build their new home. To avoid any “furry” surprises when it’s time to ride again, try covering up your air intake and exhaust openings with plastic bags. Just don’t forget to remove the bags before you fire up the bike!
Riding in the winter can be challenging, it’s important to stay even further away from other vehicles since it will take longer for both you and them to come to a full stop. Riding in snow can be addictive, ride in a controlled environment if you wanna show off show skills. Always remember to keep warm and stay cool.