Many riders choose to winterize and store their motorcycles during the colder months. They’ll simply wait until warmer weather before hitting the open road again. One of the best parts of being a motorcycle owner in Maryland, however, is that our winters are often mild enough to get some good riding in. All it takes is a little extra planning and a lot of common sense. Here are eight of our favorite winter motorcycle safety tips to keep you riding safely until spring.
Wear the Right Layers
Wearing the right layers is not only about keeping warm during a winter motorcycle ride. It’s about controlling moisture and exposure to the wind.
First, you’ll need a base layer that wicks away moisture. Although it’s cold outside, you’re likely to sweat while you ride. If that sweat just sinks into a cotton shirt, it will stay wet and you’ll be even colder. Moisture will evaporate from moisture-wicking base layers to keep you both warm and dry.
Your outer gear and gloves should be breathable, waterproof, and protective. Gloves and boots should also provide enough grip for you to ride safely. You should also keep in mind that the wind chill is going to be even worse when you ride, so you’ll want to protect against that additional coldness. We highly recommend a gaiter or neckwarmer to protect your neck.
Prep Your Bike
Of course you should stay on top of bike maintenance to make sure you don’t break down in the middle of the road in winter. Check all your hoses and ensure you have fresh antifreeze, if needed. Some riders also outfit their bikes with larger windscreens, hand guards, and heated grips.
Check Your Tires
One of the most important steps is to check your tires. Be sure to check both the tire pressure and the quality of the tread. This is vital in winter when the colder temperature will further reduce the amount of traction you have. Of course it will improve as you ride and the tires warm, but even a brief stop will cool your tires significantly. If you don’t have enough traction, you won’t be able to stop.
Watch for Salt, Ice, and Wet Leaves
Salt and ice are both signs to stay off the road. This may seem counterintuitive since salt is intended to melt slippery ice, but the presence of salt alone can reduce your traction.
Also, although many people don’t think about it, wet leaves can be just as slippery as ice! Check your routes carefully and avoid areas where leaf removal isn’t done.
Increase Following Distance
Just as you do in your car, you’ll need to increase your following distance on your motorcycle in winter. There are so many more factors that can reduce your traction. Give yourself and everyone else on the road the extra space to react and stop.
Watch for New Potholes
Salt and ice wreak havoc on the roads in winter. It’s even worse once the snow plows come through, adding new bumps, cracks, and potholes. Melted snow piles also leave layers of gritty rock on the road, so keep an eye out for this, as well.
Follow the Forecast
It probably goes without saying, but you should always check the weather forecast before you head out for a long ride. If you’re riding through to another state, check the forecasts along the entirety of your route. The weather in Maryland can be unpredictable, too, so if it suddenly starts snowing, be smart about it. Get off the roads.
Take It Slow!
Just accept it from the start: winter riding is going to be slower riding. Take it slow and steady, being mindful of how the bike feels with every stop and every turn. All acceleration should be deliberate, also keeping in mind how long it might take to stop once again. Consider each maneuver a way of sharpening your technique. Controlling a motorcycle well at slower speeds is the sign of a great biker. It will ensure you safely enjoy time on your motorcycle for many seasons to come.