Winter Riding

Follow these tips to help keep you safe on the roads during the winter months

Winter weather can present real dangers for motorcyclists. Heavy rain can impair your vision, cold weather can numb your hands, and some road users fail to adjust their speed to suit the prevailing conditions. ‘Micro climates’ can catch you by surprise. It is possible to travel on dry road surfaces, then across wet leaves in wooded areas and black ice in sheltered dips, all in the space of just a few hundred metres. This is a particular hazard when riding in rural areas around Somerset.

Here are ten tips that should help keep you safe when out riding during the winter months:

  • Ensure that your machine is roadworthy. Check that your brakes, steering, and lights are all working properly. Inspect your chain, wheels, tyres and tyre pressures regularly, top up oil and coolant levels if necessary.
  • Complete these checks when you get home at night or on your way home; this is not something to be rushed before you leave in the morning. A few extra minutes spent doing these checks properly really makes a difference to your safety on the road.
  • Wear the right gear you can't operate the switchgear with frozen fingers, and if rain or cold air is whistling around inside your clothing it will distract you. Wear layers that keep in the warmth and repel the rain.
  • Create your own routine. Check boots, press studs, adjustable strapping, zippers, connectors, and pockets. Secure everything for a snug but comfortable fit. Look after your kit, and it will look after you!
  • Stand out from the crowd! Wear bright colours in daylight hours and use high visibility/reflective clothing at night and in low light conditions (even just a bib will help).
  • Use your head. It makes sense to carry a tinted visor with you for those bright, clear days, but you should use a clear visor by default. Use one with ‘anti fogging’ or ‘mist retardant’ properties and carry a visor cleaner and cloth with you at all times.
  • Gently does it. All rider input should be smoother and more progressive when conditions are poor or road surfaces are unpredictable. If you use the right gears it is possible to decelerate safely without using your brakes every time. Be aware of traffic behaviour behind you; they sometimes need to see a brake light to notice that you are slowing down.
  • Command your own space on the road. Correct positioning and positive manoeuvres should improve your chances of being seen, and seen earlier, by other road users. Although, you should never make any assumptions about the behaviour of others. Remember that car drivers may not have the same sense of ‘vulnerability’ as bike riders, and may be driving with frosted/misted windows that reduce visibility – ride defensively at all times.
  • Let there be light. Use your  headlights correctly, but remember that if other traffic has lights on you are more difficult to see, and it is more difficult for others to judge your relative speed and distance. Be prepared for false information from cars with defective lights.
  • Stay legal. You should have the appropriate licence, valid insurance, and an MOT (if the machine is more than three years old).
  • Ensure that you ride in the right mind set; leave more time for your journey, concentrate always, anticipate the risks early and be considerate towards others. When riding, plan for the best but expect the worse – the real secret of defensive riding!

Based on an article produced by Roads Policing Officer Mike Abram.

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