Motorcycle enthusiasts don’t like parking their bikes for the winter. As the winter days and darkness drag on, it’s like the bikes are calling to us from the garage while the weather teases with days of glorious sunshine. So, it’s no wonder that hardy souls still head out on sparkly Colorado mornings to take in the gorgeous mountain air.
If you think you might take a winter motorcycle ride this season, check out the following tips to keep you safer on the road. Below we offer some tips for safe winter motorcycle riding.
Safe Winter Motorcycle Riding Tips
If you don’t already have it, get insurance. The most important thing you need is proper motorcycle insurance. Many will turn their motorcycle insurance off in the winter to save a few bucks and then, when a gorgeous day hits in January and they can’t resist the urge to take their bike out. This is probably the single most dangerous thing you can do. If you get in an accident, your future and everything you own is in jeopardy. Whether you cause it or not, an accident while riding without insurance can devastate you financially. Before you head out, make sure you have the proper insurance. (And by “proper”, we don’t mean “full coverage” which is ONLY the state minimum. That won’t get you far even with minor injuries.)
- Watch the weather. You absolutely don’t want to ride out if it’s going to rain or snow. Street bikes are awful in snowy conditions. The weather reports should indicate “zero chance of snow” on the day you plan to head out. The COtrip website is a great site for checking current weather and visually looking at road conditions via traffic cameras.
- Map your route. Colorado weather can change fast. If you’re heading out on an “iffy” day, plan out your route so that you aren’t surprised by how long it takes or whether you might hit delays. This allows you to give some advance thought for alternate routes should conditions change.
- Don’t push your luck. Weather in Colorado is notorious for getting worse in the afternoon and evenings. Don’t get caught because you wandered too far for too long.
- Watch for road sand. In the winter when the plows drop sand on the road, staying upright and safe on the road gets harder. Cars push the sand out to the sides, so try to ride in the cleared troughs that their tires create. Be particularly careful in corners and at stop signs or lights, as that is where sanding is typically the heaviest.
- Watch for ice. No matter if it’s a bright, sunny day, if it hit below freezing the evening prior, black ice is a very real possibility. Even if the roads seem clear, if it’s really cold out, all it takes is one idiot dumping a drink on the ground to create an ice patch. Don’t get distracted by the scenery; keep your eyes on the road.
- Don’t take the lead. If you’re riding in a group, don’t be in front. You don’t want to be the one to discover the ice. Stay in back with a lot of stopping distance between you and the front riders.
Hone Your Riding Skills
Riding dirt bikes in the winter can be a blast! If you love to ride but don’t want to risk the sketchy winter roads, consider getting yourself a dirt bike (they are cheaper this time of year than they will be next spring) and find a good track or maybe a friends property where you are off-road. You can ride a dirt bike in all sorts of inclement weather without the added risk of city traffic.
Dirt bikes are fun and provide a great way to improve riding skills. You will literally fall over and off your bike dozens of times, and you will learn to navigate tricky obstacles, which is excellent practice for challenges on the road. Also, riding dirt bikes helps you to learn to control your natural panic reaction in stressful riding situations – and it’s always easier to keep a bike upright when you’re not freaking out.
Buy the Right Winter Motorcycle Gear
I wrote an article a while back about the proper gear for winter motorcycle riding. Of course, I mention insurance in that article, too, but it also includes great tips for keeping your hands, torso and feet warm and protected. There’s also a link to a fun video about how to turn milk cartons into hand guards when you’re on the road and suddenly find yourself in a storm. A quick trip to 7-11 could save your hands!
If you have any questions about this article, don’t hesitate to call me: (303) 865-3934. Stay safe out there and have fun this winter!