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When motorcycle owners think of riding their bikes, there might imagine an enjoyable ride through their favorite scenic area during pleasant weather. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Unpredictable weather means changing riding conditions, and riders must adapt to situations that may affect the road or impact their ability to safely operate a motorcycle. Spring, summer, fall and winter each provide unique challenges for motorcycle riders. Here are some tips for each season that may help you handle the road:
Coming out of the cold of winter, spring weather is often welcomed with open arms. But, despite warmer temperatures, spring often comes with its fair share of rainy days. That means riders must know how to properly navigate slippery roads and dress for a soggy ride.
Possibly the most slippery time during a rainstorm is in the first few minutes, according to the Motorcycle Safety Association (MSF). Rain water begins to fill in the dimples of the asphalt and oil residue can float to the top, making for a very slick surface. The MSF suggests simply pulling over and waiting for the rain to pass.
If you need to ride through the rain, reduce your speed, as stopping distances can increase, says Rider Magazine. Try to avoid leaning significantly on turns and bends, which often goes along with a reduction in speed. Finally, be careful around standing pools and puddles of water, because hydroplaning can occur which results in a loss of traction.
When it comes to your riding attire, opt for breathable, waterproof or water-resistant clothing, says CycleWorld.com. If you don’t already have rain gear, consider getting some before the next downpour. Rider Magazine recommends that your rain gear fits properly, gives you the option of adding layers for warmth and sheds water.
When the hot temperatures finally hit, you can typically put away the layers and enjoy the warm weather. But that doesn’t mean you can neglect environmental conditions when the mercury rises past 70 degrees. Summer has its own set of conditions that require a certain amount of attention.
Warm, even hot weather can result in your motorcycle’s tires having better grip than during more temperate times. Rubber gets softer and more elastic as it heats up, providing better road contact, according to AutoEvolution.com. You will likely be able to notice the improved traction of the bike’s tires when riding on asphalt, which may allow you to lean more confidently into turns, compared to colder seasons.
Despite the rising temperatures, it doesn’t necessarily mean wearing as little as possible while on your motorcycle is a good idea. During a long, hot ride (especially in sunny, dry climates), you should take precautions against sunburn and dehydration. The more skin that’s exposed to the hot, dry, air rushing by while you ride, the more moisture you’re likely to lose, according to MotorcycleCruiser.com. Consider wearing breathable layers and in the most extreme conditions, you may try a wet layer of lightweight clothes with a breathable, protection layer on top of that. The wet clothes will be cooled by the wind flowing through the breathable outer layer that can also slow down evaporation.
Crisper air and falling leaves are the telltale signs that summer is over and fall is here. Before you have to worry about snow and ice, you may need to prepare for wet roads and slippery leaves littering your favorite stretch of road.
Ride your motorcycle enough and you’ll probably get caught in the rain now and then. Consider keeping waterproof (or water-resistant) rain gear with you in a backpack or in your bike’s storage compartments or saddlebags, says the Illinois State Police. And since visibility is so important and it can be compromised by rain, pack an extra pair or glasses or goggles, just in case.
Rain is not the only thing falling from the sky in autumn. As leaves turn from green to yellow, orange, red and brown, they often fall to the ground, sometimes obscuring the surface of the road from the eyes of motorcycle riders. Be careful when riding over and through leaves, as they may be covering potholes or imperfections in the road that could affect your control of your bike. In addition, says the Illinois State Police, wet leaves could be slick and affect your wheels’ traction or make it more difficult to stop quickly.
Consider reducing your speed and maintain a constant state of awareness to maximize your safety on the road.
Even the most fervent motorcycle riders will consider putting their bike away during the coldest months. Wind, snow, ice and frigid temperatures generally don’t make for great motorcycle riding conditions.
Before you hit the frozen road, check your tires. First, check the tread on your tires by doing the same “penny test” you might do on your car’s tires. Take an Abraham Lincoln penny, hold it between your thumb and forefinger so that the head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln’s head into one of the grooves of the tire’s tread. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, you have a safe amount of tread. If you can see above Lincoln’s head, then you need a new tire.
If your tires are older than six years, consider replacing them, says RideApart.com. To check the age of your tires, look for the four-digit code near the Department of Transportation (DOT) markings. The first two numbers represent the week they were manufactured, while the last two digits represent the year. Also, check your tire pressure, because for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit that the temperature drops, tires can lose 1-2 pounds per square inch of pressure, according to RideApart.com.
Keeping your body warm and protected can require some serious gear, so plan ahead. Depending on the temperature, consider thermal underwear, glove liners, balaclavas and other base layers, says MotorBikeWriter.com. Hypothermia due to severe wind chill can be a concern, especially riding a motorcycle. When the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, traveling at 60 miles per hour can result in a wind chill of approximately 0 degrees Fahrenheit. To help warm your extremities, which are generally most susceptible to cold temperatures, consider using chemical heat packs on gloves and boots, or even outfit your bike with grip, seat and foot warmers.
Regardless of the season, through proper preparation and the use of the right equipment and gear, you can safely enjoy your motorcycle year-round.