Motorcycle enthusiasts don’t like stowing their bikes away for the winter months. As the dark winter days drag on, it’s like their motorcycles are calling to them from the garage and the roads tease them with moments of glorious sunshine. So, it’s no wonder that hardy souls still head out on sparkly Saturday mornings to take in the gorgeous Colorado 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. (I’m lucky to have another motorcycle enthusiast and expert on the O’Sullivan team: Before becoming an attorney, Eli Ohlhausen worked in the motorcycle industry, first as a certified mechanic, then as a service advisor, and eventually as manager of the service department for a BMW dealership.) Eli and I put our heads together and we offer the following tips for safe winter motorcycle riding.
Safe Winter Motorcycle Riding Tips
Get insurance. The most important thing you need is insurance. A lot of people turn their motorcycle insurance off in the winter and then a gorgeous day hits in January and they get their bike out. This is probably the single most dangerous thing you can do. If you get in an accident, everything you own is in jeopardy. Whether you cause it or not, an accident while riding without insurance can devastate you financially. So, make sure you have insurance. If you have any questions at all about the kind of insurance you need, don’t hesitate to call us. (In fact, read this article on Underinsured Motorist Coverage before you head out. You’ll be glad you did.)
Watch the weather. You simply don’t want to head out if it’s going to rain or snow. Street bikes are literally 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 one of my personal favorites. I check it before I head out on a Colorado ski adventure with my family.
Know your route. We all know how Colorado weather can change. If you’re heading out on an “iffy” day, map out your route so that you aren’t surprised by how long it takes or whether you might hit delays.
Don’t push it. Colorado weather is notorious for getting worse in the afternoon and evenings. Don’t get caught out because you pushed too far or too long.
Watch for sand. In the winter when the plows drop sand on the road, your job as a motorcyclist gets harder. Cars push the sand out to the sides, so try to ride in the cleared troughs that their tires create. Be especially careful in corners and at stop signs or lights, as that is where sanding is typically the heaviest.
Watch for ice. It may be a crisp sunny day but if it was below freezing the night before, you could face black ice. Also, in freezing conditions, all it takes is one numbskull to dump his Big Gulp on the ground to create an ice patch. I’ve seen a one-foot swatch of ice drop a bike to the ground in an instant. 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
One of Eli’s favorite things to do in the winter is riding dirt bikes! If you love to ride but don’t want to risk the winter roads, get yourself a dirt bike (they are cheaper this time of year than they will be next spring) and find a good dirt bike park. You can ride a dirt bike in all sorts of inclement weather.
Not only are dirt bikes fun, but they are a great way to improve your 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 training for 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 the 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) 388-5304. Stay safe out there and have fun this winter!