A lot of you are veteran riders who’ve been through all conditions and have made your own decisions about when and how to ride in winter.

Still, it never hurts to see how other folks do it. In that spirit, here’s a brief compendium of the most obvious things every rider can do to make their winter ride both safe and comfortable. If you think we’ve missed something, please mention it in the Comments.

    • Road conditions
      Let it warm up before heading out. Don’t ride when it’s anywhere close to 32F. Any water, anywhere, can become ice. And black ice is more or less invisible.
      Treat salt like it’s gravel or ice. It kills grip.
      Don’t ride if it’s sleeting.
      Snow–consider studded tires on snow
      Ice–avoid shaded areas and be careful on bridges and overpasses.

    • Riding style
      Cold tires have less grip, so always ride smoothly.
      Make your safety zones bigger and give yourself more reaction time.
      If you lose traction, minimize your input. No gas, no brake, keep it straight (I even pull in the clutch.)
      Show good judgment. Should you even be on the road?

Photo courtesy of Pinlock

    • Gear
      Layers. A lot of thin layers are better than a couple of thick ones. Your base layer (long-sleeve top and long underwear) should be wicking. It’ll start to stink but that’s better than cold sweat in cold weather.
      Waterproof final layer that includes gloves and boots.
      Neck coverage that’s windproof.
      Silk helmet liner. Keep that noggin as warm as you can.
      Silk glove liners. I find that keeping my fingers warm, even with heated grips, is the hardest part of ultra-cold riding.
      Electrics if you like them.
      Heated gloves. Some say they work better than heated grips, others use both.
      Fog-free shield, something like Pinlock anti-fog inserts.
      Try warming your hands in the bike’s exhaust if they get really cold.

Photo courtesy of Hippo Hands

  • Bike setup
    Windshield. Keep that wind-chill off of your core.
    Hippo hands or similar. That wind chill is a killer.
    Studded tires in snow.
    Heated grips, if possible.
    Fresh anti-freeze in water-cooled bikes.
    Good tread on tires.
    Tire pressure must be correct. (Warm them up by rapid acceleration and stopping–not swerving. Or just riding a distance, carefully.)
    Keep the bike as light as possible. Don’t overpack it.
    Wash bike after riding on salt
    Towing service. It helps to be prepared if the worst happens.


Parting thought: sometimes it’s just not smart to be out there. Better to be safe at home or laid-up in a motel-hotel than lying on the side of the road with a broken bike–or worse.

Did we miss something? Fire away in comments.

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