How to ride a motorcycle in Winter

Winter can be a tough time for motorcyclists, but with a few adaptations to your bike, your gear and your riding, you can keep safe while biking year-round.

Alice Morgan
Alice Morgan
Updated 2 September 2019  | 2 min read

Riding in winter

Although motorbike insurance lasts year-round, some bikers prefer to only hit the road in the summer months when there are no icy roads to worry about.

Although there are some extra hazards when riding in winter, there's no need to put your bike away until spring if you prepare well and take extra care out on the road.

1) Stay warm and dry

Keeping warm is all about layering.

Although your outer jacket and trousers will protect you from the worst of the rain and wind-chill, you need to think about insulation and add plenty of extra clothing underneath.

Windstopper thermal base-layers with full-length legs and sleeves will keep your core warm.

You’ll need glove liners and thermal socks under decent boots to protect your hands and feet.

You can even get heated, battery-powered socks and gloves that wire into your bike’s electrics.

If you’re in a wet-weather emergency, stop at a petrol station and get a pair of the free plastic gloves available at the pumps.

Worn under your bike gloves, they give a waterproof lining and trap a layer of warm air next to your skin.

Before you set out, make sure there are no gaps between your clothing that an icy wind could whistle through - invest in a one-piece bike suit or zip your matching separates together.

Tuck gloves and socks tightly into sleeves and use a balaclava or snood to fill the gap between your jacket and helmet.

Opt for high-vis or bright-coloured jackets and helmets to make sure you can be seen by other motorists and pedestrians.

Get the right cover for your bike by comparing quotes from a range of providers

2) Use anti-misting spray or a Pinlock

Your visor misting up is possibly the last thing you want when you’re riding in low visibility.

An anti-misting spray can help fix that problem - just spray on before you ride.

If your visor has the right pins, a Pinlock insert creates a sort of ‘double glazing’ effect, which can stop the visor from fogging up.

3) Prepare your bike

Keeping your hands warm is important, as icy fingers will affect your control and concentration.

Heated grips are cheap and straightforward to fit - or you can have them fitted at your local bike shop.

Alternatively, a pair of handlebar muffs will act as a windbreak over your hands.

If one’s available for your bike, an add-on windscreen will help avoid buffeting from the wind and makes it easier to see in grim conditions.

Heated grips and windscreens are modifications, so you’ll need to let your insurer know if you fit them.

Check your tyres regularly for damage and excess wear and make sure the pressure’s right - it’s easy to skid at this time of year and low tyre pressure increases the risk.

The legal minimum tread is 1mm, but 2mm in winter is better.

Tyres take time to warm up, so be aware that your cold tyres will have less traction when you set out.

Increase your stopping distance to reduce the chance of having to brake hard in wet weather

4) Maintain your bike properly

Salt and road dirt can cause corrosion, so spend more time keeping your bike clean in winter

Check the chain and sprocket and apply a good-quality winter lube after cleaning.

Make sure foot-peg rubber is in good condition too - that'll make sure your winter boots won’t slip and cause you to lose control.

If your bike’s water-cooled, refresh the antifreeze before the weather gets too severe and check hoses for wear and damage.

Make sure your lights are kept clean and carry a spare set of bulbs on your bike, so you can change any that blow or break immediately.

5) Take care on the road

Increase your stopping distance to reduce the chance of having to brake hard in wet weather.

Heavy rain can make roads very slippery, so avoid riding over drain covers or clumps of leaves.

Be very careful if you venture out in sub-zero temperatures - stick to gritted roads and keep your eyes peeled for patches of black ice.

6) Be aware of other motorists

Signal earlier while you’re riding to let other motorists know what you’re doing and give them plenty of time to react.

Make allowances for other road users' distraction too - if they’re fighting the weather like you are, they’re less likely to see you, so err on the side of caution at junctions and roundabouts.

Keep an eye out for pedestrians crossing roads with their heads bowed to the weather.

7) Avoid riding if the weather conditions are poor

In winter it’s more important than ever to know your own limits.

Don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of speed, distance or terrain in challenging weather.

An advanced riding course before winter sets in could be a valuable investment into your skills and awareness.

It might even get you a discount on your insurance.

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