As you can see in the photo, there are bits of snow on the ground from storm Filomena, which left upto 36″ of snow in some parts of Spain last week. But the cold weather doesn’t mean you have to park up your bike and wait for spring, but so many riders do, and despite being wrapped up warm and dry, they simply don’t enjoy their riding experience in the colder weather, but there are things you can do to make winter riding just as much fun as riding in the summer.
Lets deal with the simple things first, rider comfort. You need to be warm, but you also need to be able to move easily when riding. I can’t stress enough how much some good quality thermal base layers can transfor your winter riding. You don’t want thick, uncomfortable clothes, so invest in some thin but efficient, techincal (and unfortunately expensive) base layers. You also need some warm socks and gloves. Your extremities need to be kept warm for two reasons; if they become cold, you become cold, and you also want them to work. It may be a simple task, pulling the clutch lever, but if your hands are so cold that you can’t, you could find yourself in real trouble. Another must is a windproof balaclava. The difference this makes, keeping your neck and head warm is incredible, and these are not expensive items to buy. And to give you some idea of how spending money on good kit can change your winter riding, in temps down to -2c, I can ride all day wearing just base layers, walking trousers and a long sleeved shirt, my RST Adventure suit WITHOUT the quilted linings, a windproof balaclava I bought from Aldi, some merino wool socks and a pair of 23 year old Hein Gericke All Season gloves.
So, you’ve got the kit, you’re warm, agile, but when you go out, something doesn’t feel right, you can’t get into the ride, so you head home and admit you’re a warm weather rider and wait for spring.
So lets look at your bike and consider what happens when the temperatures drop. Starting from the ground up, your only contact with the road is your tyres. In the summer, your tyres are warm, supple, even with the correct tyre pressures, they flex and mould with the surface of the road. Fast riders reduce their tyre pressures to increase the size of the contact area with the road surface, increasing grip for faster, more controlled cornering. Lowering your tyre pressures in the summer can have a negative effect, because the increased tyre flex can increase the temperatures of the tyre beyond its design capability, resulting in the rubber peeling or the tyre blowing. So lets now think about how yours tyres are affected by cold weather. The rubber becomes less flexible and less sticky, the ride is then more harsh, and this unsettles you when cornering. So we need to make those tyres more flexible, and get them to warm up so they flex and grip the road, and the easiest way to do that is to lower the tyre pressures. You don’t want them too low that the tyre squirms when cornering, but lowering the pressure by just a few PSi will make the tyres flex more, get hotter quicker, and make the ride more comfortable.
The next thing to consider is your suspension. As motorbike suspension is damped by oil, and oil thickens when the temperature is lower, the damping effect of your suspension changes with the air temperature. So when its cold, back off the compression and rebound settings by one or two clicks. This compensates for the oil being thicker, allowing it to pass through the valves at the same rate that it did in summer, so the suspension smooths out the bumps instead of making it feel like you are riding a corrugated road, which will make your winter riding more enjoyable. Just remember to keep a note of how many clicks you turn each adjuster, and reverse the adjustments when the temperatures increase in spring.
So those are the changes I make in order to be able to ride in exactly the same manner all year round. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and it helps you to enjoy riding during the colder months of the year.