How typical is this of Nashville weather. Yesterday it was 68 degrees outside. Overnight the temperature dropped 40 degrees and turned the light rain into snow and ice leaving rooftops with a snowy sheen (see the photo at the right). Many motorcyclists will let their bikes hibernate for the winter, quietly napping under a cover with a tank full of fuel and stabilizer with the glow of a battery tender keeping it company.
Personally I don’t winterize my bikes and will get out and ride when the temperatures reach above 30 degrees (F) for at least short rides and to commute. I know facing the cold of winter riding isn’t for everyone but if you’re interested in extending your riding season further hit the Continue Reading button below for a story written my my friend Kevin Anderson over at TDC Cycle.
by Kevin Anderson
My name is Kevin, and I am an addict. A Ride-A-Holic. The idea of giving up my favorite thing in the world for months every year is more than I can bear. For many years, I was a seasonal rider, dutifully putting the bike in the corner of the garage as soon as the days began getting cooler. Stabilizer in the fuel, hook up the battery tender, and drop the cover on it. In hindsight, the cover was helping me deal with the shame of allowing the machine to sit. I didn’t have to look directly at it. Not any more!
Now that the cold weather is setting in, many riders are already putting their bikes away until the spring. You don’t have to, though – you can keep riding it! There are actually a lot of benefits to continuing to ride when the weather turns cold, and with a little preparation year round riding can be yours.
Your motorcycle actually loves colder weather. Power gains across the rev range are commonly had, because cold air is denser, packing more oxygen into the combustion chamber. Air cooled engines in particular often enjoy this effect. By holding cylinder head and intake tract temperatures down, heat induced detonation / pre-ignition are kept in check. Suspension fluids thicken up when cold, and can make forks and shocks that felt a little soggy in the summer heat suddenly feel taut.
There are plenty of reasons for you to want to keep riding through the winter, too. Chief among them, are all the same reasons you ride any other part of the year! The holidays can be a stressful time, and nothing melts that away for me better than pulling my helmet on and riding. The great fuel economy, the environmental impact versus driving the car, improved mobility, the list is long. Continuing to ride when it is cold nets you more seat time each year, in conditions that are more challenging. Instead of spending months allowing your riding skills to rust, you move to sharpen them, learning to manage traction in ways that you couldn’t otherwise. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes out of it, too. You will be in the minority, doing what most others can’t or won’t do.
Here in 2014, preparing for riding in the cold is a lot easier to do than it used to be. Motorcycle charging systems, for the most part, are leaps and bounds better than they were in years past, and are capable of supporting a variety of the heated gear that has come to market over the past 4 or 5 years. A full face helmet, even if you don’t normally wear one, is a winter time must. Exposed skin anywhere on your person is a bad idea! Protecting your eyes and sinuses from frozen air are greatly simplified with the right helmet, and anti fog chemicals or a “pin lock” type face-shield keeps you from needing to run with it open.
Your body’s automatic reaction to being cold is to begin pulling blood away from your extremities, to protect your core, and this is immediately noticeable in your hands. Combine that with having your hands in the wind on most bikes, and the need to protect them becomes important. Good control of your bike depends on not having hands that are going numb. Heated grips, heated gloves, or heated liners, are all great choices. Gloves with gauntlets allow you to seal your sleeves off from the wind. Choose the balance of your gear with an eye toward keeping the wind out. Minus the cold wind getting in, you might be surprised at just how comfortable you can be, even in very cold air. Modern riding gear has come a long way in its ability to not only protect you from the cold air, but in its ability to retain heat without excess bulk.
Nick Ienatsch, author of “The Pace” decades ago, wrote one thing that is the absolute truth, even today: Respect Cold Tires. The same tires that were super sticky when it was hot will be less grippy when cold, and will be much quicker to cool off when you stop. You can still get them fully up to temperature even when it’s cold – just be mindful that you may need to do it more than once.
Be sure to prepare your bike for the cold the same way you would the car. If liquid cooled, make sure coolant is up to the task. Engine oil weight should be chosen for the temp ranges you expect to run in, as the manufacturer of your bike recommends. Cold tire pressure settings remain the same year round. Do keep in mind that the pressure in the tires will drop a little in winter – add air if needed to get back up to the recommended cold tire pressure.
By no means is this an all inclusive list, but these are the things that took me from fair weather rider to being able to enjoy riding year round. You can do it! See you on the road!