Can you Ride a Motorcycle in the Snow? [Answered]
One of the first things you learn when riding a motorcycle is that different weather conditions present challenges. The summer comes with heat, and the winter comes with snow. But while most people enjoy riding a bike in the summer, some riders quickly store their motorcycle away during winter.
Although riding a motorcycle in snow can be tricky, it’s not impossible. I’m a dirt bike enthusiast with experience riding in different weather and terrains. It’s possible to ride a bike in the snow, and I’ll show you why if you stick around for the rest of the article.
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Can you ride a motorcycle in the snow?
Yes, you can ride a motorcycle in the snow. You can protect yourself from the cold by wearing riding gear like heated jackets, gloves, boots, and a helmet. Also, there are special tires that improve traction and help you navigate your way through snowy roads.
While it’s possible to ride a motorcycle in the snow, there are several things to consider and precautions to take. In the following paragraphs, I’ll walk you through what you must do to ensure your safety while riding in the snow.
Factors to Consider Before Riding a Motorcycle in the Snow
Before setting out to ride a motorcycle in the snow, here are a few things to consider:
1. Do You Have the Right Gear?
Riding in the snow without the right gear is like working in a hazardous workplace without personal protective equipment (PPE.) It’s almost impossible to survive without sustaining injuries or illnesses.
Most motorcycle gears come with special features that protect you from the cold. Some motorcycle jackets have insulated thermal liners to keep you warm.
Leather gloves can also help keep your hands warm. You can buy ankle boots to improve traction and keep your feet warm. Apart from providing warmth, this equipment can protect your body from injuries if you lose balance and fall on a snowy road.
Also, some protective helmets come with a pin-lock visor insert, a technological feature that absorbs moisture. With this feature, you don’t have to worry about your vision being disrupted by fog build-up on your helmet. Better vision means better chances of navigating through a snowy road without accidents.
2. Can You Handle the Wind Chill?
The weather is extra cold when it snows, but it could be colder when you ride on a motorcycle, or at least that’s how it feels. The wind chill is how cold you feel when you’re outside.
The wind will draw heat from a person’s body as it increases. This lowers the person’s internal body temperature, which makes the outer temperature feel colder.
In simpler terms, the wind makes you feel colder. When a wind chill hits you, the effects may include irritability and disorientation. This will make traveling on your motorcycle extremely uncomfortable and could lead to an accident.
The right winter gear will help lower the effects of wind chill, but only partially. So it’s important to consider whether you can handle being much colder than you already feel before you mount your motorcycle.
3. How can You Improve Your Traction?
Normally, motorcycles don’t have great traction compared to 4-wheeled vehicles. However, the snow makes the road slippery, further reducing your traction.
With such poor traction, the chances of sliding or slipping increase which could lead to a bad accident. Hence, finding a solution to improve your traction for better balance on a snowy road is essential.
One way to solve this problem is to get special winter tires. Winter tires have better grip and braking abilities and are thus more suitable for slippery roads than regular motorcycle tires.
4. Have you Performed Routine Maintenance?
Winter comes with several mechanical challenges for vehicles. You need to perform routine maintenance to keep your motorcycle in top condition for the winter months.
One crucial maintenance routine you can perform is to keep engine coolant in your cooling system. Also called antifreeze, an engine coolant helps to prevent the water in your cooling system from freezing due to the cold.
You can also check that your hoses are working fine to ensure you can stay upright somewhere with a busted hose on a cold winter day. Get an oil change for motorcycle before the winter months if you last had one a while ago.
These maintenance checks will help keep your motorcycle in top condition to get you through the snow.
Precautions to Take Before Riding a Motorcycle in the Show
If you want to ride a motorcycle in the snow, there are some precautions you can take to ensure your safety. They include:
1. Wear Proper Gear
If you’re riding a bike in the snow, you need the proper gear to protect yourself. Depending on your budget, many motorcycle jackets offer protection against the cold. Many of them come with an insulated thermal liner which helps to keep you warm.
Apart from the warmth they offer, motorcycle jackets also help to protect you from serious injuries. No matter how experienced you are, accidents can happen. And when they do, you’ll need quality armor to mitigate fall injuries.
You’ll also need a cold weather motorcycle helmets, hand gloves, and protective boots.
2. Ride with a Group
If you need to become more experienced in riding on snow, you can start by riding with a group. It’s the best way to garner some experience in the safest way possible.
Firstly, group rides are fun, especially riding with friends. But it is also one of the safest ways to ride in the snow.
In a group, you are more visible to other people using the road. You also have more visibility since you have more eyes on the road. If you cannot spot a potential danger in time, another group member can.
Also, groups are essential in emergencies. If a group member has an accident or a problem with their motorcycle, the other members can quickly get help.
3. Slow Down
Speed is excellent and fun, but safety should be your first concern when riding in the snow. And since ice and snow are slippery, you can’t afford to travel at high speeds.
Also, try not to suddenly accelerate, corner, swerve, or brake. Unlike in dry land, stopping at a standstill when you break in snow or ice is more challenging. Hence, it’s essential to give yourself plenty of room to brake.
4. Prepare your Tires
It would help to buy special winter tires for better traction when riding in the snow. But if you decide to go with your regular tire, ensure its tread life is adequate for winter writing.
You can also warm the tires before riding out. Cold tires mean less traction, but you can achieve more traction when you heat them.
To heat your tire properly, accelerate and decelerate and then brake. If you wish to heat the rear tires first, accelerate in a straight line a couple of times and brake.
5. Increase your Visibility
When riding in snow, you need good visibility to spot potential risks on the road. To spot hazards on the road, be sure to look further ahead when traveling. This gives you a few seconds to react before an accident occurs.
Those few seconds are critical, especially when riding in the snow. With less traction and a slippery road, you’ll need some room to brake or swerve. If you can spot the hazard on time, you should have enough time to maneuver past it.
Also, do not ride close to the back of a car. A moving vehicle can stop abruptly and cause injury if you ride behind it.
6. Stay Away from Salt and Black Ice
Salt is bad news for metal and traction. Riding through salt can cause you to lose balance on the road, leading to an accident.
Also, salt plus metal equals rust. If you don’t want your motorcycle to rust away, it’s important to avoid any crystallized appearance on the road.
Black ice is another thing you should stay away from while riding in the snow. They are slippery, and It’s difficult to brake or swerve on them.
Black ice is also difficult to spot, which makes them all the more dangerous. But how do you avoid what you can’t see? Travel through areas covered with snow or areas with some sand.
Check out this article on Is Motorcycle Coolant the Same as Car Coolant? by Joshua D. Mattie.
What is the coldest temperature to ride a motorcycle?
The coldest temperature to ride a motorcycle is 32°F or 0°C. Anything below this temperature is potentially dangerous as it causes ice to form quickly. This increases the hazard on the road and makes it almost impossible to travel through.
Can you get frostbite riding a motorcycle?
You can get frostbite if you ride a motorcycle in the snow. Your skin cells lose water as your body temperature lowers due to wind chills. The blood in your blood vessels also begins to freeze, causing numbness, clumsiness, itching, and burning.
What is a likely effect when riding a motorcycle in the cold?
Hypothermia is a risk factor for riding a motorcycle in the cold. It is caused by a drop in body temperature from prolonged exposure to cold. Symptoms include shivering, confusion, exhaustion, memory loss, and drowsiness. Hypothermia could lead to heart failure, respiratory failure, and death if left untreated.
Riding a motorcycle in the snow is difficult but not impossible. If you prepare your bike, wear the right gear, and follow the other safety precautions above, you should be fine.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to save winter riding for when you have more experience. With limited experience, navigating a road covered in snow or ice may be difficult. Alternatively, you can ride along with a group for safety.