Wow, that was a quick summer of 2013.
This is a long post, so I will be splitting it into two posts.
Before we know it, most bikers are packing away their bikes – let’s hope they have poured fuel stabiliser into a full tank of fuel, and given the bike a service and a liberal coat of GT85 or WD40, or ACF50.
However, some bikers ride all year round – maybe its for the love of it, or it’s simply too impractical to commute using other means.
My personal bit of advice is to get a thorough service done and preventative maintenance carried out so you catch issues before the winter really kicks in.
For the actual ride itself – it’s a little bit like riding during the summer, but wetter, less visibility, slippery road surface, but most of all finger-numbingly cold, which can affect the rider, mind and body! As you may know, riding a motorcycle takes a fair amount of concentration and attention; especially with the 4X4s/SUVs and luxury car drivers, some of whom are never paying attention, some commuters in their cars having a domestic on the phone – like it can’t wait ’til they get home!, and those annoying pedestrians who step out of nowhere. Not forgetting the “soccer mums” Facebooking or doing their make-up whilst in moving traffic (I really have seen it all!).
I shall tackle the above issues one by one in the order above – the issues with winter riding, that is (not my ramblings/issues about the drivers who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a car!)
Wet Wet Wet
Firstly, the wetter aspect. It does rain (a lot in the UK!). I know of one elderly rider who once said to me, “Ali, don’t worry, my skin is waterproof”. Now that is true, so even if you do happen to get soaked all the way to the skin, get home, turn the heating on and be sure to warm up with a nice cup of tea!
The aim is to not get wet. Now in the words of James May, or to that effect – “Waterproof motorcycle clothing is an oxymoron”. I own various textile jackets, and two pairs of standard textile trousers, all of which are “waterproof”. Okay, they may be fine in showers, or light rainfall, but eventually it will get through. Out come the plastics or waterproof over-garments you can get form any camping store. Now these are also good, but aren’t as durable as the motorcycle specific versions. Some are also not very breathable. Then come the one-piece “onesies”. These are a good compromise, as they do tend to keep water out pretty darn well, but its the inconvenience in slipping into it, getting it off, and mostly needing to go pee! Let’s not even talk about needing a number two!!
Then you get the more advanced materials, like Goretex (and similar named synthetics by various manufacturers). Both waterproof and breathable. This is a godsend, but then you’ll need a god sent paycheque in order to go and buy one. I actually shelled out for a Rukka Goretex jacket, have had it for around 4 years now, slightly worn, but still waterproof. I wear it in ALL seasons, rendering my other jackets useless.
My preferred plan of action is to wear plastics over my trousers and depending on the weeks forecast they either become a permanent fixture over my riding trousers, or sit in my tank bag until needed. I do have a waterproof over-jacket but very rarely I need it – It does come out however, in more than average rainfall as the inconvenience of drying my jacket really does get to me.
Be Safe, Be Seen
Onto the next issue, visibility. Wear hi-vis or have hi-vis elements on you or your bike. If you are anti-hi-vis that’s no problem, just ensure that you can be seen – there is that school of thought that bikers don’t need to wear hi-vis. Drivers should be more careful. Yes, that’s true, but this is life, nothing is perfect, and most drivers aren’t educated enough about motorcycles. The most common type of motorcycle accident is the classic SMIDSY, “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”. Be safe, be seen. Stand out like a sore thumb. In winter, it gets dark early – dark when I leave home in the morning, and dark when I leave work. Couple the low visibility with rain, and rush hour traffic, and there is a higher risk of a SMIDSY.
That’s it for now folks. Keep posted for more on this topic – Road Surface and Finger-Numbingly Cold in the next post.