This is part 2 of my post – dedicated to the horrible winter that lays ahead.
Please do read Part 1, if you have not read it for a fuller picture.
Before I go on to explain “Road Surface” and “Finger-Numbingly-Cold”, I just would like to point out that what they are saying doesn’t look too promising. This should give you an idea; -6.5C overnight in Benson, Oxfordshire. The frost is starting too. On my ride home a few nights ago, I was covered in salt as they had freshly gritted the M25. The winter is definitely upon us.
Aside form the subject, but talking about the weather, Doria Tiller, a French weather presenter vowed that she’d present the news NAKED if France qualify – she did. – Link is SAFE for work.
Back to the topic at hand. The weather is getting worse, and most people are panicking on what they will do for their ride in to work this winter (especially those who are experiencing their first winter on two wheels).
Road surface is very important. Put it this way, your bike only has 2 tyres (well, most, except the newer 3-wheeled ones you may come across). The tyres may be the best you can get, with very good water channelling tread, wet weather performance and the latest compound of rubber, created using the best R&D techniques, but this is all rendered useless if the road surface is crappy. Something as (seemingly) trivial as a wet leaf, in the wrong place at the wrong time, can leave a biker very unhappy.
One of the usual things to look out for are what I call “metal bits” on the road. This can be manhole covers, drain covers, little square access holes for water valves, and many others. The scariest one I have come across is actually the cattle grid (I ride through Epping Forest if my commute home is dry and I’m not in a rush). Even if you need to stop, be sure not to stop so as the rear wheel is sat on one of them, unless you want to dart off at the lights, with a little bit of sideways motion before the forwards motion and a bit of mess in your pants. These things can also be scary in the dry, let alone the wet.
The next is of course the wet leaves you get that all pile up either in the middle (perfect to catch you out whilst you are filtering), or on the edge of the road (optimum position to cause an incident should you be undertaking or overtaking the vehicle in front who is stopped to turn left/right).
Diesel is another big cause of accidents. You don’t really see it in the dry, and it’s not as slippery, but as soon as it rains, you see all these pretty multicoloured rainbow patterns, or ”islands”, on the floor. If it is raining enough, it does eventually wash off and move onto the side of the road due to the camber in the road. Oils and water don’t mix well, hence why it rises and that’s why you get very little grip riding over oils or diesel. Look out for it on busy junctions, bus stops or during roadworks or pretty much anywhere where HGVS, lorries, vans, buses stop. This is also caused by idiots overfilling their tank, thinking they’ll have a longer tank range – only to find that it may leak out from the overflow or breather!
And it’s not only tyres that can slip. You may find putting your foot down on a wet leaf has similar consequences!
Needless to say, ice, or worse, black-ice is a definite no-go. You cannot ride on ice, unless you carry out some serious mods to your tyres – search for motorcycle snow spike tyres on YouTube! Snow is possibly okay, depending on your bike and riding skill. If you ever do get caught out, do not panic, and take a nice easy smooth ride; we do not recommend or condone it in any case.
Then there are the usual all-year-round road surface hazards like potholes, broken numberplates (I read a blog post once about how somebody dropped their bike by stepping on a broken numberplate – then found the car it belongs to!), stones/grit, debris, dead animals, or even wheelbarrows (some real inconsiderate c***s out there! I’m so glad Mr Farmer was okay)
Metal bits – nothing we can do but dodge and let the people in power know – Plymouth has the right idea
Leaves – well, I suppose the trees dropping leaves at this time of year is natural, and we can’t cut them all down, so simply avoid and stay safe.
Diesel – there was the KillSpills campaign from the BMF – as well as many others. Vehicles leaking fuel is dangerous and illegal in many places.
Stay warm – being cold really does affect your concentrations and you are much more likely to get fatigued if you are cold or wet.
The real problem is the wind, so if you keep the wind out, you automatically eliminate the main cause of you feeling cold. A basic wind chill calculator online shows that the actual “wind chill” temperature is -2 Degrees C, if you are moving at 30mph and the ambient temperature is 5 Degrees C. Waterproofs double up as wind-proof layers. You can get over garments and undergarments for this.
Heated grips work well, as to hand wind deflectors (whether it is the off-road bush-guard types, or the big handlebar muff type).
Purpose made base layers are a must, as is layering up. Wear lots of thinner layers, as opposed to one or two thick layers, as more thinner layers trap air between them, which warms up by body heat and is retains heat better.
Balaclavas, neck tubes and scarves (keep ‘em tucked in!) work really well at keeping the draught out of your neck.
Heated clothing is becoming more of the norm nowadays too. Check it out at your local motorcycle accessory store, but keep onto of your electrics and motorcycle battery as they do drain current. I have a pair of Keis heated inner gloves, and swear by them! As far as I’m aware, you can get heated inner-jackets, inner-trousers, gloves, inner-gloves and even boot-soles/boot inserts.
Most of all, if conditions are that bad consider leaving the bike at home and take the car or bus, as your safely always comes first. If there is a storm on the horizon and you get caught out, do what you need to do to get home safe, but never set out knowing that the conditions could be dangerous, lethal or even fatal. It is also a good idea to ensure you have waterproofs and the correct gloves and boots before leaving home.
Ride safe and stay warm.