Taking to the open road is what riding a motorcycle is all about. It's about enjoying the freedom of the road and being one with the machine. Some riders choose a bike based on speed. Others choose a bike based on comfort. And still other choose a bike to fit their personality. Whatever the reason, there are times when riding can be taxing.
There are two principle conditions when riding a motorcycle is significantly less safe and/or less pleasurable: traffic congestion and bad weather. When the roads are crowded, there is no room for error. In bad weather conditions, riding can be an invitation to injury or worse.
Inclement weather technically means cold or wet. But in everyday usage, it means any adverse weather condition. This includes, inordinate heat, sleet, hail, rain, snow and freezing temperatures.
Many motorcyclists won't even attempt to ride in weather under 40 or 50 degrees. But in some instance, riders will get out on the road. Heat is a different issue but just as dangerous. The other conditions make for unpredictable situations.
Rain happens. That's not a reason to leave the bike under cover of a garage or at work. But rain causes chemical reactions. In the south, all the oil in the road seeping in from the winter months rises to the surface as it rains in the summer. Oil and water don't mix. And oil on top of pavement means a slippery situation.
Sleet and Hail
Neither are safe conditions to ride a motorcycle. Sleet causes blindness and hail can cause serious bodily injury. These conditions can't be mitigated by wearing protective clothing and no rider should attempt the risk.
Riders may shrug off heat. For short trips across town, that's not a deal breaker. But long trips are another story. Dehydration is a real danger and shouldn't be taken lightly. Keep plenty of water on-hand and stay hydrated.
The cold is altogether another matter. Sleet is temporary. Hail won't last forever. Rain dries up and heat lessens as the sun goes down. But cold is relentless. Motorcyclists should always take cold weather or winter riding seriously.
Riding in cold weather can mean riding not only in uncomfortable conditions, it can mean black ice. Black ice is the unseen culprit of many fatalities. It cannot be seen to avoid. And when discovered, it is already too late. Not to mention, the actual cold.
The first priority is to bundle up in layers. Leave no skin exposed. Overlapping clothing is key to staying warmer for a longer period of time. The conundrum is eventually the cold will get to a rider. No matter how many layers are worn, a body's heat will become exhausted. So stopping to warm periodically will be necessary.
Cover up your feet and torso. Don't forget your ears and head. To protect your eyes, then a windshield will be necessary. The key element is to keep your body warm and the wind at bay. Any exposure or "break" in the cold winter amour will allow cold air to travel inside the warm layers. That leads to compromise and will send a chill right down to the bone.
Don't ride on icy roads. And if you're already on the road when it begins to snow, slow it down. Stay back at least three to five car lengths from the vehicle in front of you. Be especially cautious on bikes not equipped with a windshield. Though glasses or goggles will significantly reduce wind to the eyes, it will still be a factor. Cold air will cause the eyes to water. This in turn causes a need to wipe the eyes. Any time the hands come off the handlebars, a rider risks losing control of the machine.
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