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Monday, November 8, 2010

Motorcycle Riding in Winters

Well, it's winter time again, and for us riders, and specially for riders in India, there's no stopping from biking. As a matter of fact, with little precautions and preparations, winters in India can be the best time to ride and enjoy your motorcycle.

Many would think that my statement is blasphemous, but think of it, during winters you are not getting drained out by that killing heat, your thirsts are under control, your fatigue is under control, you are sweating less and over all you are enjoying more. But all said and done, winters can be the most testing times in the life of a rider, because of the treacherous nature of the weather, the sudden dip in visibility and the above all the precarious nature of the traffic. Riding during winters has three main aspects - Preparing the Bike, Preparing the Biker, Riding skills. So, let's begin with what needs to be done to prepare the bike.

Preparing the Bike for Winters
Winters, even though enjoyable, are testing times for your bike. The chill in the air, temperatures plummeting, fog and rain, all can very easily wreck your dream machine into junk metal. For the past three years, I've been riding my Pulsar 200, which is I would say, fairly sophisticated for Indian conditions (ask that to my Dad, he still doesn't understand why the bike does not have a kick) and what I share here are based on my experience with my Pulsar 200 and should be helpful for bikes in the capacity range of 150-225cc.

1) Pay high attention to the electricals of the bike. Check for any loose ends, any exposed wire. All these needs to be addressed. The fog can easily get condensed on to these loose and exposed ends and one thumb would short circuit your machine in a flash of second.

ACCEL DFI 74812 Weatherproof Electrical 2 Pin Connector
ACCEL DFI 74813 Weatherproof Electrical 3 Pin Connector

Imagine this happening at a very difficult place, where help becomes privilege.

2) Cold and Wet conditions are very harmful the Battery. Make sure that the Battery doesn't drain out and it fully charged at all times. Along with this make sure that the Relay of your bike is also working properly. Check for any loose and weak ends and address them promptly. If possible, get yourself Battery Tenders, believe me they are very useful. Not only in Winter conditions, but also when you are leaving your bike un-ridden for long time.

Battery Tender 021-0128 Battery Tender Plus 12V Battery Charger
Battery Tender 021-0123 Battery Tender Junior 12V Battery Charger

3) Having good visibility during winters can be a life savior. I would not suggest going for HID on your reflective head lamps, but doing a little bit of modifications on your bike's electricals and upgrading your head lamp is always a good idea, specially if your rides are mostly at night. If possible, go for Osram Night Racer, one of the highly reviewed and non-HID options for bikes.

4) Indian winters are mostly foggy. This means, while you are riding, you are riding in almost wet conditions, not as wet as the monsoon season, but wet enough to be alarming. Having a good pair of rubber is always good and confidence inspiring. You would not like to end up having road rashes during winters. Keep monitoring the tyre treading and look out for any punctures. If the treads are worn out, then better change the tyres for winters than paying up for your medical bills. Even sticky tyres do not provide full proof protection from wet tarmac, but still they are better than hard compound ones. If your are not willing to change the tyres soon, then keeping the tyre pressure a couple of psi low is always helpful to get a better grip on the road. But in that case you need to more vigilant of any punctures in your tyre. Pay more attention to the front rubber, because that's where your control of your machine depends on.

Michelin Pilot Activ Sport Touring Motorcycle Tire…
Michelin Anakee 2 Adventure Touring Rea…

5) Having the right engine oil and of the right grade, go into your machine is very cruicial, specially when you bring Cold Starts into picture. For the last couple of winters, I've made sure that I use Castrol Power 1 10w40 through out the winters. Believe me, I've never had to thumb the bike more than twice all during that period. Also, apart from the cold starts, the engine's performance, the gearing and the throttle response work a lot smoother. For any bike in the range of 180 - 225, Castrol Power 1 is the best you can pamper your bike with, within your budget (Motul's fully synthetic can also be a very good choice, but I would prefer leaving it for higher capacities)

6) Last but not the least, after making your ride through the weather a bliss, your machine is very highly eligible for some good treatment. Make sure that if you are parking your bike in the open, then your bike is fully covered, so that due and mist do not condense on the bike overnight. Before you start for the day, it's very important that you clean your bike properly. Pay high attention on the exposed metal frame, as it's very highly prone to getting rusted. Also, make sure that no mud is allowed to clutter around the engine and the exhaust pipe. Waxing the bike weekly would be good idea to keep the bike spanky throughout the tough weather.

So, these are the least you can do for your bike to keep it zippy all through the winters. Now let's talk about the Rider.

Preparing the Biker for Winters
As important it is to prep the Bike for the Winters, it's all the more important to prep the Biker for winters because the Biker is the weakest nut connecting the saddle with the handle bar.

CARBON KEVLAR Motorcycle Mesh & Leather Race Gloves S

1) Gear check - Wear FULL riding gear during winters. Most people think the Helmet and a pair of  woolen  Gloves as the full riding gear, but actually you are just sparsely protected. Your FULL riding gear would include -
  • Helmet - Full Face Helmet so to speak, with clear visor. No shortcuts here. Anything which has a capability to go above 40 kmph, has the capability to kill you. A full face helmet is mandatory. When we are considering winter riding, specially in foggy conditions, always go for clear visors and not tinted. Since visibility is already very low, a tinted visor would only make matter a bit more uncertain.
  • Riding Jacket - A leather armored jacket is highly suggested, but if a armored jacket is not available, then make sure that you are having at least a leather jacket with proper inner lining to protect you not only from cold, but also from getting wounded in case of a fall. Leather tends to take the abuse of a crash better than fabric, so always have a leather jacket on.
  • Riding Gloves - One really has to invest in good Riding Gloves. Woolen Gloves are of no good in these condition. You can wear a woolen cut gloves underneath the Riding Glove, but having a good Riding Glove is absolutely necessary. At least one can go for the DSG Moto Mesh Gloves.
  • Boots - Not talking about specific riding boots here (would be best if you can go for it), but always protect your feet while riding in winters, because you feet acts as a port for getting exposure attacks. You feet is very vulnerable point in winters and even a flying pebble coming and hitting your feet can make you feel hellish and through you off balance. DO NOT ride while wearing slippers or sandals.
2) Always keep your self as warm as possible during winter rides. This would not only allow you to brave the chill, but also keep you comfortable enough to ride properly and in the rite posture. Try to wear clothing with minimalistic air flow, but at the same time allowing some sort of ventilation so that you don't start sweating inside.

3) Always wear some kind of warm protective head gear under the helmet, so that when ever you remove your helmet, you are not hit by the chill all of a sudden. You can go for a winter Balaclava. Planet DSG offers some premium stuffs, but you can always go for some other options like Cramster or from a local Motorcycle Accessories outlet near you, but make sure that you have something handy.

4) Never ride in winters if you are feeling dizzy or not feeling well. The chill in the air can easily get you and matters can get a lot worse. Always remember the thumb rule that if you are well, only then is your bike's well, and I'm saying this out of some very hard learned personal experience.

5) Well this might seem funny,  but my personal experience says that when riding in winters, restrict you nature's call as much as possible. Start riding empty tank, and if the urgency of the hour comes, only stop by any proper place and not by any roadside. Always keep in mind that in foggy conditions you never know what's coming your way and a small pee stop can prove very deciding.

So, having had these basic habits built in, we are always game for a fun ride. But the most paramount thing comes at last, the Riding Skill

Motorcycle Riding Skill for Winters
Well it's true that motorcycle riding skill cannot be taught through theory, the open roads are your best mentors. But never the less, there are a few things which can be kept in mind while we burn the roads even in winters.

1) Always ride with the pilot lamp on. Visibility is the key here. Even in broad day light, it takes some effort to spot a biker, and matters are made much worse in foggy conditions. So, it's of paramount importance that we make every possible effort to keep our visibility as clear as possible.

2) Do not increase your speed, unless and until you can see 15-20 meters ahead. You need time to react and stop if anything comes your way suddenly. Maintain a constant speed of about 40 kmph when visibility is low.

3) When turning on wet turns, try to counter steer your bike more than turning the handle bar. This would help you to keep the handle bar straight in respect of the turn as much as possible, giving you ample balance to brake if the need occurs. Keep a slow and steady speed on turns. Do NOT try fancy riding techniques in these conditions, they can prove lethal even before you know it.

4) Keep your intent clear to the traffic. If you are decided to zoom past, no second thoughts, just zoom, don't start thinking half way that you should not have zoomed, this would ensue confusion and is a potent formula of a mishap. If you decide to go slow, take the left most lane and keep at it unless you think other wise. Always switch lanes by giving proper indication.

So, having discussed all this, one thing needs to be kept in mind that every thing boils down to a present mind. Keep you mind relaxed while riding and every ride  would become a imperishable memory.
Hope readers find this compilation read worthy.
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  1. I also see a redesigned template and an embedded comment form.. good to see you put something extra effort in our blog.

    Was the photograph posted on top taken by you?

  2. Thanks Bro :)

    Nopes, the photograph is not by me. It's from my collection on my hard drive. Can't remember from where I took it from. Found it relevant to the the topic :) Therefore I didn't watermark it with my signature, coz it doesn't belong to me!!

  3. I might add something to your full list of gear...Riding pants! Gotta protect those legs and keep them and the boys warm and dry.

  4. and I'll add another thing...I am jealous that you can ride in the winter, no chance of it here in Chicagoland.

  5. Aaah Dough!!
    Finally you are back!! You got me worried there pal!! So good to see after soooo long!!

    Well yeah the riding pants definitely should be there in the list of accessories and specially when you are having the big bad boys under your butt (1000cc and above). But seeing their price tag, I guess most of us would give them a miss and try to do with inners, jeans and a pair of knee guards for the winters!!

    Yeah winters are really fun time here. In Chicagoland, even I would think of giving the bike a miss. It becomes so tough to control four wheels, forget about doing it on two wheels :)


Item Reviewed: Motorcycle Riding in Winters Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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