Riding your motorcycle in winter: how to be safe

Cruising around on a motorcycle in snow and ice. Source: Thinkstock

Fog, snow, icy roads: riding a motorcycle is no piece of cake in winter. Our 8 tips explain how to best prepare yourself against the adversities of the cold season.

Many motorcyclists and scooterists do without their vehicle in winter. If you venture out on your two-wheeler despite the darkness and cold, you should go well prepared.

  • Tyres: Winter tyres are not generally compulsory for motorcycles in winter, but they are in case of black ice, packed snow, slush, ice or frost. This means that even in December you may cruise around with summer tyres as long as the weather is good. However, if the weather changes and you cause an accident, your insurance may take recourse against you – and this could become expensive.
  • Technical check-up: Winterise your motorcycle or scooter. We recommend checking the brakes, brake fluid, electronics and lights. The battery and the chain drive should also be checked because they are the main cause of breakdowns in winter.
  • Driving style:  If possible, you should practise driving on a slippery surface. Braking on a slippery road is very challenging: you should generally use the rear-wheel brake; the front-wheel brake may only be applied very carefully to avoid jamming the front wheel.
  • Practice: Anyone who is not used to driving on ice and snow but does not want to go without their motorised two-wheeler had best attend a road safety training. Such trainings are offered both by automotive clubs such as TCS and ACS, and by driving schools.
  • Tracks: If you have an option, it is better to drive on new snow than on packed tracks that have gone solid. Watch your riding position: keep your feet firmly on the foot rests and your hands in a relaxed position on the handlebar. It is not advisable to try and stabilise with your feet while driving.
  • Gear: In addition to your normal motorcycle gear, we recommend using heated grips and possibly even heated clothing in winter. Rain jackets with reflective inserts or a separate reflective vest help improve your visibility. A helmet with a double visor prevents fogging. In case of snow, you also need sunglasses.
  • Scooter or motorcycle: Which one is better suited for winter: a scooter or a motorcycle? On a scooter, it is easier to protect oneself from wind and weather with a large visor and a heated blanket across one's legs than on a motorcycle, where one is more exposed. Generally, though, the larger wheels of a motorcycle are better suited for winter. Besides, the step-through frame of a scooter may be more convenient, but it makes the vehicle more difficult to stabilise than a motorcycle, which can be handled more easily because the rider can close his/her knees around the tank.
  • Hibernation: If you no longer feel like riding your motorcycle or scooter, you can put it away for the winter, return the number plates and even save money. You can return the number plates either by post or directly at the counter of the Road Traffic Office. During the period of suspension, you are not required to pay taxes and insurance premiums or your will get a refund if you have already paid them.