Riding a Motorcycle in the Snow: Safety Tips, Advice, and More

Just because the weather’s cold and snowy outside, it doesn’t mean you can’t get the most use out of your bike. If you want to start riding motorcycle in the snow, it’s crucial to be equipped with the right clothes and bike to stay safe on roads that could be icy and slick.

Before you pull out your snow clothes and hit the road, here’s what you need to know to stay safe and warm when you’re riding motorcycle in snow. 

Wearing the Right Gear

To stay warm and comfortable in cold weather, you must ensure you are wearing the correct gear. How do you stay warm when biking in the cold without feeling weighed down like a polar bear?

Layering is key.

Wearing base layers that fully cover your legs and arms are essential. You won’t have to break the bank to get quality base layers. For instance, you could find sturdy thermal underwear for under $20. You sweat as you ride, and base layers with moisture-wicking properties will give your skin room to breathe. Layers with moisture-wicking elements will help any sweat that gathers evaporate instead of remaining on the surface of your skin and causing a chill.

If you’ll be riding in temperatures in the 20-degree range or under, a zip-up fleece jacket with a neck color over your base layers will create the extra barrier of insulation you need. If you’re riding and temperatures drop even lower, you can always have a mid-layer on hand like a wool button-up, just in case.

Finally, there’s your outer gear. Choose outwear that is both waterproof and breathable. Boots with a solid grip will ensure you don’t slip when getting on and off your bike. Gloves with heated grips are a nice bonus to have, but any warm pair of gloves with a short glove will do the trick.

If you’ll be riding in particularly frigid temperatures, you’ll want to have a neck warmer and face shield with you as well. A helmet that seals tight with a face shield will keep you warm and fog-free.  

Picking the Right Bike

If you want to get the most out of riding motorcycle in snow, picking the right bike for your wintry journey is imperative. However, not just any type of motorcycle will do.

If you plan to riding in icy terrain, you won’t want to do it with a heavy street bike. Almost any type of dual sports bike will do the trick. The power of the bike isn’t so important — what matters is how the machine performs in the snow. You can get plenty of traction with 100ccs of power as you could with 450. Checked used motorcycle values and new values to get the best deal in your area.

What About Grip Studs?

While you don’t necessarily need to use grip studs for winter biking, you won’t be able to go very fast without them.  You could find that your bike struggles to exceed speeds of 15 mph without

studs. So, if you want to hit closer to your normal rates despite the wintry weather outside, grip studs could be your new best friend.

Grip studs make it easier to ride your bike in varying degrees of winter weather. You can still do things like wheelies without losing control. Studs also give you better performance when you accelerate without undermining your stability on or off the road. Considering the prices of motorcycles and that you can get a pack of 100 studs for roughly $100, the investment is well worth it.

Not sure a bike equipped for snow riding is in the cards for you? Use a motorcycle loan calculator to see what’s possible for your budget! 

Monitor Your Speeds

An important safety tip to bear in mind is to monitor your speeds. It’s natural to want to speed up once you’re out in the glories of wintry nature, but with cold weather, you need to be extra careful when accelerating. Be sure to avoid any sudden actions, such as cornering, braking, or swerving too fast.

Along the same lines, riding in colder weather means you’ll already be starting out with less traction. If your tires aren’t up to snuff, don’t hit rubber to the icy road until you’ve gone out and replaced them with new ones. It’s not just about motorcycle values — your safety could be on the line.

Assuming your tires are in pristine condition, here’s what you need to know.

In normal weather conditions, your tires will heat up with prolonged use after an extended period or riding. When this happens, you’ll have tighter traction and exert more control over your bike. However, when you’re riding in freezing weather, any heat that your tires generate dissolves almost instantly. Remember to check your pressure gauge in cold weather to make sure you’re getting sufficient traction — don’t eyeball it. 

What If You Get Caught in a Snow Storm?

If you’re riding and suddenly run into a wintry gale, the first thing to do is stay calm. If you’re riding in the snow, you just need to slow down and give yourself plenty of room to brake as you need to. You’ll also want to make sure that other vehicles and motorcyclists aren’t following you too closely.

While falling at such low rates of speed likely wouldn’t cause severe injuries, if the car behind you doesn’t stop in time, that’s an altogether different story. Cars will most likely quit or try to cut you off without warning. When snow hits, it’s a good idea to get off the road as quickly as you can.

Ice is another potential hazard winter weather can present for motorcyclists. Exert additional care when riding on bridges that could be frozen and keep a watchful eye for black ice in shadowed portions of the road. If you have to ride over an icy area, ride slowly and straight.

Maintaining Your Bike’s Fluids

Here are some quick and easy tips to keeping your bike’s fluids in snowy conditions.

  • You must keep your bike’s fluids at an optimal level if you intend to ride in the snow or any other kind of winter weather.
  • You should regularly check the antifreeze and oil levels in your bike to ensure to stop any internal damage fro occurring.
  • It is also best to keep your tank at half full so the gas lines don’t freeze up.
  • You could also use thinner oil to increase the bike’s performance, but look at your bike’s manual first to see what the maker recommends. 

Managing Visibility

When you’re riding your motorcycle in the snow, chances are that you’ll have decreased visibility than you would in warmer conditions. As such, it’s vital to increase your visibility by continuously looking ahead down the road. That way, you can spot hazards and avoid them. Look 10 to 15 seconds ahead if you can, which will give you time to respond with the proper traction if you have to avoid a potential hazard.

If something turns up unexpectedly in the roadway or a car ahead stops abruptly, you can stop in time. 

Closing Tips

As fun as riding in the snow might be, if severe weather and snowstorms hit, it’s time to head on home. Snow can accumulate very fast, impeding visibility and presenting dangerous biking conditions.

Just like you wouldn’t leave home without insurance for your bike, when in doubt, wait to hit the road until the storm has cleared.