On Balance  

Get ready for cold-weather motorcycle riding

Shiver me timbers!

Burr! The old mercury dropped off the scale of happiness and rider joy suddenly, wouldn’t you say? Now what?

From the relative quiet, and the sudden conspicuous absence of fellow riders out there, I’d hazard a guess that indoor games won the toss for a lot of us. Best get down the shops fast because the bike covers, smart chargers and storage wax are flying off the shelves.

But come on. This is Canada after all. We have a reputation for playing in the cold. And it isn’t really all that cold—or dark—yet.

So, let’s go over the autumn pre-trip and see what’s going to keep us rolling in our safe and happy place.

There are some issues ahead that have better answers now than ever before, even for those of us who aren’t, by nature, polar dippers.

First off, get the cover back off that bike and give it a good once-over. As things cool off, they also get messier so a bit of a rub down’s in order, along with some fresh lubrication.

By now, it’s about time for an oil change. Filters want changing and all the friction points like cables, chains and control pivots have more dust and grit in them than the specified lubricants they should have. There’s a happy few hours of tinkering with the tunes on. A clean, polished bike always runs better too they say.

All shiny and smooth again? Great! Except, maybe, where it comes to the round rubber bits. At this time of year, and going forward, we really don’t want to be risking it on tires that are well past their best. There’s plenty of riding waiting for us and it doesn’t have to be all about falling down if we make sure we’re on tires that can give good grip in the cold and the wet.

That old joke about winter tires for your bike? Ha ha ha. It’s just that—old. Now, we have options. There are plenty of tires that have softer compounds and better tread designs than summer skins, so it’s well worth a chat with the tire sales representative of your choice. Whether that’s a person or a website, the information’s there for you to find. Retail therapy you can actually rationalize, how about that?

Remember, there’s going to be some friendly uniformed folk on the roadside waiting to check that you did this particular bit of your homework (by Oct. 1) before setting off for a ride over the Richter, Anarchist, Eagle (passes) or any other passes begging to be ridden on the next bright sunny day.

About that, there definitely is less of it these days. Sun, or even daylight, I mean. And for riders, as I’ve mentioned before, the collision reports make it clear darkness is not our friend. So, naysayers notwithstanding, this would be a very good time to consider whether some lighting upgrades are in order. Here are your rationales:

• In the cold and the wet, we need longer distances for safe stops and avoidance manoeuvres. So, we need lights that illuminate the road farther ahead than the three-candlepower mood lighting that came with the bike. Better high and low beams and good quality aftermarket spot lamps can make a world of difference to your comfort and safety.

• In the cold and the wet, we need lights that don’t reflect so badly off the rain or other atmospheric atrocities that we may come across. So, fog lights, mounted lower than the headlamp, give us a fighting chance when combined with our best safety tactic—slowing down.

• Bears may be heading for nap time but the rest of the many and varied critters that like to party on the road just when we’re coming over a hill are very much still up to their tricks. And they can be much, much harder to spot in the warm glow of a 10-year old SAE nightlight.

• There are libraries full of research articles that point out the merits of better motorcycle conspicuity, especially in “challenging” lighting conditions. More, and better, lights are the gold standard of recommendations about that. And then there are high-viz jackets and vests. It to be said.

• About the libraries, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (iihs.org) provides great research about how bad most automotive headlights have been for years. So consider this, we only have one light (on motorycles) and the institute has not gotten around to testing them.

So where are we? The bike’s tuned up, lubed up and polished to perfection. The tires are good and grippy. The lights are opening up whole new vistas. Warm and fuzzy yet?

No, there’s still the wind and rain chill to deal with, which is why riding loses it’s appeal (at this time fo year, for lots of people well before hockey starts and why it gets dangerous.

This is where your bike and your gear can really do wonders—heated everything and great weather-proof top layers. Wow!

Heated grips and vests are so easy to organize and so good at keeping hypothermia at bay, your timbers can well and truly stop shivering.

Be cool with the cool, and ride on.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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