Last time we looked at what you should be wearing if you wanted to ride your motorcycle in cold weather. No matter what tips below, dressing properly is the most important one. If you do not dress properly, all other winter riding tips are of no use.
Your motorcycle will also need to dress up warmly for a ride in cold weather. You will not need to worry about putting on warm blankets over your bike, but you will need to be careful that your poor ride does not get frostbite.
If you have a water-cooled motorcycle, just like with a car, you will need to put in antifreeze in the radiator. If not, you will have severe problems when you have stopped and the radiator cools down.
Read your motorcycle’s maintenance manual how much, and which kind of antifreeze.
If you are riding on slicks or race tires, forget it. Just do not bother, you might just as well put on ice skates and go to a skating rink, since that is what you will be doing on your motorcycle. Make sure you have at the very least street tires fitted. Knobbies are much better, since they will bite into snow, but obviously studded tires are the best when you have got snow or ice. At the very least, normal street tires will offer better grip and reach operating temperatures much quicker than slicks.
The best oil to use during winter months is a thinner oil. They will improve performance, especially right after starting your bike. Get an oil that is made for winter, but do check your motorcycle manual which ones are recommended by the manufacturer, since not all companies allow a different oil type to be used.
When shopping for oil, make sure the viscosity grade has the letter “W” next to it (e.g. 20W or 30W). The “W” denotes Winter use (source).
Protecting Your Bike
When you say winter and snow, I say salt on the roads. In most parts of the world, when it starts snowing or freezing, salt is sprayed on the roads. It’s great to ride, since the roads are far less slippery, but it does mean that you will get salt on your motorcycle, and that means corrosion. If you want to prevent this, spray some WD-40 oil on all the parts that are exposed to salt & slush, typically below your fairing, forks, engine and mudguards.
When you have finished your ride, wash off the salt from your bike. If you leave it on for the rest of the winter, chances are by spring you will find some rust spots.
It gets dark quickly, and even during daytime, it can get dark, so it’s a very good idea to make sure that your lights are in good working order. Test them out before setting off.
Mirrors (and visor)
Because of big temperature differences, it is wise to spray an anti-fogging spray on your mirrors and helmet visor.
Check the water level of your battery. If it is lower than normal, you might have a leak, and during the winter, that is not a good thing. Top it up, but make sure you close the tops firmly.
If you will be riding with heated gear, make sure your alternator can handle it. Read your motorcycle manual to see how much wattage gets generated. If the sum of what is used by riding (lights and other components) plus your heated gear exceeds the wattage supplied, your battery will run out. On its own, this will not prevent you from riding, but you will not go a long distance, and you will need to recharge your battery when you are home again.
You will need to apply brake grease to your brakes, since sludge and salt will form around the brake pins.
Next, we will look at riding tips.