Judging by the temperature gauge on my Triumph Tiger over the past few weeks, winter is well and truly here. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop riding.
In fact, I can think of few better winter activities than wrapping up warm and going for a brisk Sunday ride. However, if you’re planning to motorcycle in winter, there are a few issues you’ll need to keep on top of to ensure your bike is protected from the elements and the lashings of salt laid down on the roads during the colder months.
With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with the team of motorcycle care experts at Muc-Off to bring you a winter riding checklist.
It’s a simple guide designed to help you keep your pride and joy in tip-top condition all the way through to the spring. We’ve also included some essential checks designed to keep you safe in the saddle.
Protect the exposed parts of your motorcycle in winter
The first and most important task is to protect the exposed metal parts of your motorcycle.
In the winter months, councils spread large amounts of road salt, which helps to prevent snow and ice forming on the road. It’s a necessary task but it comes at a cost – the salt is extremely corrosive when it meets your metal and it gets everywhere when combined with standing water on the road.
The solution? Protect your exposed metal parts with an anti-corrosion spray like HCB-1. The formula was specifically created for protection in harsh conditions, forming a durable barrier of protection that lasts up to 12 months, meaning you can keep your bike protected through the winter and the rest of the year.
Your tyres in winter
As your only point of contact with the road, keeping your tyres in good condition during winter, when the roads are often wet, cold, and slippery, is crucial.
Take the time to regularly check your tyre pressures and tread depth, making sure that the tyre pressure is within the manufacturer’s suggested limits and tyre tread depth is well above the legal limit. This will ensure they work properly on those cold, wet mornings by channeling water away from the contact patch with the road.
Although some riders think that letting air out of their tyres during the winter months will give them greater grip, manufacturers actually advise against this, as it can deform the tyres and stop them from heating up quickly.
Check your lights and signals
Although checking that your lights and signals are working should be part of everyone’s pre-ride checks, I can’t be the only rider who carries out these checks less frequently when the sun is shining and the roads are calling.
This relaxed attitude changes in winter, when my lights are the only thing keeping me visible to other road users on the unlit country roads around the ABR offices. However, it’s not enough to simply check that your indicators, headlights, brake lights, and full beam are actually working.
You should also check that they’re clean and clearly visible to other road users. Winter grime and dirt builds up quickly on these surfaces, so use a Helmet, Visor and Google Cleaner to ensure they’re free from anything that may dull an otherwise bright headlight. Be sure to keep a small bottle with you during a ride to give them a clean whenever you stop.
Ensure your coolant and oil is topped up
There have been plenty of advances in the technology behind modern oils, which means you won’t need to change it simply because the temperatures start to drop. However, it’s important to make sure you’re not running low, as there’s nothing worse than suffering a breakdown far from home when your out on your motorcycle in winter.
When it comes to coolant, make sure it’s topped up with anti-freeze which prevents the fluid in your radiator from freezing during sub-zero temperatures.
Regularly clean and lubricate your chain
While it’s important to look after your chain all year round, in the colder months, road salt, the winter rider’s sworn enemy, makes it especially important that you take some time to give it some love.
Left unprotected, corrosion and rust can set in, rapidly reducing the lifespan of your chain and increasing the chances of a snap or irregular wear. Every 300 miles or so, give it a deep clean with a drivetrain cleaner and a motorcycle chain brush to remove any lingering salt and grime.
Once you’ve rinsed your chain, leave it to dry and then apply a liberal coating of either wet-weather or all-weather chain lube, depending on the conditions, to keep it protected.
Trickle charge your battery when you’re not riding
Motorcycle batteries naturally lose their charge over time, and cold temperatures can accelerate this process considerably. As we generally ride less in winter, there are also fewer opportunities for batteries to get a good charge during a long ride.
Letting your battery run flat can negatively impact its health. So, to avoid killing it and having to shell out for a new one, hook it up to a trickle charger when you leave your bike for more than a few days without a charge.
Wash your bike down with cold water after every ride
There’s nothing better than getting home and wrapping your hands around a hot mug of tea after a cold ride. But, before you head inside, it’s important that you give your bike a thorough rinse before putting it away.
While the HCB-1 we applied earlier will help keep corrosion at bay, your bike will still be coated in road salt and muck after a typical day out in winter. A thorough hosing with cold water (hot water will dissolve the salt crystals which can help them spread) will get rid of it, ensuring it doesn’t settle and cause damage over time.
I’ve hooked up the Muc-Off pressure washer in my garage to ensure I can give my bike a spray down as soon as I get home, without taking my gloves off. It’s motorcycle-friendly and this bundle gives you everything you need for a quick, convenient wash after every ride.
Finally, keep your own vision clean and clear
Although we’ve tackled dressing for a winter in the saddle in a separate article, there’s one thing that is important enough to be mentioned twice – keeping your visor clean and your vision clear while you’re riding.
The first thing to consider is visor fogging, which occurs when your warm breath hits the inside of your cold visor. The gold standard of anti-fogging technology is a Pinlock visor, which uses an anti-fog insert to soak up the moisture that you breath out. But, if you don’t have one on your helmet, Muc-Off supplies an anti-fog spray which creates a transparent, micro-thin coating over your visor to prevent misting and keep your vision crystal clear.
It’s also important to keep your visor clean and scratch-free during winter. Dark nights roll in quickly, and the glare from headlights and street lights combined with a mucky or scratched visor will seriously impede your vision.
The Muc-Off helmet care kit contains a bottle of visor cleaner, which we mentioned earlier for cleaning your lights, which you can use to keep your visor spotless. Alongside this, a microfibre polishing cloth will ensure you don’t carve scratches onto the surface of your visor.
The ABR and Muc-Off Motorcycle Winter Riding Checklist
Follow these eight steps to enjoy a brilliant winter in the saddle, without causing harm to your ride.
While it may seem like a lot to keep on top of in first glance, each of the tasks will only take a few moments and are important when it comes to looking after yourself and your bike.
Treat your motorcycle’s exposed metalwork with a purpose-built protectant like HCB-1
Ensure your tyre pressures and tread depths are correct and safe
Check your lights and signals are clean and working
Make sure your coolant and oil levels are correct
Keep your chain clean and well lubricated
Connect your battery to a trickle charger when parking up for a length of time