Winter Maintenance and Riding
|Harry Clark, ABATE of New York Safety Officer
By the time you read this, the riding season is pretty much over here in New York. Winter separates us from riding, at least for a while.
For those of us who like to get a ride in during the winter, I recommend the best in riding gear. You’ve got to keep the cold air off your skin. An electric vest, similar to an electric blanket, can make a winter ride not only endurable, but enjoyable. Mine plugs right into the bike’s electric system, and puts out lots of heat. Like it or not, a full-face helmet is the way to go when it’s really cold, and you want or need to get a ride in. Riding in the cold is not a case of how much cold you can endure. It’s a matter of gearing up to stay reasonably warm. Riding in the cold without proper gear can lead to hypothermia, which can impair your judgment and lead to an accident. Staying warm is as much a matter of safety as it is comfort.
Winter also provides a time to catch up maintenance on your bike. Read up on maintenance requirements in your owner’s manual, or ask the dealer for advice. Check brake pads, and change brake fluid on a regular basis. Check steering head and swing arm bearings for play. Adjust as required. Steering head bearings can get “notchy” if not kept in adjustment. If you feel any signs of a problem as you swing the front wheel across center, the steering head bearings may need replacement. Swing arm bearings, if loose or worn can cause handling problems. Your bike has got to be in good condition. You can’t scrimp on maintenance.
In order to be a good defensive rider during the riding season, you
need to be an excellent defensive driver year round. You can work on that
during the winter. Keep in mind one of the principles of defensive driving:
make sure other motorists can see you easily. In the dark, dreary days
of winter, it pays to run your headlights on your car and truck, to make
sure other motorists see you. Snow on the ground often makes vehicles
on the road harder to see. If you appreciate the importance of other motorists
seeing you in your car, you’ll do the same on your bike.
Hoping all of you had a safe riding season, and will again next year.