Motorcycles and Weather Conditions
Motorcycles can be a fun and affordable form of transportation. However, they can also be downright hazardous under adverse weather conditions.
If you're a fairly inexperienced rider, the best way to stay safe is to avoid riding your motorcycle when it's raining, too hot, or excessively cold. Listen to your local weather forecast before riding. If rain seems likely or extreme temperatures are predicted, consider using a different form of transportation or postponing your trip.
If you have to venture outside in poor weather or you find yourself unexpectedly riding through less-than-ideal conditions, remember the following safety tips:
- Take a short break at least once every two or three hours. Fatigue contributes to many motorcycle accidents.
- If visibility is poor, slow down. Make sure you are riding at a speed that allows you to stop in the distance that you can see. It may take you longer to arrive at your destination, but a late arrival is still preferable to an emergency room visit.
- If you're in the middle of a long trip, consider renting a hotel room for the night. Operating a motorcycle at night can be difficult even under normal weather conditions.
When you're driving in your car or truck, you're protected from the rain. When you're riding a motorcycle, you're exposed to the elements. However, motorcycles do offer some advantages in wet weather. They provide a superior view of the road, easy maneuverability, and more escape routes from any potentially dangerous situations.
If you're riding in the rain, remember the following tips from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:
- Aim for smooth control. Be gentle with your brakes and throttle, but balance your grip. When you're riding in the rain, aim to complete your turns before you accelerate.
- Avoid last-minute reactions whenever possible. In wet weather, you must plan ahead to determine when you will need to accelerate or brake. Using engine braking for corners and junctions will reduce the risk of skidding.
Avoiding hazards is extremely important in the rain. Watch out for the following obstacles when you're riding your motorcycle in wet weather:
- Slick concrete surfaces
- Manhole covers
- Railroad tracks
- Oil spills
When you're purchasing tires for your motorcycle, avoid tires that are labeled as "long-lasting" if you plan to do a lot of riding in wet weather. Many motorcycle owners think this purchase is a good way to save money. However, these tires are typically less tacky and can't provide enough traction to keep you safe in wet weather.
It's a proven scientific fact that your physical condition affects your ability to react to dangerous situations. Most riders know that you're more likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident when you're tired, angry, or exhausted. However, few realize the impact excessive heat can have on your safety.
When you're riding your motorcycle on a hot summer day, the best safety precaution you can take is to stay hydrated. Take plenty of water breaks. If you don't like the taste of water, drink sports drinks instead. However, you should avoid soda whenever possible. The caffeine and sugar will add to dehydration.
Dressing appropriately can keep you comfortable on a hot day. However, it's not a good idea to ride your motorcycle in shorts and no shirt. Keep as much of your body covered as possible. Skin exposed directly to the sun will evaporate water significantly faster than skin that is properly covered. Plus, overexposure increases your risk of sunburn.
Another easy tip to keep you comfortable on a hot day is to open the vents on your motorcycle helmet to increase air flow. Just remember to bring along some extra lip balm, since the additional air will dry out your lips.
If you're riding on a hot day, watch for signs of heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or heat cramps can happen to anyone. However, alcoholics, older people, the obese, and those taking certain prescription medications are at an increased risk.
To the casual observer, riding a motorcycle seems like an activity best left to warm days. However, the enthusiastic rider will often want to venture outside under colder conditions.
Dressing appropriately is the best way to keep yourself safe while riding your motorcycle in cold weather. Remember the following tips as you're selecting your motorcycle apparel:
- Keep your hands and feet warm. Invest in a good pair of gloves and some high-quality motorcycle boots.
- Keep your torso warm. If your torso is cold, it will restrict blood flow to your hands and feet.
- Wind-proof your body. Make sure the outside layer of your outfit is made of a material that will stop the wind.
- Seal the openings in your outfit. Don't let air come in through the neck opening in your jacket, the sleeves of your shirt, or the bottom of your pants.
- Choose a good insulating material. Wool is the best natural fiber insulating material, but synthetics such as Thinsulate work well also.
If your bike allows it, you may also want to consider installing a windshield. If you plan to ride in cold weather on a regular basis, a windshield will keep you warmer than if you simply dress in appropriate motorcycle apparel.
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