Riding On The Ice

Riding On The Ice

As you may know, I’m a bit of a Head-The-Ball.  Yes – I am one of those ‘people’ who rides a motorcycle all year round.  This means I’ve had years of experience of riding on snow and ice and in freezing temperatures.

To make things even more fun for myself, almost all of this has been done on allegedly unsuitable sportsbikes.

Surprisingly, I’m not dead, yet.  In fact, I’ve never even crashed in Winter due to the road conditions!

“How have you not killed yourself, Nasty Evil Ninja?” I hear you cry.  Well, let me give you a few tips.

Buy Decent Clothing

You need to be able to stay warm, so make sure you wrap up.  I gave you my suggestions for that in this blog.

Which brings me on to this:

Relax

Expecting the bike to end up on top of you at any moment like a cheap village hooker is stressful.

I make a conscious effort every few minutes to RELAX.  If you’re tense, then you won’t be able to react as quickly, you won’t be as smooth with your actions, and you’ll be working against the bike – which is the last thing you need.

Take a few deep breaths and chill out (in a, you know, trying-to-keep-warm way).

Slow Down

It might seem obvious, but when there’s a huge Land Rover snorting down your chuff on an icy road, you’ll feel a bit pressured.

You’re on two wheels and will crash and die if you don’t ride at your own pace.  Let the cars have their own accident and only go at the speed you’re comfortable with.  If they don’t like it, they can go around you.

Why do car drivers tailgate a biker on snowy, icy roads?  Because they’re -ing retards.  You won’t be able to help them with this, no matter how much you gesticulate.

Grip Levels

You need to get very good at anticipating grip levels – and very quickly.  If temperatures have dropped below freezing overnight, assume anything shiny is ice.

Gritted roads are surprisingly grippy unless temperatures have dropped lower than -4 degrees centigrade.  Colder than this and the grit will freeze as well.  Dry roads are your friends.

You can test grip levels in relative safety in several ways.  Tap the rear brake and see if it locks up.  Stamp on it for a harder test – if it locks or goes sideways, get away from that sucker and stay as straight as you can!

You can also give it a handful of throttle and see if it spins up – but be aware that on a really slippy surface the bike will swap ends in a split second with too much throttle – however fast your reactions are.

Staying Upright

Try and keep the bike as upright as possible, by MOVING YOUR BODY.  Hang off the side around corners or at the very least move your upper body weight.

It makes a massive difference to the lean angles you’re trying to put the bike through – and if the bike is more upright you’ve got more grip.

Filtering/Overtaking

Cars that aren’t trying to ride over your pillion seat will be crawling along at 10mph on a well-gritted and grippy road, or they’ll be stuck in endless traffic queues with their heaters and anger on full blast.

Amazingly, this means you’ll still be filtering and overtaking!

The first thing to be aware of is that although the grit will cover the whole road, the section by the curb and in the middle of the road will still be choc full of icy badness.  There may be room to squeeze around cars, but make sure you know what you’re putting your wheels on!

It’s all too easy to slip past a few cars and then find you’re riding on sheet ice with no way to stop or avoid that ‘keep left’ bollard up ahead.

Filtering is the same, but the gap between lanes is generally grippy – just be aware car drivers won’t be expecting a mental two-wheeler, and they will also be avoiding the ice at the sides of the road so may leave you less room.

Visibility

You’ll be covered in road salt.  If you open your visor, this will go in your eyes.

Even if the salt burning your eyeballs out doesn’t bother you, the extra rocks thrown up from pot-holes will.

Keep your visor down ALL the time.

If you’ve ever ridden in heavy snow then you’ll also have experienced the Time Warp/Star Wars effect it has on your vision!  Kind-of cool, but that snow will also stick to your visor, so you’ll need to be wiping it every few seconds.

Side Roads

Take the long route.  Seriously.

An ungritted road will have you off even if you ride at walking pace with your feet dragging.

Snow isn’t too bad until a few cars have compacted it, but sheet ice will see both wheels come out from underneath you however skilled you are, even if you’re going in a straight line.

And above all ENJOY IT!

It’s not really so bad – it’s just different!

Most people (even most bikers) will never get to experience it – so you get bragging rights for down the pub!

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4 thoughts on “Riding On The Ice

  1. I didn’t notice there were a lot of rocks on the road this summer, but this fall was another story! Everything get worst once you reach the triple digit. I’ve gotten hit on the hands, torso (I’m glad I bought a chest protector for my dainese jacket) and right on the visor. The bike front fairing was dinged up pretty good as well. Touching up make things look worst in my opinion. I’ll just wait till it get worst and buy new fairing. $290 for a front cowl is expensive but it’s the price to pay I guess. Washing and waxing the bike before a ride helps, I should do it more often.

    • I think when they drop grit/salt on the roads you get a few solid rock on there, too.

      I very rarely wash my bikes over Winter. This might be bad, but then so is getting on your bike the next day and trying to ride over the ice that you’ve created by washing the bike! I do treat the bike with ACF50 regularly, though – if it’s good enough to stop corrosion on aircraft it should be good for bikes, too!

  2. To prevent snow buildup on your visor, use rain-X or the equivalent. It’s a spray-on thingy that smells of alcohol and that leaves a hydrofobic layer on the visor, so water doesnt collect and just falls off. Works less well with snow, but still works.

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