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Staying safe on your motorcycle over the winter months

Many motorcycle enthusiasts, even the most devoted, will pack their two-wheeled transport away when the temperature starts dropping. Doing so can be a good decision, from a safety standpoint. Those on motorcycles are already at increased risk for serious injuries or even death while driving, compared to those in enclosed passenger vehicles. Combine that risk with sub-optimal winter driving conditions, and the potential for a major accident increases.

Still, there are many perfectly reasonable examples of why someone may not give up one's motorcycle during the winter months. Perhaps the car, truck or SUV is in need of repairs. Perhaps you recently divorced, and you didn't get to keep the car. Maybe you just feel passionately about having ultra-high gas efficiency when you drive. Whatever your reason, you need to take special steps to reduce your risk during the winter months.

Upgrade your gear to protect you from the cold winter weather

If you think layering is just for office workers, you're mistaken. You should be building up several layers of gear to keep yourself as warm and safe as possible. Use a wicking layer closest to the skin. Add another layer, such as long pants and a sweatshirt or fleece over that. Your outer layer should be waterproof but still breathable. That applies to torso and leg coverings.

You definitely need to protect your feet with warm socks (possibly more than one pair), as well as a tough and warm pair of boots. Ideally, you'll have insulation, water proofing and good traction on those boots. You also need a neck covering and something that fits inside your helmet to keep your ears warm. If you don't wear a full visor, you will want to invest in non-fogging goggles to keep water, snow and ice out of your eyes while driving.

Your tires and engine need a cold-weather checkup

If you have a water-cooled engine, you're going to need to add fresh antifreeze and mix it carefully. Check all hoses and exposed parts for wear before the weather changes. Make repairs before winter riding and always check your motorcycle both before and after a ride.

Your tires will also be colder, resulting in lower air pressure which can impact your traction. Read up on ways to heat your tires before and during your ride. Late fall is probably a good time to replace your tires. You need as much traction as possible, so newer tires with better tread could make all the difference.

Stay off the roads in the snow and focus on visibility

When it's hailing, snowing, sleeting or icing, your ability to control your bike will be severely limited. The best way to protect yourself in the winter on a motorcycle is to avoid the roads when weather is really bad.

You should also recognize that motorists will be less aware of you during the winter. They probably won't be looking for you. Sure, you could win a lawsuit if a driver recklessly causes an accident, but it's better to avoid it in the first place. Adequate lights, reflectors and other ways to increase your visibility to drivers on the road could end up saving your life.

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