While this winter has been unseasonably mild it’s still cold when riding. A few weeks ago a ride into town was a bit dicey because of periodic remnants of snow and ice. It’s frustrating to show up at the motorcycle parking space and find it full of salty snow and slush.
It left me wondering about riding in winter and the questions I field about being out in the cold. I claim no wisdom, just a few observations on why you should store your machine for the winter.
1. You’ll reek havoc on your brain.
Riding in winter means you have to deploy your intellect to manage a range of complex assessments of self, skill, road, traffic, weather, destination, route and more. If you believe riding is about freedom and nothing else then it might be best to stay behind (or beneath) the wheel. That way you can sustain your fantasy and keep your brain relaxed.
2. You’ll damage your ego.
In cold weather you ride alone. Tribes of riders to face the elements don’t exist. No one will care, admire or recognize your presence on the road. Those that do will think you’re nuts or an idiot, or that you have no friends. Any thoughts of heroic deeds in facing the cold will have to be yours alone. If you need recognition it might be wise to keep your ego intact, stay at home, and clean and polish the bike.
3. Weaknesses will surface.
Winter riding will expose the limits of your physical and psychological tolerance for cold. We all have them but not everyone knows what they are. Discovering that you can’t hack riding at 55F may be too much to bear if you’ve dreamed of trips at the freezing mark. Regardless, whether at 50, 30 or -10 degrees, you’ll find your limits. Make sure you are ready for the knowledge.
4. Grit, grime, and road filth will make you cry.
You may try to convince people that you can’t ride because the stuff on the road creates too big a hazard to ride, reducing traction and making turns especially dangerous. In your heart you know it’s bullshit and you really just don’t want to get your machine dirty. Riding in winter, at least in areas that use salt and grit, will turn your motorcycle or scooter into a nasty thing.
5. You’ll question your sanity.
If you get onto the road in the cold, allow your machine to get dirty, feel your fingers and toes grow numb, and fight to keep your visor clear, at some point in the process you’ll stop and ask, “Why am I doing this?”.
Standing at a mental crossroad — one direction leads on to the secret nirvana of winter riding. The other to self doubt, disappointment, excuses and internal arguments that seek to soften the thoughts of failure. Stay at home and protect your sanity.