Riding in the snow
Riding in the snow is a ridiculous pastime that has absolutely no positives yet can bring many negatives. You risk so much - death and serious injury are poking their head around the corner, holding a snowball with your name on it.
But you persevere. You’re a biker, right?
Vision is a rushed blend of wiping your visor of settling snow or raising the visor to stop it misting up. At which point a lorry passes you and you get snow in your face. Great. No grip, and snow is hiding the usual manhole covers, mud and other dangers. Tyres that don’t even wake up – let alone heat up. Temperatures so cold that your fingers swell up like bratwurst and your feet can't move at all.
Despite the dangers, my biggest fear is a low-grade lobbing of the bike down the road at pathetically low speed, in front of gormless car drivers who get enormous satisfaction from your mistake - and further sadistic pleasure from offering you the use of their mobile phone to get help, as though you’re from outer Mongolia and don’t possess such a modern creation…
It’s not big and it’s not clever - but it pales into insignificance compared to what follows the big melt - black ice. If snow is dangerous then black ice is the devil’s assassin. You drop your guard because the snow is melting and they’ve had the gritters out - right? Then without notice, you’re staring at the sky. I’ll play in the snow, but black ice is a lottery with bad odds.
But if you need to ride in the snow, as we do occasionally, here are my tips, for what they’re worth.
Use a cheap old underpowered winter snotter. No worries of damage and you don’t have to clean it every day.
Relax. Sounds easy but constantly check that your arms are loose.
Try to put as much weight through your footpegs as possible. This will lower your centre of gravity just as off-road riders do.
Try not to use brakes, but also try to avoid jerky throttle response. It must all be silky smooth - try to imagine a glass of vintage scotch balancing on your tank and you don’t want to spill any.
Obviously don’t lean any more than a few degrees.
Dress up warm, but avoid the temptation to get too bulky. You won’t want to move around if you’re looking like the Michelin man and you won’t be travelling as fast so the wind chill should be less.
Look at your journey and think where the roads will have a higher probability of being treated. Could you go further on main roads to avoid untreated roads?
DO NOT be influenced by the fact that car and lorry drivers are travelling at a fairly normal speed. I’ve been staggered by how many car and lorry drivers over this snowy period have been driving too close and far too fast - what the hell do they think all that white stuff is? Don’t play their game.
Make sure you have a decent visor insert or anti-fog coating - it's just one less thing to worry about.
Don’t give yourself any time constraints - you’ll get there when you get there.
Thinking about it, surrender to common sense and use a car.