Forget snuggling up in front of the telly this winter. Rip your bike out of the garage, plug in your heated gloves and get back on the road with MCN’s winter warmer. Here’s a bunch of cold weather riding tips and a selection of the best rubber to see you through the cold months. With the right kit and the necessary skills in your locker, winter riding needn’t be a hassle.
Ride like a winter pro
Stick to the straight and narrow
Do all your work in a straight line and be smooth with the controls – avoid braking and accelerating hard with lean angle. ABS and traction control will stop you slipping and sliding in a straight line.
Get your body position right
When cornering, move your head and shoulders into the corner with your inside arm bent to maximise grip and feel. When exiting corners, tap the throttle gently and wait for the weight to transfer to the rear end, then wind the throttle on progressively.
Braking in corners
Before applying the brakes into a corner, wait for the weight to transfer fully to the front end after you’ve shut the throttle. Once you’ve lightly applied the front brake and the tyre is dug in, brake progressively harder. Change down through the gears smoothly and slowly to avoid rear wheel lock-up.
Our six favourite winter tyres
Modern-day sports touring tyres are best for winter riding. They’re made with special silica compounds that give grip and confidence at very low temperatures, on all kinds of road surfaces, from tarmac to concrete and even painted road markings. Sports touring rubber is cut with fat tread grooves, to disperse water at speed and stop you aquaplaning. But best of all, the current crop of sports touring tyres can also be used all year round, on everything from naked bikes to tourers and superbikes.
Don’t let price be the overriding factor when you’re buying tyres. Do some research and always buy the latest-generation. The great thing about tyres is when a manufacturer comes out with a new product, it’ll offer an improvement in grip, durability, warm-up and stability. Tyre technology gallops ahead at a rapid pace and never goes backwards. We blind tested these tyres on a 2015 BMW R1200RS.
1st: Metzeler Roadtec 01, £210 (mail order)
Weight: 4.24g front, 6.9kg rear
Tyre temp after test: 30°C f, 32°C r
The Roadtec 01s offer comfort, grip and confidence, and score highly in all elements of our evaluation. The Metzeler Roadtec 01 is hard to fault and offers a high level of overall performance – it’s a stand-out winner.
2nd: Metzeler Roadtec Z8, £190 (mail order)
Weight: 4.44kg front, 7.1kg rear
Tyre temp after test: 32°C f, 36°C r
The Z8s turned the BMW from a neutral handling RS to a sporty S1000RR, such was the extra grip, lightness of the steering and overall stability. A plush ride, a fast warm-up and excellent grip wet and dry.
3rd: Bridgestone Battlax T30 Evo, £210 (mail order)
Weight: 4.3kg front, 6.7kg rear
Tyre temp after test: 33°C f, 30°C r
Although slow to warm up, we had no problem with dry grip or stability. The ride quality wasn’t as plush and comfortable as the Metzelers and has an impression of not having a big fat contact patch to lean on.
4th: Dunlop RoadSmart III, £215 (mail order)
Weight: 4.4kg front, 7.1kg rear
Tyre temp after test: 34°C f, 35°C r
Excellent grip when warm and give the BMW superb straight line and full-lean stability at all speeds. They scored well above average marks in all our evaluations, but ride quality was slightly harsh.
5th: Conti RoadAttack 2 Evo, £210 (mail order)
Weight: 4.2kg front, 6.6kg rear
Tyre temp after test: 32°C f, 35°C r
Their plush construction gives the bike a lovely comfortable feel, which would suit cross continental riding. Lots of grip in the wet. We found the limit of rear grip easily when pushed hard in the dry.
6th: Michelin Pilot Road 4 GT, £210 (mail order)
Weight: 4.2kg front, 6.5kg rear
Tyre temp after test: 30°C f, 36°C r
The Pilot Road 4 is famed for its wet grip. They might have finished last in this nitpicky test, but all the tyres here are at such a high level, you could fit a set to your bike and enjoy thousands of miles of happy biking.
Our top kit for cold riding
Keis X10 heated bodywarmer, £119.99
Featuring three thin, flexible Metal Fibre Element Technology panels at the chest and lower back, the Keis waist coat is ultra-warm but non bulky. Power it directly from the bike via the included cable, or buy the optional battery and charger for £54.99, which will last about eight hours on its lowest setting, set via the optional module (£39).
Gerbing 12V XR12 Hybrid gloves, £159.99
Simply slip these inside your boots and run the wire up the back and revel in having toasty warm feet. Just like the waistcoat, you can wire the insoles directly into the bike’s power supply and link them to other Keis heated items, or you can power them with the optional battery.
Keis Heated Inner Soles, £59.99
Winner of MCN sister publication RiDE’s prestigious Recommended triangle. Great gloves in their own right – warm, waterproof and protective. But when the temperature drops you can plug them into your bike and regulate the heat with the handy controller. There’s also an optional battery.
It’s just cold water! Here’s how to beat the snow
Try to avoid riding in it. But if you have to, stick to busy roads which will have been salted and cleared by traffic. On back roads, assume every corner is covered in black ice. Slow right down and adopt an even more cautious version of riding in the wet. Keep an eye out on traffic ahead to see if they’re slipping and sliding on ice… or have crashed. Sometimes friendly oncoming traffic will give you an early warning of ice ahead. If it all goes wrong and the rear wheel starts to slide, pull in the clutch and stop drive to the rear, it should then straighten up.
Forget carrots, here’s how to ride well in the dark
Some riders actually prefer riding in the dark. It focuses the mind and blots out unnecessary distractions. But some struggle, especially with their night vision. Don’t be too proud to wear glasses if you can’t see clearly in the dark. A clean, unscratched and clear visor is a must, as are clean headlights, even if the rest of your bike is dirty. When you’re riding on unlit country roads dip your lights briefly on the approach to corners, so you can look out for the lights of approaching vehicles. Look as far ahead as your light beam will allow, but knock your speed off as things like gravel, hedgehogs, wet patches and holes in the road will be hard to see and can catch you out.
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