Riding tips: How to ride a motorbike in strong winds

1 of 5

Riding a motorbike in windy conditions may sound daunting, but it needn’t be. If you think about it, riding at the national speed limit on even a perfectly still day produces the same effect as a 60mph headwind.

As bikers, we’re acutely aware of the feeling of strong winds, especially when riding naked bikes or models with less substantial screens and fairings. Smaller and lighter bikes like 125s and some A2-compliant models are also more susceptible to windy conditions than heavy ones, although big adventure bikes have a lot of surface area for the wind to catch, too.

The best advice for riding in strong winds is the same as the advice for riding in any adverse conditions – give yourself plenty of time and space to react if things go wrong.

Riding a BMW M1000R in the wind

The easiest type of strong wind to cope with is a headwind. This won’t particularly affect the bike and will merely give the rider the sensation of riding at a higher speed than they really are. Tucking in a little and bracing yourself is all you need to do to cope with this. If you’re too uncomfortable to ride then find somewhere to stop as the chances are you’ve accidentally ridden into a hurricane (having done this personally, I wouldn’t recommend it).

Tailwinds are easier to ride through but can affect your braking performance if they’re very strong so keep that in mind. A strong tailwind can also play havoc with your helmet vents and you can find yourself getting hot and steaming up unexpectedly.

The most difficult type of wind to cope with is a crosswind. A sudden gust from the side can push you to the side of the road or towards oncoming traffic. Similarly, if you are compensating for a strong side wind and you pass a lorry or a hedge, you can end up veering slightly where the supporting air flow has disappeared.

Riding a Yamaha Ténéré 700 in the wind

While sudden gusts in the open are impossible to predict, you can easily compensate for hedges, buildings, oncoming lorries etc. by looking out for them and pre-empting their effect.

Tips for riding your motorcycle in strong wind

If you don’t think the weather is bad enough to stop you riding, or you really have no choice but to venture out, then there are a few things you can do to help yourself stay safe.

As mentioned before, you need to slow down a little to make sure you can react to sudden gusts or the wind changing direction.

Riding an Indian FTR S in the wind

Jettison any luggage you don’t need and load what you can onto the bike rather than you. A rucksack will act like a sail and you’ll feel like you’re being blown off your bike in strong crosswinds so use panniers or a tankbag instead if you can. You’ll want to carry as much weight as you can low down to minimise the wind’s effect, so top boxes are also to be avoided. If a rucksack is the only option, then just take extra care.

Stay loose and fluid on the bike. It’s tempting to tense up in tricky conditions but this is the worst thing you can do. If the bike gets blown sideways and you’re stiff as a board, you’ll go with it. Keep asking yourself if you’re as relaxed as you could be and shake your arms like you’re doing the funky chicken every now and then to make sure (seriously, it works).

It’s very rare for the wind conditions in the UK to be so severe that you can’t get out on your bike, but if it is a blustery day, think about the route you’re taking. Best to avoid wooded areas where trees could fall in your path, for example, or the top of the M62. The best advice is to go with your gut instincts and don’t let yourself get caught out.