MCN Fleet: Learning to enjoy winter riding with the V-Strom

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I’m proud to be an all-year-round rider. Britain’s winter might throw crappy weather, greasy roads and that lovely salt-laden sludge that seems to get just about everywhere at us, but there is still no better way of getting from A to B than on two wheels.

However, I’m ashamed to admit that once the weather turns, while I’ll commute to work or use the bike to get somewhere, I don’t tend to go out for the fun, spontaneous blasts I can’t get enough of in the summer. Part of it is laziness – I clean the bike after every ride in the winter so the fewer times I go out the fewer times I have to clean it! But it’s not just that; I’ve never been too confident on cold greasy roads so I tend to stick to my trusty motorway commute.

That system went out of the window last week, though… I was riding to our office in Peterborough and all of a sudden traffic grinded to a halt. Smug grin on my face, I began to filter through the stationary traffic, but when I reached the front of the queue I’d find blue flashing lights and a copper directing traffic off at the exit with the road closed ahead…

Forced on to the twisty B-roads I’ll often choose over the A1 in the summer, I was able to realise my apprehension about enjoying a ride on greasy winter roads was largely unfounded.

Away from the bleak motorway commute, the V-Strom 650XT came into its own and I was reminded why it is I ride. Despite the three-degree temperature and slightly damp conditions, it felt like the bike was on rails. The Pirelli Angel GT tyres I’m running this winter are so good in the wet and don’t take long to warm-up even in the coldest of temperatures, filling you full of the confidence you need when riding in tricky conditions.

The V-Strom’s three-stage traction control system worked wonders. I’ve been running it on the highest setting through winter, for added confidence more than anything else, but as I began to push on as I enjoyed the ride more by the mile, I found it a little intrusive so flicked it down to the lower setting which allows the rear to spin a little before reigning it in. I was grinning ear to ear… 

It felt so good to get the v-twin motor singing properly for the first time since winter hit and with the sun shining down there was nowhere else I’d rather have been, so it’s a shame I was already half an hour late for work! 

Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing