Enjoying your ride whatever the weatherArmani Moffatt
The UK Winter can seem a bit doom and gloom, but there is plenty of fun to be had, be that rebuilding project bikes, riding off road, or stealing that one sunny morning for a ride. However, if the low temperatures and damp roads have taken the fun out of riding, there are a few things you can do for you and your bike to put the sparkle back into your motorcycling.
Step one – prepare your bike
The obvious issues to tackle when getting your bike ready for the rainy months are those of corrosion and cleanliness. There is no shortcut to solving this, just regular cleaning and especially giving your bike a wash before putting it away after a ride on salty roads. Easy enough if you’re just going out for a spin at the weekend, but less practical if you’re commuting every day. There are a few options for corrosion protection sprays; ACF50 and Scottoiler FS365 both help protect your bike. If you have a garage to store your bike in, that’s a massive help and installing a small heater and running a dehumidifier will further reduce the effects of salt and damp on your shiny metalwork.
As important as protecting your bike is fitting the right tyres. Winter tyres are common in the four-wheel world but less talked about on bikes. You don’t need to go fitting a set of ice-racing spikes to your sports bike, but switching out to a set of tyres designed to work in low temperatures will transform how the bike feels on a cold morning. For an examples of a good winter season tyre – check out the Michelin Pilot Road 4/5s. Conversely, trackday-focused tyres like the Michelin Power Cups will do very little to help your confidence on a damp or wet road once the temperature drops below five degrees Celsius.
200hp. That figure, though unthinkable 18 years ago when the first GSX-R1000 arrived, has now become the norm for litre-class supersport bikes. In fact, now even 200hp is seen as a little low, compared to bikes like the Panigale V4 with over 220hp. When the new GSX-R was launched in 2017, 202hp and 202kg were bang on the money for a superbike, but only three years later these numbers are falling behind. What is still dominant about the Suzuki though is its price – the base model can be in your garage for £14,199. Even the ‘R’ version with uprated Showa suspension, cornering ABS, quick shifter and launch control costs only £15,999.
Finally, if your bike doesn’t already have them, treat yourself to a set of heated handlebar grips. It’s really difficult to build confidence and enjoy the ride if you can’t feel what your hands and fingers are doing with the controls. For shorter rides heated grips mean you can get away with thinner gloves rather than enormous winter mittens that make it feel like you’re riding in oven mitts. For longer trips across country, combine winter gloves with heated grips so you don’t end up with frostbite by the end of the first tank of fuel.
Step two – prepare yourself
Once your bike is chill-proof, you need to make sure you are. Proper windproof base layers are the perfect, cost effective solution and are a heck of a lot more effective than the old newspaper-down-the-front-of-the-jacket trick. The next step up in keeping warm is heated kit. Battery-powered systems do away with the need to plug into the bike, but aren’t always as powerful or long lasting. If you’re looking for a long lasting, effective solution, then invest in some good quality heated kit from brands such as Gerbing or Keis and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.
Next on the important list is your visor – keep it clean, and keep a small bottle of visor cleaner and a soft cloth with you so you can give it a once-over before heading home. The less dirt there is on your visor, the less there is to scratch it when you have to wipe the rain off on a dark ride home. Visors fogging up used to be the bane of winter motorcycling, but modern pinlock anti-fog systems have all but ended that problem, provided they’re kept clean and fitted correctly.
Keeping warm is just one side of the coin, the other is keeping dry, although in the UK this isn’t a subject limited to winter riding. The cheapest solution to staying dry on the bike is a two-piece waterproof oversuit (preferably with Velcro or elasticated cuffs) from your local builders merchant – effective, but not all that stylish. As with heated kit, you tend to get what you pay for with waterproof bike gear – budget kit with an internal waterproof liner will only do so much. Generally a separate, outer waterproof layer will be more reliable than a waterproof textile suit, unless you’re buying really high-end gore-tex kit.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on kit and accessories for your bike to make it pleasant to ride in Winter, but a few well-thought-out bits and pieces can be enough to motivate you to ride more and enjoy the winter months, keeping you sharper and ready for Spring.
In terms of sheer riding pleasure, in terms of just getting out there for a blast and enjoying power and agility that was purely the reserve of factory superbike racers when the original GSX-R was launched, the new GSX-R1000 is hard to top. For full details and launch coverage, check out the video on Bike World’s YouTube channel.
#StaySafe, #StayAlert, #StayPositive and keep washing those hands (yes, it’s still important!).