While many seasoned motorcyclists see the onset of winter as a time to hang up their leathers and winter their bike, others remain unperturbed and look forward to embracing the crisp and bright days that only these months can provide. But the British weather can be more erratic than ever at this time of the year, potentially dangerous and at the very least inclement. So, if you are intending to use your bike during winter months, now more than ever is the time to ensure your bike is in tip-top shape. After all, the last thing you want to face are expensive repair costs or an unexpected breakdown in the middle of nowhere in dark and freezing conditions. So, let’s see what’s out there in terms of repair tips and breakdown advice.
Avoid Breakdowns with these Tips
Well, first and foremost ensure your bike is in tiptop condition. In so doing, you will avoid breakdown and expensive repairs. It is, after all, fine to take your motorbike out during winter months and certainly beats long cold waits at bus stops, so long as your bike is safe and common sense prevails.
In terms of checks you can perform yourself; an easy mnemonic is: T-CLOCKS: Tyres, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, Stands and drive chain – we will look at these in a bit more detail below. That said, battery and brakes are also paramount to the safety and functionality of your bike at any time of the year, but particularly during winter months, so be sure to include them in your checks. Cold temperatures slow down the chemical reactions in a battery necessitating more current to make it function properly. So, ensure your battery is fully charged – especially if it has been standing for some time – and consider plugging it into a trickle charger over protracted periods of non-use. Additionally, make sure that terminals sit tight and apply a dab of grease to prevent water ingress.
Brakes can seize up when a bike is not in regular use and pads may stick to discs due to salt corrosion from riding on gritted roads. Before you set off, check your bike rolls freely – if it doesn’t and you are confident enough to do so, check and clean the pads and discs. Exposed caliper brakes are, of course, particularly susceptible to road salt at this time of the year. Check them frequently and clean as often as possible to avoid any – or further – salt corrosion.
Before you set off, check your tyre pressure: tyres take longer to heat up in cold weather and cold tyres on cold surfaces provide less traction than hot on hot. In a similar vein, be sure to check your tyre tread. Tyres need an especially good depth at this time of the year to improve traction and deal with the hazardous conditions of rain, leaves and ice on the roads – and to provide additional safety should a low-lying sun suddenly blind you and necessitate emergency braking. Remember that braking distances are increased by up to ten times by winter conditions, so think ahead and keep more than your normal distance from the vehicle in front of you. You may indeed be perfectly safe on your bike, but you cannot vouch for the driver in front of you and whether they exercise similar levels of caution.
Checking other parts and components on your bike will entail some careful and thorough cleaning when the weather is at its worst. Whilst the temptation may well be to take a pressure washer to your bike to dislodge mud, slush and ingrained dirt, DON’T! Pressure washes can cause damage to delicate machinery and will wash out all lubrication from chain links shortening the life of your chain. Water will also seep into electrical connectors and components causing all sorts of problems. Use cold water, not hot, and take it slowly, checking for any wear or damage as you clean. Once you’ve finished, go back and lubricate everything, paying particular attention to bare threads, gear lever tie rods, chain adjusters and wheel spindles. Make sure that your chain is adjusted correctly. And, having cleaned, dried and lubricated your prized bike, consider applying an anti-corrosive spray to metal parts to create a barrier between your bike’s surface and the salt and water spewed up by the roads.
If you are confident performing these checks, hopefully you’re good to go and have evaded expensive repair bills thus far. That said, no-one can vouch for their first or next breakdown so be prepared, particularly when days are short, nights long and temperatures are freezing. Always have an emergency kit with you: water, food, a torch, emergency triangle, first aid kit and maps of your route. Of course, have your mobile phone with you and make sure it’s fully charged but remember you may well be the back of beyond and without a signal if you do break down. And without the shelter of a car from the elements, you’ll need even more so to be kitted out appropriately: leathers, waterproofs, helmet visor demister, winter gloves, warm and reflective clothing and a Hi-Viz jacket. But don’t be foolhardy weather-wise. Check the forecast beforehand and avoid setting off if it’s snowing or forecast. As much as you may yearn to embrace the experience and thrill factor, don’t: accidents are just as likely to happen as breakdowns and never more so than when the weather is unpredictable and vile.
Get Started with Venhill
We hope the above has given you some insight into how to avoid bike repairs and breakdowns and has given you some confidence as regards to using your bike through the winter. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t go out and enjoy the open road if you’ve performed these checks – and of course have reliable and adequate breakdown cover for that unexpected eventuality. But do exercise care at all times, particularly when surfaces are slippery, visibility is poor and you’re thinking about overtaking.
If you are going to perform maintenance checks and repairs yourself, be sure to invest in high quality tools and components. For motorcycle cables and components, browse our online shop here at Venhill.