Motorcycling: 12 tips for cold weather riding on the West Coast

Britt Santowski gives riders some helpful information for year-round riding, as summer creeps to an end and Canadians highways stay tasty.

Throttle therapy specialist

Throttle therapy specialist

As the days grow shorter and the shadows creep in around us sooner, many riders will be putting away their motorcycles for the season.

Way back, when my knees were younger and my endurance stronger, I used to ride year round. For those of you who still have the knees and the knack, here are a few helpful hints for winter riding on the West Coast.

Never ride in the snow

That’s just dumb, if you’re on a two-wheeled motorcycle. A motorcycle is a single-track vehicle. Meaning that if you hit a patch of packed snow, your upright advantage will be all-too-quickly modified. And you won’t have a say in the matter.

Get heated gear

A heated vest is like a hug from the sun, even on the coldest, wettest day. The (ancient) one I have only has two setting: plugged in, or unplugged. Having experience with this one, I’d recommend you look into buying one with a switch and a range of settings.

Heated equipment

If you’re serious about riding year round, you might consider installing heated grips and a heated seat. Hot paws and snug buns. I didn’t have any of that when I was riding year round a thousand years ago. I had an office with a heater. I’d close the door and melt for three hours. Heated equipment would take the edge off.

Winter riding gloves

Get them. Some have a suede top on the index finger. When I first got mine, I thought to myself, “What a handy-dandy visor wiper.” It only took until my first runny riding nose to realize what this soft cover is really for. After which you’ll never use it on your visor again. It smears.

Slick silk

Invest in a pair of silk socks and gloves to wear as lining, underneath your regular socks and gloves. Silk acts as an excellent insulator for heat.

Foot gear

Make sure it’s water proof. Pack plastic bags if you must. I once rode quite stylishly through Newfoundland with grocery bags sticking out of my boot tops. Yes, I rustled in the breeze, but hey, I still have all my toes.

Head glove

It’s called a balaclava, and it makes you look like your about to commit a criminal act. Wear one under your helmet.

Stay hydrated

Hot beverages are nice. AND they force you off your bike periodically so you can, um, see a man about a horse. Frequently.

Be aware of black ice

This is a tough one, because black ice is essentially invisible. Also, don’t fall under the misconception that black ice only happens in below-zero temperatures. What matters is not the temperature of the air, but the temperature of the road. Well-travelled roads are often warmed up by previous travellers. Freezing rain and an overnight frost are good indicators of considering another mode of transportation. If at all possible, ride behind another vehicle, in their tire tracks. Let them discover the black ice for you.

Be extremely cautious of bridges

Bridges are the first places to freeze. Double that if the bridge is in the shade. When in doubt, turn around and go back from whence you came.

Make the weather forecast your new religion (if you haven’t already as a rider).

Be seen

The sun drops far too early, and the winters here are grey and dark. Wear retro-reflective gear.

Bring a change of clothes

Should you arrive at your destination wet, you’ll be thankful you can ride home dry.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

The University of Victoria has said some of its students were impacted by an off-campus exposure to COVID-19 last weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria students impacted by off-campus COVID-19 exposure

UVic has not specified where the exposure occurred

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Cleanup happens after an overnight flood Monday damaged areas of the Oaklands Community Centre. (Facebook/Oaklands Community Association)
Greater Victorians offer flood of support to Oaklands Community Centre

Blown hot water tank Monday night leaves staff cleaning up soggy mess

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read