Winter Traction

Well we got our first major snow for most of the area but that certainly won't hold back some folks from riding once the roads clear up through the winter season. With that, we thought it may be a good time to toss out a couple reminders to keep ourselves safe pertaining to traction and winter riding.

Our tires give us the traction we need to help stabilize the motorcycle at speeds. You need to keep in mind that the contact area of where the tire meets the roads is approximately 2 square inches or less per tire, certainly not a lot of area. This is why it is important to make sure when we head out for that brisk ride our tires are ready for the task, starting first with tire pressures. We have been dealing lately with outside temperatures that have been ranging a difference of 20-30F degrees or more; this can have a major effect to our tire pressures. We need to remember that inaccurate tire pressures are the number one reason for tire failure.

As much as your pre ride preparation should include the TCLOCS procedure; checking your tire pressures is extremely important any time of year, but even more now because of the increased chances of pressure reduction due to the cold weather. Check your pressures when the tires are cold (not ridden) and inflate them to the recommend pressures that can be found in your owner's manual (do not go by the maximum pressure rating that may embossed on your tires or noted on the manufacturers stamp tag by the neck of the frame - those ratings are overall pressures, and may not indicate operating pressures. If you do not have OEM tires, you can easily find a website for the tire maker and get the information needed. Proper inflation not only relates to traction quality but for every 4PSI underinflated tire, you could lose up to 80lbs load carrying capability; so handling may also be affected.

Tires also need to be at an optimal temperature to achieve full traction capabilities.
Depending on your speed and outside temperatures you may never get your tires to that temperature; so slow down (especially at the start of the ride) and keep this information in mind because it can not only affect your movement but cornering and braking capacities.

Road conditions related to weather are another villain of traction theft to be aware of. If there was rain or precipitation the day or two before your ride and temperatures are freezing or below when you head out, there may be a chance for Black Ice to develop. The same can happen if we have snow along roadways and a day of a warm up that melts the white stuff and another freezing day following, again watch out. Also keep in mind that it takes the ground/roadway longer to warm up than the atmosphere. You can have a temperature above freezing yet still have conditions where moisture will freeze on the roadways. If you ever encountered the sensation of black ice while driving a car, imagine how it would feel on a vehicle that is requires balance and stability - from past experiences I can tell you there is no sensation of joy involved.

Then there is the sand and salt to deal with. Due to their granular physical properties the salt and sand on the roads can definitely cause issues with traction with starting, stopping, cornering and overall handling. Over time the debris will slowly move to the roadsides or lane centers from normal traffic, but there is always a good chance of residue in your ravel paths to be aware of.

In the event you find yourself on a road that is snow covered; some suggestions would include riding through the fresh portions of the snow. Areas that have been packed down from other vehicle tires can be even slicker to deal with. Also consider your gear choice; while we may understand and sudden or jerky movements could have an effect we rather not want, keeping the bike in a gear that is less torque when adjusting the throttle could prevent a rear tire spin out. If dealing with the snow id too overbearing of stress for you to deal with (which is understandable), call a flatbed tow truck to get you where you need to go or to an area with no snow. The cost could be a lot less than what could be associated with a bad outcome.

Keeping ourselves warm and protected is another key, but that just may be another topic to review in the future so we don’t fill the page up too much this time. While winter riding does have its unique experiences and fun, it also has its share of risks. Always make sure that you and your bike are ready for the ride and if you ever have any doubt - leave it parked. Stay Safe & Warm out there!

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Empire State Motorcycle Safety Education Program, Inc(ESMSEP) is a not for profit, 501(c)3 outreach education organization group of like minded motorcycle safety enthusiasts working towards the goal of promoting motorcycle awareness and the benefits of rider education through FREE informational seminars at libraries, adult continuing ed programs, dealerships, club/group meetings, rallies, etc. Our primary goal is to present the information to licensed motorcycle operators as to the importance of continuing rider education, but our information can also be extremely useful for newer riders as well. To date, there is no one in NYS that presently addresses what we do..

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