Riding a motorcycle in cold weather presents serious hazards that all riders should be aware of. Even in warmer states like South Carolina, winter hazards can affect how you ride, and lead to an increased risk of crashes.

This time of year is rife for accidents and injuries, but by taking proper precautions, you can ride your motorcycle safely throughout the season. If you have been in an accident due to winter conditions, contact the South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm.

Cold Weather Dangers for Motorcycle Riders in South Carolina

Winter poses specific hazards for motorcycle riders that aren’t problems the rest of the year. These issues can cause riders to crash or lead to accidents involving other drivers. Some common cold weather hazards include:

  • Ice Accumulation

Even though snowfall is rare in South Carolina, ice can still form on roads, especially on bridges and overpasses. Black ice, a thin coat of transparent ice that drivers can mistake for water, is especially hazardous for motorcycle riders.

When crossing over black ice at high speeds, a vehicle’s wheels lose traction with the road and may spin out, causing the car or motorcycle to leave the road or hit other nearby vehicles. Unfortunately, sand and salt spread on the road in winter months can impede braking and also cause riders to lose control.

  • Fresh Road Cracks and Potholes

Asphalt roads expand and contract with rising and falling temperatures in the winter season, which can cause cracks to form in the surface of roads. Fresh, unrepaired cracks may appear when temperatures drop, which pose a severe hazard to motorcycle riders.

Even if you are riding on a road you know well, be extra vigilant for new cracks and potholes that can throw you off your bike and cause an injury.

  • Inexperienced Winter Drivers

Winters are mild in South Carolina, so many drivers aren’t familiar with or comfortable driving in icy conditions. These drivers may not realize they need to start breaking sooner, drive slower, or pay more attention to changing road conditions.

They may also not give motorcycle riders enough space to stop quickly, or may drive erratically, creating unsafe driving conditions for other road users, especially motorcycle riders. Their negligent driving can lead to accidents, and riders should be extra cautious around other drivers this time of year.

How Cold Weather Affects Rider Reflexes

Cold temperatures affect how you should ride your motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle involves finer motor control than driving a car, and cold weather slows the muscles in the legs and arms. This makes your physical reaction time slower when applying the brake or throttle in the cold.

While it may be just a second’s difference in reaction time, that second could mean the difference between successful braking and a crash. On cold days, give yourself more space and time when accelerating, braking, or shifting gears.

Motorcycle riders should keep a three-second distance between their bike and the vehicle in front. During the winter, extending the distance to four seconds can give riders adequate time to brake, adjusting for slower winter reflexes and slippery conditions.

You also need to modify your braking technique. The front brake on a motorcycle provides up to three-quarters of the braking power. While you should always use both the front and rear brakes to come to a stop, braking too hard with the front brake on a slippery surface can cause your bike to skid.

Always squeeze the brake lever gently rather than grabbing it. If you have a brake pedal that activates both front and rear brakes, consult your driver’s manual for proper cold weather braking procedure. 

Mechanical Issues for Motorcycles in Cold Weather

Motorcycles are machines that operate differently in the cold. Many motorcycles are considered 3-season machines and are not optimized for cold weather conditions.

Lubricants and hydraulic fluids change behavior in cold weather, often becoming more viscous. This could affect the performance of your motorcycle.

You need 4-season tires to ensure a proper grip on the ground. Regardless of your tire type, the internal pressure decreases by approximately 1 PSI per 10°F drop in temperature. This will change how your motorcycle steers, breaks, and accelerates, making for a different riding experience.

Consult your motorcycle’s manual to understand how to properly winterize your bike before the first frost of the year. This can help you understand the maintenance needed for cold weather and give you ample time to adequately compensate for different riding characteristics.

What to Wear When Riding in Colder Weather

The biggest dangers for motorcyclists riding in the winter are frostbite and hypothermia. These conditions can easily affect riders, particularly if there is any rain or snow.

Wear multiple layers of clothing to adapt to changing temperatures and prevent sweating, which can lead to hypothermia. Wear insulated riding gloves on your hands and choose a base layer made of moisture-wicking materials. Your outermost layer should be waterproof and padded or made from leather to provide protection in case of a fall.

Contact Joye Law Firm After a Motorcycle Accident

If you have been in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault in South Carolina, you may have a right to pursue compensation. The experienced attorneys at Joye Law Firm can review your case to determine if a negligent driver or poor road maintenance led to your injuries. Our motorcycle accident attorneys will help you understand your rights and seek a fair settlement from the party who caused you injuries.

Contact Joye Law Firm today for a free case review, or use our online chat feature to ask any questions you have about your motorcycle accident.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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