As a motorcyclist, you are vulnerable on the road. There is no doubt about it, you could really do without natural elements making life even harder for you.
However, sometimes you must get on with it and face everything nature throws at you, including the wind.
There is no expert guide on how to ride safely in the wind, but we have compiled a list of the best tips to keep you upright and on your journey when faced with the gusty winds that the UK is known to battle.
Here is our best advice for riding a motorcycle in the wind.
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Prepare your journey
The key to any successful motorcycle journey is preparation.
Sure, there is that huge element of freedom and going where the road takes you, which is all good, but sometimes in adverse weather particularly, a bit of prep won’t do any harm.
A quick google search will let you know roughly what the weather is doing for the day, so you can be prepared for what level of winds you will face.
Comparing that with the route you intend to take will allow you to make sensible decisions about your journey.
For example, if you planned on hitting the motorway for 20 miles but now know you will face horrible side winds, you might want to hit the backroads where the twisty roads will offer you some protection, or you can at least ride slower.
Looking on google maps or other navigation systems will give you an idea of the elevation you will undertake on your journey.
The higher you go, the worse the winds can generally be as you are more exposed; checking the elevation and route, then adjusting as necessary, will save you having a fight against nature for part of your trip.
Of course, if the weather is terrible and the wind is destructive, it may be best to find alternative transport for your journey.
- Check the weather
- Check the safest route
Prepare your bike
Once you have your journey in hand, it is a good idea to check if your bike is fit for purpose.
You should always do your general checks anyway, such as topping up your fluids, checking your chain and brakes, etc. This will be super helpful to avoid breakdowns in lousy weather when simple roadside fixes take twice as long.
When riding in the wind, there are a few more things to think about.
If you have a windscreen, is it fitted properly and height appropriate to offer you the most protection?
It is a good idea to think about what luggage you need and how to carry it when riding in the wind.
Tank bags will add weight up top, and if a side wind hits, the pack adds more mass for the wind to take hold.
Any bag attached to the rear bar on a cruiser or soft luggage piled high on the rear will cause the same issues with the wind hitting it.
A top box can also be detrimental in the wind; if you can avoid using it, then do so; if not, ensure it is securely fitted and locked.
When you know you will be facing some wind, the best thing to do is pack tight and low.
Make sure everything is strapped down tightly, and pack your luggage low down to the main body of the bike, so nothing is sticking up/out that the wind can catch hold of.
Equally, if you ride with a backpack, ensure it is securely strapped to you with no gap between your body and the bag, as this could cause drag.
- Make sure the bike is fit for purpose, top up fluids, and do basic checks
- Strap your luggage down tight and pack it low on the bike
- Avoid tank bags and top boxes if you can
Right, so your route and bike are sorted, now you need to prepare yourself.
The absolute number one best practice with riding a motorcycle, in my opinion, is this:
Don’t panic, stay calm, keep a relaxed mindstate, and focus
Mistakes happen when we lose focus and are too uptight or stressed to be riding.
Unfortunately, mistakes when riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, so it is essential to be focused at all times, especially when faced with difficult riding conditions.
If you are calm but focused, you will be able to react appropriately to the sudden side wind that tries to knock you off course; if you are tense, the chances are your reactions will be jerky, stiff, and not help keep you right side up.
Awareness of the road, other vehicles, and your surroundings are key when riding in the wind.
You need to be constantly surveying your path, planning way ahead, and leaving lots of space in front, and this is where your rider training will be useful for obstacle avoidance.
The wind can cause havoc blowing all sorts of debris across the road, so with plenty of space, time, and awareness, you will be able to avoid anything that could be problematic.
Slowing things down will help you keep calm and relaxed on your journey, knowing you have plenty of braking distance in front of you; there is no need to rush when facing nature. It is a battle you can’t win.
The other thing you need to be aware of is how you are likely to fatigue more quickly.
The constant pressure on your body and head, particularly when faced with headwinds, will cause you to tire.
Cutting down the lengths of your journeys where possible in adverse weather is a good idea.
You should keep your jacket and trouser vents zipped up to stop excess airflow from adding extra strain on your muscles.
For the same reason keeping your helmet visor closed will help and keep your visibility clear. Closing your visor and helmet vents will also reduce the wind noise in your helmet, but you might consider wearing ear plugs too to block out the noise.
Read more ways to make your motorcycle helmet quieter.
Common sense should be applied, and when you have had enough of riding, you should stop, pull over and take a break.
- Stay calm and focused
- Be vigilant
- Know your limits
- Be prepared to slow things down a little bit
Practical Riding Tips
How to handle a side wind
There are a few small but effective ways to counteract those side winds that threaten to steer you to the other side of the road.
- Stick your knee out (on the side the wind is hitting). This will create a shift in the air and weaken the wind’s attack. It also creates a type of sail that will push you and your bike into the wind instead of away from it.
- Lean the bike into the wind by putting pressure on the handlebars on the respective side; this should counteract the wind pushing you in a direction you don’t want to go in.
- Try shifting your body weight into the wind so it is harder for it to push you.
How to handle a headwind
Pretend you are Rossi, tuck your head in, knees and elbows, make yourself as small as possible, so there is less mass for the wind to drag on.
If you have a windscreen/fairing, you want to get down as low as you can behind that and make you and the bike as streamlined as possible.
Be aware that a headwind will slow you down, so if you are on a small bike like a 125cc, make sure you know how slow you are moving in case you are putting yourself at risk from other traffic.
Use other vehicles
Use other vehicles to help you along. This is particularly useful on dual carriageways and motorways where large vehicles create an airstream that you can safely ride behind free from headwinds.
Use these to your advantage, but remember to maintain a safe distance with plenty of time to brake.
If dealing with side winds, it is best to avoid this technique as even cars and lorries can get blown into other lanes in really bad winds.
Overtake at an angle
If you need to overtake in windy weather, give yourself plenty of time and space but most importantly, try to do so at a bit of an angle.
Turning to the right of your lane and back in again, try to cut through the air by angling the bike slightly, so there isn’t a flat surface for the wind to hit against.
Consider your road positioning
Lastly, consider where you place yourself on the road.
This will vary in each circumstance you find yourself in, but for example, if you are being pushed from the right, you will want to place yourself further on the right side of the lane to avoid being pushed into the curb.
If on the motorway, using the fast lane to get past a lorry with the middle lane in between empty will ensure you are out of the lorry’s air force, and it won’t affect you as much.
The wind can be pretty daunting to ride in, but being prepared and combining some of these riding tips can make things a whole lot easier.
Remember, if it feels dangerous and like you are taking a risk, don’t do it. There is nothing to gain by battling on through, and no ride is worth additional risk.