When riding your motorcycle in windy and gusty conditions can add additional challenges to your safety and constant effort to keep the motorcycle in line. Your motorcycle moves around in ways you’ve not felt before or in ways not predicted. Wind and wind gusts seem to drive your motorcycle off the path of travel you’re riding. All this is easily controlled. And it may seem that wind is unpredictable, and indeed it can be, but these tactics on how to ride your motorcycle in windy and gusty conditions will have you riding in the wind like a pro.
Many riders I coach have imaginings about what they think will happen to them while riding in windy conditions. Some riders FEAR they’ll be lifted up and swept off the road into the ditch. Yes a buffeted-bucking bike can seem frightening. But your motorcycle is solid on the ground as long as you, its rider remains calm and in control. You can be your own worst enemy. Many mishaps are due to rider panic – when a rider has surrendered to their condition and just given up control. Remain calm and really, just enjoy the ride.
Lane Positioning and Wobble Room. Add a bit more spacing between yourself and other vehicles. In windy conditions you will need a bit more “wobble room”. On a multi-lane section of road, traffic may dictate one side of the lane or ride in a particular lane to stay away from big trucks, counteract crosswinds, or stay safe around other traffic.
Route. When riding along and the wind picks up, consider re-routing your journey. Even if just riding to work, try adapting your route so that it’s a more sheltered. Riding along in the country side, staying down in valleys is better than going over hilltops. Roads with hedges or surrounded by forested areas are far easier than a road along open country.
Push Steering to Hold Your Path of Travel. When a gust of wind alters your bike’s path it is necessary to get it back on track right away- and this is your simple push-steering method. So if the wind from the left pushes the bike towards the right, push-steer on the left handlebar. In many cases you might need to apply a constant pressure on the left bar to battle the effects of a crosswind from the left.
Read The Wind. Learn to read the wind. Clouds, flags, trees and grasses –even the direction cow’s stand (they like their backs to the wind) are all good indications of which way the wind’s blowing. Expect when you’re riding amidst or around large trucks that you’ll experience a push a “bow wave” of air.
(Bow wave: progressive disturbance propagated through a fluid such as water or air as the result of displacement by the foremost point of an object moving through creating a gust will push turbulent air around the front and downwind.)
So when you’re approaching an oncoming truck be prepared for expected buffeting, until you’ve passed each other. And if overtaking a truck anticipate the “bow wave”. Trucks can push a lot of wind around them that can either seemingly suck you in towards them or push you away.
Wind Blocks. Large trucks, buildings, hills, and mountains, etc. will shield you from the wind temporarily, but can create wind tunnels when you ride out from behind them. Buildings and landmarks can definitely give you a rush of air as you ride out from behind or alongside them.
Avoid Fatigue. The extra energy you’ll use to battle through the windy conditions will certainly tire you. You may also experience some muscle fatigue in your hands and arms – even your head and neck. Fatigue is a danger to every rider so add a few more rest stops during your ride. One every hour minimum. Be sure when you rest to get off your bike and get out of the wind.
Eye Care. Protect your eyes. Dirt, grit and sand will be picked up by the wind – which too a motorcyclist can be blinding! Depending in the environment you ride amidst, there could be other things such as plastic bags, and small objects. Other vehicles will also contribute to flying road grit. Be sure to protect your face and eyes to block off incoming debris in your helmet. With the added windy effects your eyes will also become quite dry. Try to lubricate with artificial tears during one of your breaks.
Cargo. Tank bags and saddle bags can add areas that wind can catch on. Saddle bags will have you feeling an extra drag in a headwind or tailwind as air moves around the motorcycle. You have a similar effect with a crosswind as it hits you from either sides. Be prepared to control movements on the motorcycle with some of the aforementioned tactics. And be sure your bags are properly zipped, closed and fastened. The wind has a tricky way of unfastening motorcycle cargo!
Weather. Goes without saying – be sure to check the weather forecast and what direction the wind is coming from and speed. If conditions are challenging you can be prepared, such as selecting a route that will be less likely to have the wind. Or perhaps choose to stay home, especially if you don’t have much riding experience.
Let’s take a look at each of these scenarios and determine how to ride safely in each
Crosswind: Wind Blowing Across Your Direction of Travel
Crosswinds will have a dramatic effect on your riding. They can blow from the left or right and easily push you around in your lane. The best way to handle a crosswind is to loosen your upper body relaxing your grip and don’t panic. Squeeze your knees into the bike, keep your elbows close to your body and crouch down to a point that is comfortable. If you have a windscreen, ride behind the windscreen as best as possible. You can lean the motorcycle in the direction of the crosswind to counteract the effects. This is again done by push-steering using a slight pressure on the handlebars in the direction of the crosswind.
You can also try to counterweight the bike in the direction of the crosswind. With a crosswind coming from the left, you could adjust your sitting position to the left side of the motorcycle seat which will move your body weight slightly to the left.
Headwind: Wind Blowing From Directly In Front Of The Motorcycle Opposing Forward Motion
Headwinds are a little easier to deal with on a motorcycle than a crosswind. The whole objective with a headwind is to reduce your frontal area that the wind can push against. It’s best to ride low behind the windscreen and front fairing and tuck your arms and legs in close to the motorcycle. Be as streamlined as possible and reduce the friction of the wind against your body.
If you don’t have a windscreen to tuck in behind, slouch down in your seat as low as possible and lean into the head wind. A headwind will slow you down, so be cautious that it doesn’t compromise your safety – ensure you travel at the traffic speed limits indicated.
Tailwind: Wind blowing In Your Direction of Travel; Wind blowing From behind The Motorcycle
Tailwinds may be the easiest to ride in – hence the expression “may the wind always be at your back”. Tailwinds come from behind the motorcycle and can actually cause you to ride a little faster than you intended. They’re and added bonus to gas mileage, but will require a little extra attention to your stopping distance since they push you forward. You will want to ride in a similar position to a headwind, low and tucked in. Be sure to check your speedometer! These winds can cause you to ride too fast for traffic or road conditions. And always ride within your own comfort zone.
Is One Type Of Motorcycle Affected More By Wind Than Another?
There is a lot of debate and personal opinion about what type of motorcycle is best or worst for riding along in windy conditions. Are heavier ones better? Do lighter ones suffer? Minimal or full fairing?
All of those options factor into how the motorcycle rides in a windy situation- but the most important factor, no matter the type of size of the bike is …YOU!
Wind is unpredictable and no condition is the same as the other. This means that your best approach is to understand the cause and effect, prepare yourself, stay calm and work through the situation to the best of your ability.
Eventually with more experience and practise riding your motorcycle in windy and gusty conditions will quite simply be – a breeze!