Winter Training For Motorcyclists

Winter Training

Happy New Year!    For New Year’s, let us resolve that… wait – we’ll come back to that.

For those who live in inclement climes, choosing to “hibernate” your motorcycle at this time of year is a personal choice based on experience, money, time, and what you really enjoy. Or a no-brainer if you’ve not yet moved from a place like Minnesota like I did! Even if it is possible, there’s little reason to ride all winter long if you don’t enjoy the cold and the wet, assuming you don’t have to ride as transportation. You can park the bike and pretend to be interested while the rest of us regale you with what we think are fascinating stories of winter rides…

However, not riding doesn’t mean your motorcycle “year” is either over or has yet to start, as there is much to be done even off the bike.  Let’s take a look at your needs, from the motorcycle to gear to body to head.

Motorcycle:    First of all, if you choose not to store your bike, make sure it gets ridden once in awhile. Sounds obvious, but it’s easy for days, weeks, and then months to slip by while your bike sits patiently, pining away for you while subsystems gradually and gently run down the battery, fuel turns to sludge, and cylinder bores drain their lubrication away.  At the very least you need to start the bike once in awhile and let it get fully warm to heat up the exhaust system and inhibit rusting from the inside out.  Does it need to be mentioned you should open the garage doors for this? Even then…

 Pause for a funny story. At one time I owned a Muzzy Raptor, a barely-street legal and very exotic sport bike converted from a Kawasaki 750 by the Muzzy Racing mavens in Oregon. They made 53 of them in 1997, and I was fortunate enough to purchase #52, brand new, in 2001, from the dealership I worked for at the time.  A fellow flew in the next day from Utah and wanted to purchase #53. As it had not been prepped for sale, we drove to my house so he could sit on mine and hear it run. A Muzzy Raptor had flat slide carbs and a full titanium exhaust system, among other “ooh and ahh” goodies, and he and his wife and I enjoyed watching the pipes change color as my new bike warmed up, It had all of 13 miles on it.  Once warmed up I could blip the throttle and the light flywheel would send the engine zinging up the rpm band, while my garage was filled with terrific music. As the revs dropped, the combination of the flat slide carbs and the radical tune shot flames out the exhaust that were three feet long.  Cool!  We repeated this a few times, and then drove back to the store so they could buy #53. Everybody was thrilled with the whole deal – except my wife. I did have the garage doors open, but the Muzzy kicked out so much exhaust, and it was so rich when blipped and not under load that I had filled the garage and my entire house with the pungent aroma of half-burned high octane fuel.  Do not do this!

Now for the favorite golden oldie song sung by every dealership service department:  “Winter is an excellent time to schedule a routine or major service for your bike. It’s easier to make an appointment, the techs will not be as rushed as in the summer, and it might even be cheaper.”  For an example, check the Ride West BMW web site ( for winter service specials.

Gear:              Don’t simply plan to do this – schedule a day or at least an afternoon to make sure it gets done.  Perhaps a basketball game on the radio will provide a pleasant backdrop.  Actually make a physical list of every piece of motorcycle apparel and gear you own (even camping gear). Assess its condition on a scale of #1 – 5, and make notes of what needs to be done, if anything. For some of you this will take awhile!

 I think you’ll be amazed to discover most of the following:

a.         You own more gear, apparel, and equipment than you thought.

b.         Some of it is in need of repair

c.         Some of it needs to be replaced.

d.         You did not store your camping gear as well as you thought you  did     last summer.

 I won’t soon forget the time I did gear inventory and discovered the tent ground cover tarp that had not been folded neatly and stored in the basement catchall room as I presumed. It was still rolled up in the stuff sack where I had left it 3 months earlier – wet.  My wife was not pleased with that one either, although I refrained from pointing out that the Muzzy exhaust smelled much better.

Once you know what you have, you can make sensible plans for repair or replacement, instead of purchasing items you may not need.  I have learned this, or should have, several times.  By spring you should be able to “thin the herd” at the Ride West spring swap meet and garner sufficient funds to replace what needs to be replaced. That is where my new helmet came from.

 Body:                        Winter is the best time to take better care of your body. In  the summer we’re busy enjoying motorcycle rides and other outdoor pursuits, but winter months present a chance to do more than make a resolution – take action!  Some of you are skiers and snow board people who get a lot of physical action that way, but is it really helping you over the long haul?  Depends on the person and the frequency, etc.  You can go for hikes and other activities. In my own experience, even though active all year around with teaching and parenting and coaching several sports, I did not really see improvement until I began to visit a gym when I was not coaching in it.

 The regulars at the YMCA where we work out a 5am a few mornings a week notices when January comes. What we refer to as “resolution members” begin to pop up – those who got a membership either as a gift or as part of a resolution to lose weight or get in better shape. Alas, their numbers gradually decline to the almost empty exercise room of December. While not an expert, my own efforts in this realm have taught me a few things.

a.                  Excuses and self-lies can be effective. I started working out much more often when I entered the motorcycle business. I convinced myself I needed to lose weight and be in better shape if I was to be ready to ride any motorcycle anywhere at any time.  Not sure it was true, believing it gave the impetus to get going and keep going.

b.                 It is MUCH easier if you have a workout partner. Could I spring out of bed at 4:02am by myself? Doubtful, and I know my wife could not. Between the two of us we can – more often than not.

 c.                  Don’t be too hard on yourself. If not a manic physical fitness adherent, you don’t “have” to work out every day. Mornings after a late meeting or event the night before – we sleep in.

 d.                 Anything is better than nothing.  A doctor friend told me that a 20 minute walk every day is equally as successful at lowering high blood pressure as medication – but most people choose the medication!  My daily “workout” would be described by my tri-athlete son as a “light stretching session.” We’re both correct. Horses for courses and all that. He can run 12 miles easily. I do not even want to.

 e.                  Be realistic. I’m not going to be asked to pose for the cover of a romance novel, and there’s no history to indicate that I would have the discipline and willingness to create a really spectacular physique.  But I’ve made significant improvements from where I was.

 f.                    Mornings are best if you can. Working out before you go to work will get your metabolism up and churning away, and your workout will continue to benefit you for hours.

 g.                 Consistency is more important than pounds or reps. Working out to whatever degree I choose three times a week maintains my weight at a sort of mildly pudgy  (there’s a word for this: “Fubsy”), and allows me to eat and drink pretty much whatever I want. One killer workout a week would not.

 Head:   Winter brings days that are better spent inside unless you’re truly committed.  A good time to pick up that book on how to travel for months on the road, or how to do your own maintenance work, or even books for pleasure with a motorcycle theme. I can provide sample titles of books you might enjoy – even beyond my own!  J  Winter is also be the time to pay close attention to the Ride West Thursday seminar series, which offers classes, lectures, and slide shows on almost every facet of the motorcycle experience. They’re scheduled over the winter months on purpose.  Somewhere in the two dozen of them is information you want and need, presented in a friendly and low-key manner. Perhaps this is the time to take a Maintenance 1 or Maintenance 2 class from Puget Sound Safety, some of which are held at Ride West.

 Last, I like to devote some time each winter to motorcycle fantasy – trips I want to take but may or may not be able to. The Edelweiss catalogue (Ride West usually receives a case of them) is a favorite, or perhaps a Moto-Quest calendar or a Destination Highways or other travel book. Maybe plot out a tour with visiting relatives who can rent a BMW from Tour USA. Even thinking about motorcycle riding can be of benefit to you when the road turns real.

Whatever you choose to do, make it a definite choice to do something, and make it your choice.  Don’t just sit and mope waiting for spring. Take positive action.

 That’s a resolution anyone can keep.


Copyright 2012                                                                   David Preston

About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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