Motorcycles Are Out Already: Safety Tips for Early Riders

Record high temperatures mean motorcycles are hitting the road in February. But some winter hazards remain.

Brian Snelson / Wikimedia Commons

I enjoyed a spirited romp through some curves with a rider on a Ducati 1098 this morning. While this isn't unusual in and of itself, look at the calendar. It's February. I live in New England. Yet temperatures hit the 70s on Tuesday and are expected to do so again on Wednesday. Record-high temperatures are inspiring people to wake their motorcycles from their winter slumber a couple of months early.

It's tempting to hit the road on two wheels early, but you should be aware of some of the hazards that still exist at this time of year. You should check your tire pressures regularly anyway, but it's absolutely essential to make sure they're set properly after the bike has been sitting for months. A once-over of the entire bike is a good idea to make sure it's ready to hit the road.

While it's unlikely that any snow or ice remains on the road, the sand and grit used to treat them still is. Without a heavy rain to wash the roads clean, dirt patches could lie around any blind corner. And the salt used to melt ice can begin to melt your bike unless you wash it off after your ride.

Potholes are another hazard that abounds this time of year. Even cars can suffer from flat tires and bent rims from hitting them. While it's an inconvenience for cars, hitting a pothole could cause a motorcycle crash. Even if highway departments patch them, they may not do a very good job since asphalt doesn't cure properly at temperatures under 50 degrees.

But don't let any of this dissuade you from hitting the road and enjoying some fresh, warm air. Just tone your ride down a couple of notches from what you'd ride in the middle of summer. Not only will this help you avoid road hazards, it'll also help your mind get back into the rhythm of riding, which it's been out of since you put your bike away for the winter months ago.

As Hill Street Blues' Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say, "Hey, let's be careful out there."