Tips for Riding in Windy Conditions
Travel blogger Shawn Voyage recently published an article in which he lists St. John’s, Newfoundland as one of the windiest cities in the entire world. A great place to live if you have a penchant for flying kites perhaps, but not so great a distinction if you’re a motorcyclist.
Wind can be scary, particularly a crosswind where the wind is hitting your bike side-on. Of course as luck would have it, the TCH runs roughly east-west across the island and our prevailing wind is south-west so when travelling in Newfoundland we are always dealing with crosswinds. If anyone is authorized to dole out advice about riding in windy conditions, it’s someone from the Rock. So here in no particular order, are some tips to help the novice rider combat the ever-present wind factor.
1. If it’s really windy, don’t take the highway
First of all, you need to realize that high winds are actually dangerous, and the faster you’re travelling the more dangerous it is. Most riders here can recall a scenario where they were actually blown into another lane on the highway. Check the forecast and wind conditions and if it’s supposed to be really gusty (like above 70km/hr or so) it’s best to avoid the highway and any roads like the Witless Bay Line that are known for wind.
2. Keep your speed down
If you find yourself wrestling with crosswinds, you may figure it would be best to try to get where you’re going as quickly as possible, just so you can get a break from it. That would be a mistake, as speed is not your friend in windy conditions. Try to keep to the speed limit, and don’t pass unless truly necessary.
3. Try to relax
This is very hard to do, especially for inexperienced riders. Don’t keep a death grip on the bars, relax a bit and try to get in touch with what the bike is doing. This will enable you to react quickly to keep the bike heading where you want it to when you get hit with a gust. Don’t forget to use the strength in your core and your legs as well! When a strong wind gust hits you, immediately counter-steer to correct for your change in direction. This essentially amounts to riding down the highway at a lean while going straight.
4. Try to predict the gusts
If you’re riding through a forested area and you are coming up to a pond or lake by the side of the highway, you can bet that there will be wind funnelling off the pond. Be prepared to counter-steer. This is a situation where the novice rider should ride behind the more experienced rider – it can help the novice to better predict a wind gust.
5. Give each other wiggle room
It goes against the standard “staggered formation” pattern, but when you’re riding in windy conditions – especially unpredictable gusts – it’s best to give yourself and your fellow riders room in case you get blown off-course. If the gusts are hitting you on your right, stay in the right portion of the lane to give yourself a buffer zone.
6. Know your bike
Every bike reacts a little differently to wind. While lighter bikes tend to get pushed around more, I’ve seen Gold Wings fly around like a feather in the breeze. Large fairings can act like a sail, and a normally sedate bike can take on a different personality when fully loaded for touring. Other factors that affect a bike’s handling in wind are rake, wheelbase length, front wheel diameter, and centre of gravity. Handling in windy conditions was a major factor in my decision to buy a Vstrom 650. Its long wheelbase and 19″ front wheel makes it more stable in wind than its competition.
Have I missed any good tips?
Ride safe all!
Posted on March 16, 2015, in Behind the Visor and tagged climate, motorcycle safety, motorcycle touring tips, motorcycle travel, newfoundland travel, riding tips, Weather, wind. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.