As many parts of the UK have been hit by extreme weather, driving conditions have become increasingly difficult and dangerous for motorists.
This is especially true for those on motorbikes who face the even harder task of having to contend with low visibility, icy roads and blizzards on two wheels.
While drivers are being urged not to travel unless they absolutely have to, some journeys are essential.
If you do have to venture out on your bike in these extreme conditions, it is crucial to plan ahead and proceed with caution at all times; here’s our guide to safe biking in the “Big Freeze”.
Get kitted out
Make sure you are properly equipped for riding in cold weather by being warm – and being seen.
It’s worth wearing a winter biking kit which offers better protection from the elements.
“If you’re not wearing the right clothing, your body will suffer and your concentration will be impaired,” says Paul Green from Saga Insurance. “Spend as much as you can afford to on quality kit, and remember that layering your clothing can be warmer than wearing one thick layer.”
Prepare for your journey
Once you’re correctly kitted out, spend a few minutes checking the weather forecast, travel news and safest routes.
Allow extra journey time to avoid having to rush, and accept that you may arrive at your destination later than planned; also try to avoid travelling at dusk or in the dark.
“Caution is vital,” says Simon Douglas from the AA. “It’s far better to delay your journey and arrive safe but late.”
Inform someone of your intended route and time of arrival, and carry a winter driving survival kit, including mobile phone, torch, water bottle and first aid kit.
Give you bike the once-over
Before setting off, clear away any ice and snow that has formed on your bike.
It’s also worth performing a quick overall inspection of your motorcycle ahead of riding it to avoid becoming a victim of breakdown.
This should include the tyres, controls, lights and battery, chassis and chain, and also the kickstand.
“Wipe down the saddle in rain and snow, and checking the foot-rest rubbers to help prevent wet boots from slipping,” says Green. “Also take the time to wipe over the headlights regularly to ensure maximum visibility.”
Stay safe on the road
Biking safely in ice or snow is about reading the road ahead and anticipating danger.
Once you’re on the road watch your speed, and only drive as fast as the conditions allow – remembering that stopping distances are significantly longer in ice and snow.
Take care not to accelerate or brake suddenly as this can cause the wheel to lock; also take corners very slowly and steer gently and steadily, rather than with jerky movements to avoid skidding.
Try to keep your bike straight and stay in the safest part of the road wherever possible; where possible, aim to keep to the main roads, as they are more likely to have been gritted.
Black ice is another hidden enemy at this time of year.
“The road simply looks damp, and it’s often too late before motorists realise there is ice between their tyres and the road,” says Douglas. “But you’re almost completely helpless once a slide starts.”
In difficult driving conditions, it is crucial to stay alert and be prepared for the potential actions of less responsible road users.
Make sure you keep an adequate distance from the vehicle in front at all times, and take particular care to look out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists – as well as other drivers.
Check your cover
If you have no option but to hit the roads on your bike in icy or snowy conditions, make sure you have adequate insurance in place.
Comprehensive breakdown cover is absolutely crucial at this time of year – to avoid being stranded in the cold – so check your policy and remember to take your breakdown phone number on all journeys.