If the snow starts to fall, it doesn’t mean that you have to park your dirt bike in the garage and wait a few months to ride again. One of the advantages of owning a dirt bike is that you can easily prepare it for winter riding with just a few modifications.
To prepare your dirt bike for winter riding, you need to modify the tires and the engine, since these will be affected the most by the snow. You can also install grip heaters and wear gloves, a balaclava, and wool socks, but you also need to adapt your driving style too.
There are also a few things to consider when it comes to safety. In this article, we will explain everything that you need to know when it comes to modifying your bike for winter riding, along with tips to stay warm and safe when riding in the snow.
When it comes to preparing your dirt bike for winter riding, replacing or modifying the tires is absolutely essential. People usually think that if their existing tires are in a good condition, they can handle the snow as well as they handle the dirt. However, this just isn’t true.
Tires for winter riding are basically the same as regular tires, but they have studs in them for better traction.The studs stick out around 6-8 millimeters, which improves the grip on frozen ground. These studs make it easier to control the bike, minimizing your chances of slipping and sliding around.
However, snow tires can get quite pricey, which is why most riders choose to make their own. The good thing is that you don’t have to be a mechanic or DIY professional to stick studs into your existing tires.
But what studs to choose? According to professionals, the best studs are between ⅜ and 1.5 inches long. If you stick longer studs in your tires, you can potentially puncture the tubes of the tires. On average, you will need 4-5 bags of screws for both tires.
However, some people complain that their tires get damaged on the inside when applying your own studs, while others say that their screws fell off while riding. So, it’s a bit risky to try and do this yourself if you don’t have much experience with modifying tires. So, it’s often a good idea to just play it safe and buy winter tires.
Another crucial thing to consider is the motor of your bike. You don’t have to buy a new one, but you do need to add some extra parts. That way, you’ll keep the motor safe from the wet snow and keep it in good condition for the summer.
The first thing to consider is the carburetor. Since you will be riding in the snow, you definitely want to cover the sides of it. This will prevent it from freezing when the snow reaches the area around the carburetor, which often happens when riding in thick snow.
If the carburetor freezes, it can easily lead to fuel starvation or a stuck throttle. In both cases, you will have to stop riding immediately. A good idea is to zip tie a few plastic covers around it, which will make for some decent insulation around the carburetor.
If you’re riding a two-stroke bike, make sure that your air-fuel mixture is rich. This will help the engine work better in cold temperatures. If you are riding in deep snow, make sure to watch for the snow buildup in your airbox, otherwise the filter will freeze.
You should definitely install grip heaters. The bike doesn’t need them to operate, but they will help you keep your hands warm, ensuring you have good grip on the bike. When your hands get cold, it can be quite difficult to operate the front brake, throttle, and clutch. The extra warmth that grip heaters offer can be very helpful.
Another good piece of advice is to apply electrical tape to the clutch and brake. When riding in snow, metal can get quite cold, which makes your fingers cold really quickly. Also, make sure not to keep your bike in the cold for too long because the engine can easily freeze, ruining your day of riding.
Safety is something that you should always consider when riding, no matter if it’s in snow or not. Some riders have experienced hypothermia and frostbite, which is not something that you want to happen.
Hypothermia occurs when a person is exposed to the cold for too long, and the body is no longer able to produce sufficient heat. Then, it starts to pull blood away from the surface level of the body to keep the vital organs at the optimal temperature. If it gets too cold, hypothermia can be fatal.
To prevent hypothermia, make sure not to ride for too long, even if you don’t think it’s too cold. Also, make sure to wear clothes that will keep you warm. We’ll talk more about riding equipment in the next section.
Frostbite happens when your bare skin is exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period of time. Depending on the temperature, it might happen after 15 minutes, or after a few hours. The problem with frostbite is that it happens progressively and isn’t very noticeable at first.
At first, the skin begins to be red, but eventually it becomes hard and pale. To prevent frostbite, make sure that your body is completely covered.
The gloves that you wear when riding in the summer are not enough for winter riding. You should buy gloves intended for cold weather, which have a thick exterior, but thin palm. That way, you will get enough heat without compromising comfort and grip.
When riding in the snow, or just general cold weather, wearing thermal underwear is a great way to stay warm. Just make sure that the underwear that you buy is intended for sports so that you don’t feel uncomfortable while riding.
Although you can buy a casual winter jacket, a heated one is a much better solution. You can find heated jackets that work on 12 volts and provide the extra temperature that you need. However, you need a 12-volt outlet installed on your motorcycle to be able to use one of these, and they can be a little expensive.
For winter riding, you should consider a special helmet with minimal front-end ventilation. As the air is already so cold, you’re not worried about overheating and therefore don’t need as much air flowing through your helmet. You should also buy goggles that fit perfectly and minimize the airflow. Some riders also wear a neck guard that minimizes the air that enters your helmet and jacket too.
Don’t Wear Too Many Layers
Beginner riders usually make the mistake of wearing too many layers. This can lead to internal sweating, and the moisture can lead to becoming colder and unable to retain the optimal temperature. You should have approximately two layers under your riding equipment, as any more can lead to excessive sweating.
We strongly advise you wear Gore-Tex boots while riding in the snow. Keeping feet warm and dry will allow you to ride for longer. Also, make sure to replace your boots if they are worn out, as snow, much like rain, will easily find its way through holes in your boots.
Just like in the summer, you should warm your tires before riding in the snow. Cold tires provide less grip and warming them up will make a huge difference. A short and slow ride on a quiet road will do the job.
When riding, you can easily lose your sense of time. If exposed to the cold for too long, you can get frostbite or hypothermia, which is not a nice experience. That’s why you should always carry a watch and limit your riding time to three hours without a break at the very most.
Riding in the snow can be quite difficult, which can easily lead to dehydration due to the extra effort required. On cold days, people tend to forget to drink water, so make sure to bring a bottle with you. Dehydration also affects your concentration and energy levels, so it can be very dangerous if you’re riding.
Don’t Ride With A Cold Bike
When riding in the winter, make sure to start your bike in advance. Simply let it run on idle for a couple of minutes and it will reach the optimal temperature. You will notice a significant difference in performance, and also, the bike will run much smoother versus if you try to start out in the cold.
Off-road riding in snowy conditions can be fun, but riding on the street can put you in different situations that you might not be able to handle. When riding in the snow on the road, it’s easy to forget to adapt your driving style. For example, you need to drive slower and not brake aggressively, as you’ll end up sliding on the ice.
Another thing that can reduce traction is salt on the road. Not only does salt cause corrosion to your bike, but it can also put you in danger if you don’t notice it in time and suddenly lose traction.
Not only does cold weather affect your fingers, reducing your dexterity and ability to react quickly, but it also affects your brain.Most people tend to associate hypothermia with physical effects, but it also affects mental sharpness. It can lead decreased awareness and therefore be very dangerous in busy situations.
One of the options when it comes to winter riding is to turn your dirt bike into a snow bike. With just a few additions and adjustments, you will get a snowmobile with the power and look of a dirt bike. However, it can be quite pricey.
It’s hard to find premade snow bikes – you will probably have to make your own. There are many kits that you can order online, which basically replace your wheels with tracks and turn your bike into a snow bike. Depending on the quality, a snow bike kit can cost between $1500 and $8000.
One of the most noticeable benefits of snow bikes over snowmobiles is the weight. Due to the lower weight, a snow bike is much easier to steer and provides better handling than a snowmobile. Also, snowmobiles cost much more, so buying a conversion kit can be a nice investment if you already have a dirt bike you don’t mind converting.
Modifying your dirt bike for winter riding is not that difficult. Just make sure that you buy or make studded tires, since they make a huge difference to the handling of your dirt bike in the snow. Also, make sure you stay warm and hydrated, as riding in the snow can be very physically and mentally demanding.