Here we are. Already a quarter of the way through the year and in the southern hemisphere, were entering our winter period. We are all bracing ourselves for the cold weather that will almost certainly arrive this year as a result of over-generous rain this past season.
But unlike our northern biking brothers and sisters, 'down-south' we don't generally hibernate our bikes and cover them waiting for better conditions. No, we prefer to ride them in spite of the cold and we relish the expectation of freezing mornings and comfy fireside evenings. But riding in cold conditions poses its own set of risks to bikers, and perhaps we need to remind ourselves of some of these to ensure a safe and enjoyable winter filled with riding.
Firstly, the cold weather saps your energy while you are riding. Over-and-above the physical effort it takes to keep yourself upright in strong winds, the wind and cold sap your energy levels and can result in drowsiness and even exhaustion. Dehydration not only happens in hot weather and in fact, it is often missed and mis-diagnosed in winter with some unhappy consequences. Stay warm by layering your kit, hydrating and taking regular stops. And for those that have the latest mod-con's, use your heated grips and seats to maintain body heat under freezing conditions.
Then it's snow and ice and the risks these bring. Snow is awesome on TV and from a distance, but riding in it is not one of my favourite pastimes. Avoid wherever possible and if you can't, take it very slowly and find cover as soon as you can. Ice on your bike and on the parking space around the bike is inconvenient and often a source of great mirth among friends, but black-ice on our roads (particularly at higher altitudes and in mountain passes) can be deadly. Reading road conditions - and expecting changes, will keep you upright and save you lots on repairs and hospital bills. Accidents happen suddenly and not all of them involve another vehicle, so be aware of your surroundings and of unexpected road conditions.
If you live in a winter rainfall region, the combination of all three conditions makes life particularly interesting. Again, dress for the weather and watch the road. With our roads deteriorating badly in some regions, hidden potholes and even wash-aways are a common challenge in winter and the chances of an 'off' are so much higher than usual.
Check your tyres and make sure you always carry your mac and a change of gloves and socks. Wet gloves or frozen feet in sub-zero conditions are not for the feint-hearted, so rather be safe. Bikes also stand for longer periods than in summer (we don't all like cold weather riding) and thieves don't only operate in the warmer months, so check your bike regularly by starting her up and where necessary, connecting your trickle-charger to keep the battery in optimum condition.
And lastly, protect yourself and your bike by fitting an emergency, theft-prevention and tracking system that lets others know where you are in an emergency. In cold weather, a simple fall can become life-threatening if no-one knows that you have fallen or when you take that unknown road that leads to a situation in which you can't recover. We also tend to avoid going into the cold garage to check on our bikes when it gets really cold and thieves know this. With the technology available today, there is no reason to take unnecessary risk with your bike or your life.
But above all, enjoy your riding. After all, we're real bikers down here and not afraid of a little cold or rain. Or are we..?