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Top Tips for How to ride in snow

For some, winter limits the bike to being a garage-based ornament. For others, a ride in snow is a necessity. If you’re in the second group, read on.

IN the UK we really cannot avoid winter. Our tiny (in comparison) island has a micro-climate all of its own, meaning, for the most part, riding all year round will mean meeting some sideways rain, snow and ice at some point. If you aren't sure who to ride in snow, this article is for you.

But don’t think this means you have to tuck the bike up in garage through. Spring is a long time away, and a wintery ride through the snow can still be a rewarding experience, if it’s done correctly. Before you attempt any form of riding through ice, snow or wintery weather, you must first check your bike is ready for the task. To do that, check out our guide to preparing your steed for winter.

For everything else, see below.

How do you ride a bike in snow?

To go through the specifics of snow riding, lets break this down into some different types of snow – yes, there are a few!

How do you ride in fresh snow?

Fresh snow can be best described as virgin snow, as if you are the first vehicle to travel along that road. There are no tyre tracks and the surface is smooth and soft and crunches under foot.

First off, this is actually one of the better types of snow to ride on, as long as you can see the sides of the road and any traffic furniture that is. The reason for this is that as you ride over the surface of the snow, it’ll get compacted under your tyres, filling the grooves within the tyre in process. Moulding the snow in this way will provide slightly more grip on the surface than riding on already compacted snow.

How do you ride on already compacted snow?

This could best be described as a snow-covered road that has already seen traffic. There are clearly defined tyre tracks where car’s and traffic have driven.

When confronted with this, it can be two easy to head to the already driven tracks left by other vehicles but that might not be the best choice. The compacted snow in the tyre tracks can become polished and almost as slippery as sheet ice and once you are in a tyre track it may prove tricky to get out of it! If you can, make for the centre of the road and use the fresh snow in the centre. Just take extra care if you must cross over any tyre tracks at junctions and roundabouts.

How do you ride a motorcycle in slush?

The gritters have now done their work and the bulk of the snow and ice is clearing. You’re now left with a slushy, wet and grey road to progress along. Riding on slush has one main advantage over compacted snow, as the bike’s tyres might be able to cut through the melted snow, contacting the road surface beneath. There is a negative through, any areas that didn’t feel the full force of the gritter could be hiding a motorcyclist’s winter nemesis – black ice. As with any other riding of this kind, proceed with caution!

Picture: Sebastian Ballard

Top snow riding tips:

Get in the right gear!

Freezing to your core is never a nice feeling, it also makes your body tenser and less able to accurately react to messages from your brain. Wear your warmest gloves, textiles, and boots. Zip the jacket and trousers together to prevent any draughts and layer up beneath them. A cheap set of thin woolly gloves under your winter riding gloves might seem like a good idea, but for this kind of riding you need a deft touch. Heated gloves of grips (or both) is a better option.

Head here to check out our guide to buying the best-heated motorcycle clothing.

Get in the correct gear!

No not clothing, your gearbox. For snow riding, you want to be in the highest gear you can possibly use at any given time. Doing this will suppress the power and torque of the engine and help prevent the bike from spinning up. If you can, try pulling away in second gear using low revs and slipping the clutch.

Take a seat

When riding off road and in mud, it’s best to be standing on a bike, not so much on snow. Keeping seated means your legs can easily and quickly come to your aid should you need them – and the chances are you will at some point

Loosen up

It’s hard to relax when riding in snow as it’s such a precarious situation but being tense will only make it worse. Loosen your shoulders up and keep a bend in your elbows. It’s easier said than done but makes a big difference to the amount of control you have.

Know where you’re going

Last-minute changes of direction are not advisable when riding on any kind of snow. Know your route and take your time. If you miss your turn, you’re better off riding around the bock then trying a U-turn.

Don’t mix it up

Riding a motorcycle in the dry is a complex thing to do, it’s just that after practicing for so long, your brain converts it all into precise and well-balanced reflex actions. Riding in snow is different, you don’t want to react to things, you want smooth, controlled actions. Plan for the road you can see ahead of you. When a corner approaches, slow the bike gently while in a straight line. Take the corner slowly and don’t be scared to trail one or both legs at your side. Only when the bike is out of the corner and in an upright position should you begin to increase speed again – not forgetting the rule about high gears!

Any amount of braking pressure applied with even the slightest amount of lean angle could result in you dropping it. The same goes for acceleration. Opening the throttle with lean on the bike – even with the trickest traction control (which is generally calibrated for normal wet or dry conditions) – could result in the rear spinning up and sliding out from under you.

A Quickshifter might not be the best option

If your bike has a quickshifter, it may be best to clutch-shift normally. The act of feeding the power back in on the clutch is smooth and will upset the bike and the tyres less than a quickshifter’s mechanical brutality.

Everything takes longer in snow

Stopping, accelerating and cornering will all have to be approached in a slower, calmer and more measured way. If following another vehicle, keep at least double the distance back than you would in the wet. Start braking twice as early as you normally would.

Keep your visor clear

Don’t make the act of riding in the snow any harder than it needs to be! Keep your visor clear and mist and snow-free. Invest in a breath guard and fit the correct Pinlock for your lid. Keep you bonce warm too, a thin balaclava under your lid will help keep the winter chills at bay and will aid concentration.

Leave the Supercorsas in the garage

They won't heat up, they won't clear snow and they won't provide much more grip than a slick! Some decent adventure bike tyres or even deeply grooved and fairly new touring boots will be 100% more suitable.

Check out our complete guide to getting your bike ready for winter here.

Be bright

Hi-vis isn’t cool or sexy, but in a snowstorm, it will massively increase your chances of being spotted by another road user. Even some reflective stickers on your lid are better than nothing. The other vehicles on the road will take longer to stop, let’s give them more chance of spotting us so they can start braking earlier.


A cheap set of thin woolly gloves under your winter riding gloves might seem like a good idea, but for this kind of riding you need a deft touch.

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in Vancouver BC, we get hit with snow even in summer, specially up in the mountain pass, you have to be ready for everything, always wear leathers, and windshields are a must . Ride safe ;)

Also, you should invest on a visor that could help on avoiding fogs and dirt as well. might be pricey but it'll be worth it in the long run.

The most important factor for gaining traction in the snow is tire pressure. A fat bike specific low pressure gauge (#ad) is a great investment. Fat bikes run tire pressures of less than 5 PSI. This allows for some built in shock absorption, as well as more surface area that is in contact with the ground. This rule is also in effect with (skinny) bikes in snow.

Fat bikes are best for this stuff, but if you aren’t in powder or packed snow, it’s a challenge even on a fat bike. You can ride any bike through 4″ or so of muck, but it’s going to be very slow and quite slippery. The faster you can go through muck, the better you are going to fair.

These are really helpful tips! Thanks so much for writing this.

Please make note that for riding like this you need firm ground. Previously frozen or previously dry. If there has been mud on the trails and we get 2″ of snow on top of that DO NOT RIDE. You are only causing damage to the trail.

This is really helpful!! Thanks for sharing some great tips.

Thanks a lot for sharing with us so useful tips to ride in snow. I would like to share it with my co writers at Resume Folks.
Lauren, Resume maker.

Here in Michigan we even have snow in May! It makes it very difficult to ride a motorcycle for half the year! I've read a lot of articles on this topic but this one is the most informative and helpful! Thank you very much and keep posting great stuff like this!
- Victoria with

Wow, it's really very helpful for me. Thank you so much for sharing this blog with us.

Have tried to ride in the snow in the past, it is no joke. Lots of fun though. Greatly appreciate the tips on how to perform a successful ride.
Corey Z. -

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