The dangers of low wind chills in winter motorcycle riding
Your jacket is insulated, your gloves are warm and cozy, and those socks keep your feet toasty. It’s February, and it’s extremely cold outside, but you think you’re adequately prepared. Before you confidently hop on your motorcycle, it’s important to learn about low wind chills and how they can affect riding.
First of all, there are two types of wind chill: the type experienced by your average person (the one you see on the morning weather report) and the one experienced on a motorcycle. The latter is much lower.
Physical effects of wind chill:
When you ride your motorcycle, the wind on your bike causes moisture to leave your body. As a result, heat leaves your body. The faster you go, the greater the wind chill. And since riding doesn’t require a lot of physical activity, you stay relatively still. This means you don’t generate any new heat to warm your body up. This can lead to extremely bad outcomes in a short amount of time, even if the outside temperature is above freezing.
If you reference the chart, you’ll see that if the outside temperature is 40 degrees – eight degrees above freezing – and you’re riding your motorcycle at 60 miles per hour, the wind chill is a bitterly cold 25 degrees.
Now let’s look at what can happen if you’re riding your motorcycle when the wind chill is that low. For starters, there’s hypothermia.
There’s a good chance you might only think of hypothermia as something that happens to hikers who get lost in the mountains of Alaska for days on end, but that’s a wrong assumption. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that hypothermia can occur in temperatures of up to 50 degrees.
The truth of the matter is that hypothermia occurs when your body temperature dips below 95 degrees, which can certainly happen on a motorcycle in the middle of winter – especially if your clothing is wet or your hands, feet, and head aren’t adequately covered.
It’s important to be aware of this risk and know the signs of hypothermia, which include:
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
Be aware of these symptoms and cease riding immediately if you experience any of them. Hypothermia is not something you want to mess around with, as it can lead to serious outcomes including cardiac arrest or death.
It’s also possible to get frostbite in extremely cold wind chills, although temperatures typically need to be well below freezing for that to happen. This is fortunately not something that typically happens in South Carolina.
However, if you find yourself wanting to go for a ride in a much colder state, keep in mind that a wind chill value of -25 degrees (which could be achieved if you’re traveling at 55 mph in 5-degree weather) means that frostbite is possible in just 15 minutes.
It goes without saying that accidents could occur if you’re affected by an extremely cold wind chill in the ways mentioned above, or if you simply become so cold that you’re less able to control your bike and respond quickly to hazards. As for the heavy winds themselves, it takes just one Google search to come across motorcycle accidents – sometimes fatal ones – caused by high winds.
Despite the potentially scary combination of low wind chills and motorcycles, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to neglect your beloved bike during the winter months. You just need to be sensible about the amount of time spent on your motorcycle and the clothing you wear.
Remember to cover all exposed skin when riding in the winter months. There is a wide range of special gear available which is designed to protect you against the elements. Although such items aren’t cheap, they’re worth every penny and are a great investment that can last a long time. As with anything, you get what you pay for when it comes to motorcycle gear.
You should always wear a hat while riding, along with layers of clothing – including a waterproof outer layer. For a more high-tech option, consider purchasing heated clothing that runs off your motorcycle battery.
Doing these things can help keep you safe and comfortable on your motorcycle, but remember that you should never be afraid to cut a ride short if needed. The open roads aren’t going anywhere, and there’s no shame in postponing your plans.
A seamless, fun, and safe ride should always be the goal, but things can happen on the road that are out of your control. If you find yourself the victim of a motorcycle accident caused by someone else, call the experienced motorcycle attorneys at Mcwhirter, Bellinger & Associates at 888-353-5513. We can give you a free case evaluation, determine whether you are owed damages, and fight aggressively to get you the compensation you deserve.