It Ain't Easy When It's Breezy
When it starts to get windy out there, keeping your bike on your desired line gets to be a bit of a challenge. While we can't completely avoid the effects of a good wind gust, there are a few things that we can do to help mitigate them.
As TractionWerks Moto Guild’s Cornering 101 graduates know, our motorcycles are fairly stable once they're moving. Sure, they might move around a bit, but they have a habit of righting themselves and continuing on in their original direction.
When a motorcycle gets unstable, it's because riders tend to introduce instabilities, and we do so with the handlebars. Want the bike to lean to the left? Simply steer to the left by pushing forward on the left handlebar. When you're done steering the bike will maintain that lean angle until you alter your speed or give it another input with the bars.
Riding well in the wind isn't much different from riding well in good conditions. We want to minimize unwanted disturbances to the bike. To help with that we can do three things that we should be doing anyhow:
Hold on to the motorcycle with your legs. The handlebars are for control inputs, and unless you can really grip that seat with your buttocks, you should have a firm grip on that gas tank with your thighs. We want to have a firm connection to the bike to support our core and stabilize the motorcycle so we can...
Relax! Stay loose on the bars. If your hands and arms get sore from riding, chances are that you are holding on too tight. Motorcycles are designed to keep the front wheel pointing in the direction of travel. Bar inputs cause the motorcycle to lean. If your upper body is getting pushed around by the wind, being tight on the bars will convert those little body movements into bigger bike movements through unintended bar inputs.
See the Big Picture. Look far ahead of the bike. Trying to maintain lane position is difficult when you're only looking a second or two in front of you. Every slight shift seems like a big deviation. If you look well down the road the little shifts don't seem as significant. You may feel that you don't need to correct, or if you do, you don't need to correct as much.
** Bonus Tip - if you tuck in on the bike, and keep your upper body low, the wind will have less to push on. You'll also move closer to the roll center of the bike which will further reduce the effects of a good gust.
Riding in the wind can be daunting, and it takes some of the fun out of riding. Use the opportunity to try these suggestions and see how they work for you on windy rides. It's a great opportunity to further refine your riding skills. These skills and many others are covered in Cornering 101. And after that, there’s Cornering 201!