Riding a motorcycle in certain windy conditions isn't recommended, but sometimes, you can't avoid it. Tailwinds, crosswinds, headwinds and other conditions can create a hazard for motorcycle operators, especially in Florida during seasons of unfavorable weather. Don't purposefully go out on a ride if you know the weather will be bad, whether that's excessive rain, wind or both.
For those times when you're already out and about, you need to know how to ride a motorcycle safely in windy conditions. We have tips and suggestions for staying safe if you do find yourself out on a ride when the wind picks up.
Riding Techniques for Windy Conditions
Whenever you ride a motorcycle, there's going to be wind as you're driving in the open, but when external windy conditions come into play, you need to take extra precautions. You should follow these motorcycle safety tips regardless of the weather, but in windy conditions, they'll help keep you safe:
- Secure loose items: From clothing to saddlebags, anything loose on your motorcycle can become a risk to catch in the wind. That'll create drag and more surface area for the wind to catch, and the wind will have more of an effect on you. Make sure everything is secured tight and won't flap in the wind, whether it's external or from driving.
- Leave the bags behind: While baggage is useful, it isn't always helpful in the wind. Saddlebags, backpacks and other items create more surface area for the wind to push against, meaning your bike may move around more in the wind. If you must bring these items, remember to secure them or use small baggage.
- Wear the right gear: You should always wear protective eye gear when you ride, whether it's windy or not, to maintain visibility. Make sure your eye protection fits well and is secured to or around your head. For extra safety during windy conditions, wear a full-face helmet, and don't forget to wear the appropriate clothes to combat wind chill.
- Give yourself a break: Battling windy conditions can lead to fatigue much quicker than riding in normal conditions. Driving in the wind puts a strain on your body as you control your bike and your mind as you determine how to ride. Take a break if you feel sore or tired.
- Know your abilities: If you're new to riding or don't have much experience operating your motorcycle in the wind, try not to go out in extreme conditions. Read up on how to be safe and take any motorcycle classes that will help teach you the safest way to ride.
- Adjust your mirrors: Certain wind conditions may move your mirrors. Even if the wind doesn't reposition them, if you need to shift in your seat, your mirrors won't be in the right spot. Adjust them if you need to and always be aware of your surroundings, especially when it's windy.
- Focus around wind blocks: Tractor trailers, other large vehicles and corridors through buildings and trees will momentarily block the wind. While that may be a relief, you need to prepare for when you ride past or out of the wind block and encounter windy conditions again. Stay calm and focus through these areas.
Take those precautions if you find yourself in the middle of a ride and conditions get windier or if you plan to go out in conditions that may get somewhat windy. Knowing how to ride in specific types of wind will also prepare you for plenty of situations.
Riding in Tailwind
Tailwind is considered one of the easier conditions to handle on a motorcycle. Still, it helps to know how to ride one safely in these situations where the force of wind comes from behind the bike. Here's what you need to know about driving a motorcycle in a tailwind:
- These conditions will push you along, increasing your speed.
- Tailwind is often beneficial for gas mileage.
- Give yourself more stopping distance than normal because tailwind will push you a bit.
- Tuck your body in and make yourself smaller to minimize how much the wind can push you.
- Watch your speed based on traffic, other road conditions and the speed limit.
Your main concern with a tailwind is your speed, so be sure to stay within your comfort zone. Slow down if you feel out of control and stop for a bit until the wind subsides. Remember that tailwind can shift to crosswind or headwinds, so prepare for any possible conditions, especially if you're on a winding road with turns as the wind will shift.
Riding in Crosswind
This wind can come from either the left or right side. Of the three types of wind you may encounter, crosswind is the most difficult to combat. The danger here is being pushed to the sides, but with the right technique, you can counter the crosswind:
- Use your knees: Turning your knee in the direction the wind is blowing creates a sort of sail. With that, the wind won't push your bike as hard, and you can counteract the conditions. Remember to use the leg on the side the wind is coming from — right leg for right crosswinds, left for left crosswinds.
- Shift your weight slightly: Shifting your weight a bit to the side that the crosswind comes from can help minimize the effects. Do this carefully since you don't want to disturb your balance, favoring one side of the motorcycle seat that's on the side the wind is affecting.
- Lean into it: Lean your bike slightly towards the direction the wind is coming from to counteract how it's pushing you. Again, do this carefully as it could alter your balance.
One of the most essential things to do when driving in a crosswind is not to panic. Keep your body loose and relax your grip while still maintaining a hold on the handlebars. On open roads, prepare for the occasional gust as buildings or trees won't be there to block much of the wind. If conditions seem too dangerous for you and your abilities, find a safe place to stop until the wind dies down.
Riding in Headwind
You may be used to headwind as that comes from the front, and you experience some level of it as you ride anyway. When there is windy weather, you could experience more of a headwind than you normally would. To ride your motorcycle in a headwind, you should minimize the area that the wind has to push against, which you can do by following these tips:
- Ride low — behind the windshield is best.
- Keep your legs and arms close to your body or the bike.
- Maintain your speed as a headwind will slow you down.
If you feel that you can't safely operate your motorcycle with headwinds holding you back, wait it out or take an alternate route but prepare for different conditions. Going slow in headwinds may hold up traffic behind you or create unsafe situations. You also shouldn't overcompensate for your speed as you may run into an issue when the wind eases up or comes from a different direction.
More Tips for Riding a Motorcycle in the Wind
Prepare for the specific situations above, but know that conditions may change as you're on the road. Some extra tips will help you know how to ride a motorcycle safely in windy conditions. Before you plan a ride or when you're out, take these precautions:
- Check weather conditions before riding your motorcycle.
- Don't go riding if you know the conditions will be bad.
- Double-check future conditions if you take a rest stop.
- Always wear the proper gear regardless of the weather.
- Choose a fitted helmet in a sleek shape that won't catch the wind.
- Make minor adjustments to avoid overcorrecting.
- Keep both hands on the handlebars.
- Know how to ride in rainy conditions, as well.
Make sure you're also aware of your surroundings. If trees or cars and trucks ahead of you seem to be swaying, there will probably be gusts ahead. Fallen branches and other debris blown onto the road are also a potential hazard in windy conditions.
Is There a Motorcycle That's Best in the Wind?
You probably hope that there's one definitive bike out there that can withstand the wind, but there isn't one perfect model. Different bikes have various pros and cons for riding in the wind:
- A larger, heavy bike will be more resistant to the wind, but because it's larger, it has more surface area for the wind to push against.
- A small, sleek bike will catch less wind than a larger bike. Because it's lighter, though, the wind could still push a smaller bike.
Choose what you're most comfortable riding for the best experience. If you're comfortable on a bike, you may experience less fatigue overall and feel more at ease, even if you have to ride in the wind.
Is There a Safe Lane When It's Windy?
Just as there's no one answer to which bike is safest in the wind, there's no answer for a safe lane. The safest lane to use with any situation depends on:
- The layout of the road itself
- Road conditions
- Weather conditions
If the wind is unpredictable or you're driving through an area with wind blocks all around you, you can stay in the center of your lane. Staying in the center when crosswind comes from the left and the right will help ensure that you don't drift into another lane or the shoulder.
Evaluate the situation and choose what seems to be the safest lane in the moment. Be aware of your surroundings, and remember that you may have to go in a different lane based on the traffic or potential road hazards.
How Windy Is Too Windy to Ride a Motorcycle?
Just because there's a breeze outside doesn't mean you have to stay off your bike that day. There's no one right answer to the maximum wind speed that's best to watch for when riding. That'll depend on:
- Your experience
- Your comfort level
- The weight and size of your motorcycle
- Other weather and road conditions
Some weather conditions come with high winds, and in Florida, this is especially a concern. Avoid driving in these conditions, which the National Weather Service puts out warnings and watches for:
- High wind warning: The National Weather Service warns drivers to slow down and keep both hands on the wheel with a high wind warning. Winds in this warning are powerful enough potentially to damage property, so being on a motorcycle isn't always safe in these conditions.
- High wind watch: A watch means windy conditions are possible, so avoid going on a ride or seek safe shelter if you're out on your bike. Other weather services may issue this warning as high wind advisory, where wind speeds may be around 30 mph or higher.
- Severe thunderstorm warning: Winds during a thunderstorm can reach around 58 mph or higher, making dangerous conditions for vehicle drivers and motorcycle riders alike. Combined with rain and wet roads, these weather conditions aren't safe for a motorcyclist.
- Severe thunderstorm watch: There's the potential for thunderstorms in your area with a watch, so avoid going out or get home as soon as possible to avoid extreme weather conditions.
- Gale warning: Avoid gale-force winds while on your bike as they can be between 39 to 55 mph. The National Weather Service typically issues these to areas near the coast where open water and open areas can be at risk for higher winds.
- Hurricane-force wind warning: Again, this warning happens near the coast. With gusts or constant winds around 74 mph, you won't want to be out on your motorcycle or in a vehicle during these conditions.
Under a wind advisory, the threat is not as severe as the above conditions, but you could still be at risk. Practice the safety tips above and try to get home or to safe shelter to wait for the wind to stop.
Get Your Bike Serviced at Peterson's Harley-Davidson®
Use the tips above and your best judgment to stay safe on your motorcycle. Whether it's windy or not, you need to prepare yourself with the right gear and make sure your motorcycle is in optimal condition. At Peterson's Harley-Davidson®, our certified technicians take pride in getting your bike ready to ride again, from tire and brake pad replacements to complete fluid changes and plenty of other services.
Get your bike ready for just about any condition with a visit to one of our service centers in Miami. Trust us to take care of your motorcycle and have you ready for the road.