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The Truth Behind Cold Tire Accidents (and How to Avoid Them)
For many Texas riders, winter is an ideal time to get out and coast without the brutal summer heat beating down on long rides. As enjoyable as winter rides are, they can mean cold tire accidents, and it can be easy to forget about the road temperature when you’re focused on staying warm yourself. Cold roads equal cold tires, and cold tires don’t grip.
Texas doesn’t typically get the amount of snow and sleet that northern riders have to deal with, but our winters still know how to bite. When it’s cold outside, your tires can act like the road is wet even without any moisture in the air. But this doesn’t mean you have to keep your bike locked away on frosty days! There are several ways to combat cold tire accidents and we’ve compiled some of the most important ones that will help make the most of your winter rides.
What Happens When Your Tires are Cold
When it comes to cold tire accidents, it’s important to understand why cold tires behave differently from warm tires. Consider a hockey puck—a round disc made from the same rubber as our tires. If you’ve ever held a puck that just came off the ice, you know that it’s rock hard and rigid, with little bounce or elasticity. Tires react the same way when ice cold: they keep their circular shape without any give or rebound when travelling down the road.
Let’s talk about turns: the rounder the tire, the less surface area on the road. This is why cold tires can slip out from under you when you turn or change lanes…no black ice required. The lack of contact makes it easy for your bike to slide should you try to throttle through a turn. A quick acceleration impacts your bike’s balance and if you’re not over your front tire, you could easily be the victim of a cold tire accident.
So don’t get too bold just because you haven’t seen any snow. You can still slip, because cold tires keep their round shape instead of sinking into the road like they do in the summer—the traction simply isn’t there.
So you know cold tires have no grip. Got it. So how can you prevent cold tire accidents? Here are a few easy steps.
Make Sure Your Tires Have Tread
Fresh tires with full tread will instantly keep a better grip on the cold roads in the winter than bare or worn-down tires. A tire with less than 50% tread might not be noticeably different in June, but that same tire could be a recipe for disaster in December. Even if you don’t opt for all-weather or winter tires on your bike, having a set with full tread is going to help you stay upright.
Cold weather also impacts your tire pressure, so expect to lose 3-5 PSI in the winter. To prevent this from being a problem, make sure to inflate your tires before heading out on a long ride in order to maintain stability.
At the end of the day, take care of your tires and don’t forget that they are literally the only thing connecting you and your bike with the road.
Have Warm Tires
You could file this under “Duh,” but if it were so obvious, then we wouldn’t have cold tire accidents. And unless you are either at a track or are very exact about warming up your tires, you don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on tire warmers.
The free way to warm up your tires is to quickly accelerate and decelerate in a straight line for a bit. This rapid switch in motion will put a ton of friction into the rubber and warm it up. (Side note: make sure your brake pads aren’t too worn down before you go on a winter ride.)
You’ve most likely seen other bikers on the road “swaying” to warm up their tires—you probably should NOT do this, unless you like picking up your bike off the road. It may work for race cars, but that’s not what you’re riding. Remember, traction is the problem: you don’t want to do much swaying out there, especially not to warm up your tires.
It’s important to note that tire temperature can drop back down quickly if you sit idle, especially at a long traffic light or on a lightly trafficked road. Just because your tires were warm when you stopped doesn’t mean they’ll be as warm when you start up again. Go easy on that throttle to make sure your tires can get a good grip.
Turn Mindfully to Start
Cold tire accidents are more likely to happen early in a ride and on turns. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed over the front tire to keep maximum surface area contact with the road and don’t touch your throttle until after you’re through the turn and lined up with your new direction…just like when you’re on a wet road. Then, once you’re through the turn, continue to warm up your tires while remembering that they will take longer to reach the right temperature in cold weather.
Following these simple and important steps can help make your winter rides safer and more enjoyable. However, cold tire accidents can still happen. If you find yourself in need of motorcycle accident help, call the Biker Lawyer at 1-800-245-5539. With locations throughout Texas, Biker Lawyer motorcycle attorneys will be there when you need them.