Oncoming wind is a normal part of riding. Riding a motorcycle is like being in a wind tunnel, so a front wind isn’t a problem at all because the bike is designed for it. In fact, I quite like riding in the wind. However when its windy, rain, stones and even dust thrown up can sting sting the face and interfere with vision, so you need a full-face helmet and visor to keep your face and eyes safe.
The sail effect
When you ride, some wind turbulence is normal. Fairings and wind-screens reduce front turbulence but as pointed out earlier, can act like sails if hit by side winds. When wind hits a sail it generates force and the bigger the sail area the bigger the force. Never underestimate the power of this, as vans with high flat sides regularly get blown over by the sail effect. The motorcycle solution to side winds is to not be a sail.
A motorcycle should not present any large flat side surface that can act like a sail. After all, a motorcycle with wind protection all around it would be a two wheel car, and that doesnt work. Wind is why umbrella rain gear works on a bicycle but not a motorbike. You want any side winds wind to go through the bike, like a sail with holes in it. This is why I don’t like solid side farings for ordinary riding.
Wind makes the bike wobble but even normal riding has a wobble that the rider just naturally compensate for. Wind just makes the wobble bigger. The more stable you ride the better you handle wind. Handle it the way rodeo riders handle a bucking bronco:
- Relax your upper body. Don’t grip the handles too tight to fight it but counter-balance the bike’s movement with your body.
- Grip the bike with your legs to keep firmly on and keep up the acceleration to push on through the wind.
Your upper body goes with the flow, continually re-adjusting the center, while the lower body holds you on. Dont over-react to wind, as wind is part of riding and wobble is part of wind.
Front winds are not a problem. Even constant side winds are not a problem, as you can just lean into them. However gusting crosswinds that suddenly push the bike sideways then stop can be unsettling. They can happen when you cross a river bridge or pass a large truck. Here is what I do:
- Lower your profile. Drop the body to the tank a bit to lower your profile and reduce the crosswind effect.
- Slow a bit. Going a bit slower can make the bike more stable, but not too slow as it is the centrifugal force of the wheels keeps you upright. Keep the revs up.
- Knee tank grip. Grip the bike by pushing inwards with knees and feet for vertical stability.
- Don’t panic. Worse than the wind is over-reacting to it. Stay calm and go with the flow.
Riding in the wind can be tiring, as you are continually working to balance the bike. The wind is one case where it helps to have a heavier bike.
Insects rule the world, so sooner or later you will meet them on a motorcycle. They dont want to fly into you, so really you hit them. Bugs on your visor create a vision problem but bugs in your helmet are a safety issue. Insects that hit you on the outside bounce off, but you don’t want a wasp inside your jacket. Make sure gloves cover jacket sleeves, and leggings go over your boots. A point of entry often forgotten is the neck, so I wear a scarf to keep my neck sealed. There is nothing worse than a stinging insect down your neck.