Riding a motorcycle is one of the greatest pleasures in life, but it does comes with its unique downsides. For example, being on two wheels means that you’re exposed to the elements. Brilliant when you’re riding in Sub Saharan Africa, but not so enjoyable when you’re commuting through cold and bleak central London. That’s why we’ve put together this list of cheap and easy life hacks to make your life on two wheels that bit more enjoyable, no matter where you live.
Keeping your car clean is important. It helps with maintenance, aesthetics and safety. But if you do forget to wash your car, it’s not usually a matter of life and death, whereas on two wheels it’s a much more serious matter. For example, a dirty visor and screen can render you completely blind when the sun is low, and poorly maintained leathers can crack and falter in a crash. As a result it is absolutely vital that you keep your bike, and more importantly, your riding gear, in good condition.
Now, it’s difficult to keep your machine clean on a tight budget - ultimately good products will always be expensive. But there is a cheap and easy way to keep your helmet, leathers and motorcycle screen in good nick. How you might ask? Baby wipes.
For anyone who’s made the mistake of purchasing all white motorcycle leathers (me included), you’ll know how quickly they can get dirty. After only a few hours of summer riding you’ll have been peppered with stones, bugs and road grime; this doesn’t do your riding gear or your bike any favours, and I’m not just talking about their appearance. For example, the chitin found on the outer covering of insects can do some serious damage, eating away at your paint, and degrading the integrity of your leathers. Having some baby wipes in your backpack allows you to wipe these little critters away quickly and effectively before they dry.
Now granted, baby wipes contain their own (sometimes corrosive) chemicals so this is not a long term fix. But tell me that when you’re sat on the side of the road, unable to see because your visor is covered in bugs. Just make sure that if you buy wipes, you purchase non-alcoholic items. Or even better, buy specially designed variants.
If you decide to visit a motorcycle race this year, you’re guaranteed to see a bike fall on its side. And that’s before you’ve even reached the race track! Top class GP venues like Silverstone and Circuit of the Americas have concrete car parks, but most UK circuits require you to park your bike in a field. Now, you don’t have to be a genius to realise that a side stand with a tiny surface area isn’t going to work very well on a soft, muddy surface. But that doesn’t stop people parking their bikes anyway, without anything to help distribute the weight of their heavy machines. As a result the side stand will slowly sink into the ground, eventually leading to the bike collapsing under its own weight.
What’s so frustrating about seeing this happen time and again is the fact that it’s so easy to avoid. Some circuits will actually hand out parking pucks (also known as side stand/kickstand pucks) which help to give the side stand increased surface area. But if they don’t, all manner of objects can be used instead. Some bikers throw their gloves under the side stand, but we don’t find the idea of returning to a wet glove very appealing. A crushed coke can will work equally well, as will a plastic jar lid.
One of the major irritations - and let’s face it dangers - of riding in the winter is when your motorcycle visor fogs up. This happens when the moisture from your breath condenses on the inside of the helmet. The light misting that results can be very dangerous because it effectively obscures most of your vision. You can crack your visor open to help de-mist, but in the middle of winter it’s either freezing cold and/or raining. Not a bag of laughs.
There is the home-brewed way to tackle the problem, and there’s a professional way. If you want to fix the problem on the cheap we would advise the tried and tested washing-up liquid technique. I first heard of this via road racer Guy Martin, who was racing at the super fast and often chilly North West 200. He was struggling with visor fogging at high speed, so to solve the problem he used good old Fairly Liquid.
The great thing about this hack is that it’s super easy to do. Place a little bit of washing-up liquid on a microfibre towel and cover the inside of the visor. Leave the liquid to dry - 20 to 30 minutes should be enough - and then buff to a finish. Make sure you buff properly, because you don’t want to have big flakes of soap flying into your eyes when riding. The thin layer of product stops your breath from reaching the visor, thus stopping it from fogging. The liquid should last for around a week, and when it wears off you just repeat the process. If it’s good enough for a top road racer, it’s good enough for us.
If you think that sounds too much of a hassle, don’t worry, as you can go down the ‘professional’ Pinlock visor route instead. Most premium helmets are ‘Pinlock ready’ making things very simple. Pinlock systems have an extra visor which attaches to the inside of the main visor. This works like double glazing by putting a barrier of air between the pinlock and visor, stopping your breath from causing condensation build-up. Most Pinlocks cost around £20, which is a low price to pay for trouble-free riding.
Riding a motorcycle in town, on a country road, or even off-road is great fun; until you get cold. And once you do get cold, it’s very difficult to heat back up again, so it’s important to take preventative measures. Top quality jackets and trousers are a big help, but what if you can’t afford all-new winter gear? Well don’t worry, you still have plenty of options. Some riders take to stuffing bubblewrap down their fronts, some wear a jumper over their race suits, and some revert to good old doubling up. But you don’t really need to do any of that, because instead you could just buy yourself a waterproof one-piece oversuit.
For quick city trips, a cheap fluorescent over jacket from a DIY store will keep you warm and visible. But if you want full protection from the elements, companies like Oxford produce brilliant one-piece suits for as little as £30. I own an Oxford Bone Dry oversuit and I always make sure to take it with me on long journeys. It has saved me from getting soaked through so many times and I wouldn’t be without it.
With it being a fully sealed unit, it also traps body heat brilliantly, keeping you nice and snug. And if you pair the oversuit with some cheap thermals you’ll be ready to take whatever winter has to throw at you.
Caring for your helmet is absolutely vital. As salesmen often say when trying to steer you towards a stupidly expensive lid: ‘how much is your head worth to you?’. But in all honesty, they make a good point, your helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment in your protection arsenal. Luckily, looking after your current helmet is cheap, and it also has the added benefit of increasing the life of your lid, saving you money in the long run.
One of the most common mistakes - and it’s all too easy to make - is storing your gloves inside your helmet. Your gloves are subjected to all sorts of road grime when you’re out riding, so putting dirty gloves inside the lid isn’t a good idea. The sweat and oils have the effect of eating away at the lining, and they also make the helmet smell pretty awful. Not good. And even if you don’t put anything inside your helmet, you should always give it a full clean at least once a year. Most manufacturers like Arai produce useful advice to help you do this safely.
Where you store your helmet is also equally important. Firstly, if you’re out and about, don’t leave your helmet hanging on the mirrors of your bike. It’s going to get stolen, knocked off or damaged. Secondly, when at home, make sure you store your helmet in a dry environment at room temperature. And thirdly, if your helmet is soaked through from getting caught out in bad conditions, resist the urge to dry it rapidly. I’ve seen people use fans, hairdryers and radiators to dry out their lids. A really bad idea, as it can damage the shell and the lining. The best tactic is to place it in a room with a dehumidifier. And if you don’t have the luxury of dehumidifier, place it in a room with a consistent heat source.
So, with these quick life hacks you should be ready for a year of fun riding. If you guys try out any of these tips, or use them already, let us know! And if you don’t currently ride a bike, check out our article on why you should!