Winter weather checklist: Motorcycling in snow, ice, wind, rain and fog

Published on 4 December 2015 by Gill

There are steps all road users can take to make driver or riding in severe weather safer than it otherwise would be. 

Once again Highways England has provided a series of tips for travelling in snow, ice, wind, rain and fog, helping you and fellow motorcyclists stay safe this winter. 

Snow and ice

Stick to the main roads where you can and avoid exposed routes.

You should drive and ride with care and respect the road conditions wherever you travel, but not every road can be treated. You need to take even more care on minor roads. 

snow ploughEven if the time and location of snowfall is perfectly forecast, it will still take time to clear the snow after it has fallen. Remember though, snow ploughs can't get through if the road or motorway is full of stationary traffic. Give Highways England and local authority teams the space they need to do their job and help you on your journey!

Steep hills and exposed roads are also likely to present more challenging motoring conditions in snow and ice, so if you could avoid these it might make your journey easier.

Make sure you can see and be seen. Clear snow and ice off all lights and number plates. 

Leave extra space between you and other vehicles. Take even more care looking out for others that may not be able to stop and be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible

If you use a higher gear than normal it will help to avoid wheel spin on a slippery surface.  Accelerate and brake gently to avoid skidding.

Rain and floods

When the road is wet it can take twice as long to stop. Slow down and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

If your vehicle loses grip, or “aquaplanes”, on surface water take your foot off the accelerator to slow down. Do not brake or steer suddenly because you have less control of the steering and brakes.

When faced with a flooded road, be very careful as you can’t always tell how deep the water is. Just 30cm of flowing water can wash a car away, let alone a motorcycle.

If you have no alternative but to travel through floods, do it slowly, use a low gear and try to keep the engine revving at a high rate. Move forward continuously to avoid stalling the engine. When driving an automatic vehicle, engage and hold in a low gear. And remember to test your brakes after going through water; they may be ineffective.


In reduced visibility, where you cannot see as much of the road ahead, you will need to slow down and drive/ride more carefully. Use dipped headlights so that others can see you.

Fog lights and full beam can dazzle other drivers. Use fog lights when it’s really thick (less than 100m visibility) and then don’t forget to turn them off when conditions improve.

Fog is often patchy so try not to speed up as soon as visibility improves. You could suddenly find yourself back in thick fog further up the road.

High winds

winter toolkit3Take extra care on the roads and plan your journey by checking the latest weather conditions. The traffic news, overhead motorway signs and Highways England digital information services will say if any roads or bridges are closed because of high winds.

Though high-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather, strong winds can also blow other vehicles off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges, high-sided vehicles or gaps in trees.

Whatever the severe weather always adjust your driving and riding according to the conditions. 

For more information check the Highways England winter web pages