Riding a motorcycle exposes us to a wide variety of weather conditions. Most of the time, they’re quite visible and therefore avoidable. One, though, is sneakier than most: wind.

Sure, we create our own wind every time we ride. Motorcyclists notice, more than most, that the air can differ wildly day to day even when there is no wind. Sometimes the air is perfectly smooth, and sometimes it’s choppy like rough seas. Sometimes the wind can take you right off the road.

Gusty wind is different from constant wind. The latter is easier to handle. When you ride in constant high winds, you’ll notice that your motorcycle naturally leans into the wind, but it can feel like the wind is trying to take your wheels out from under you, and at a high enough speed, it can. You can ride through a constant wind with your motorcycle tilted at an angle against the wind, but keep in mind that this angle reduces your effective lean angle in any turn.

If it’s extremely windy out, your first reaction should be to slow down. The bike you are riding will make a big difference in how the wind affects you. A large, heavy motorcycle with a low center of gravity will handle the wind a bit easier than a tall motorcycle. A lightweight motorcycle is more affected by the wind, especially if it has anything more than a tiny windshield. Your windshield, especially if it is a fork-mounted style, can act like a sail. 

Wind can put “stuff” in the air, like sand, pieces of trees, outdoor furniture, lawn ornaments, trash cans, you name it. If there is enough wind, you may find a trampoline sailing across town. There are some situations in which it is too dangerous to ride, and wind can create that situation. Know when to sit a ride out.

Eye protection is extremely important on a motorcycle, but especially so when the wind is kicking stuff up that can be collected by your eyeballs. Anything that lodges in there can create visibility problems.

Keep in mind that if you are riding past tall buildings or through copses of trees, these things can block the wind. Once you are clear of them you may be surprised by a gust.

If there are trees around you, they can be good clues about the kind of wind you’re riding through. Are the leaves lightly dancing, or is the whole tree moving? Is it staying leaned over or is it unpredictable. Is a tree ahead moving unexpectedly? These can all give you a little forewarning about the wind you’re about to be in.

So, what do you do when you find yourself riding in very windy conditions? First, relax. Let the bike dance around a little. Hang onto the bike with your knees and keep your arms and upper body very loose. Stay in your lane, but don’t fight the bike. Pay attention to the way the trees around you are dancing for clues about where the wind will come from next. Close your visor, to keep sand and other debris out of your eyes. If you see things that are larger than you’d prefer to hit at speed, flying through the air, it might be time to park the bike and wait for everything to calm down a little.

(Thanks to reader J. Hansen for pointing out the "hold on with your knees" technique!)

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