Winds can be one of the hidden dangers of riding a motorcycle. Many beginner riders may easily overlook the effect winds can have on their ride, which can put them in serious danger.
This is why being informed about the weather conditions in your area is mandatory.
How much wind is too much for a motorcycle? Winds between 20 to 30 mph will be too much for the majority of the smaller and lightweight motorcycles. On average 40 mph sustained winds, and 45 mph wind gusts will usually be considered too much for riding a heavier motorcycle. A motorcycle should not be ridden at winds above 50 mph.
This is the gist of it, but there are more information and intricate details that need to be covered in order to fully answer this question.
Below I share with your more useful information so that you can make a well-educated guess on your next ride.
Table of Contents:
How much wind is too much for riding a motorcycle?
How much wind is going to be too much will be highly dependent on the motorcycle and the rider. A heavier motorcycle will be more stable at higher winds than a lightweight motorcycle. In addition to that, a motorcycle with a higher center of gravity is going to be less stable than one with a lower center of gravity.
The rider’s skill and experience are also important and will play a role in how stable the motorcycle will be on the road. (In a similar way, a heavier rider will add more stability to the motorcycle.)
Many motorcycle riders will not ride their motorcycle in winds that are around or exceeding 30 mph—especially if they are riding a smaller motorcycle below 400 pounds.
Lightweight and taller motorcycles with a higher center of gravity, like some BMWs, will be affected a lot more even by slower winds of about 15 to 20 mph. And for scooters, even 20 mph winds can be too much to ride in.
From experience, I can say that winds above 25 mph usually will take the fun out of the ride.
Many Harleys will be a lot better at dealing with stronger winds because of their lower center of gravity and heavier weight and can easily be taken out in winds of up to 30 mph.
Heavier motorcycles above 700 pounds, like cruisers and tourers, for example, are not affected by the wind as much and can be ridden relatively trouble-free in winds up to 45 mph.
Generally speaking, motorcycles should not be ridden at wind speeds exceeding 50 or 60 mph. While riding at such winds, you will be tossed around like a ragdoll and will have very little control over the motorcycle.
In fact, winds exceeding 50 to 60 mph are classified as damaging winds as they can cause damage to ground structures. Winds at 60 mph or higher may even have a noticeable effect on moving cars.
If it has also been raining or there is snow, ice, or other factors that will lower your motorcycle’s traction with the road, you will have to draw the line at even more conservative numbers.
The different types of winds
Sustained and gusty winds
Gusty winds are always going to be more dangerous than the continuously sustained winds. With steady winds, you can adapt; however, gusty winds can be very unpredictable and catch you off guard.
The same applies to situations where you are riding in a somewhat protected area, and then suddenly, you get out in the open, and a strong gust of wind hits you. This can also happen upon going up on highways and over bridges. Big open areas are generally going to be more dangerous as the wind there will be stronger. Another dangerous situation can be created behind and around trucks and semis.
Those unexpected wind gusts will cause you to lean heavily into the wind in order to balance your motorcycle, but once the wind vanishes, you will swerve in the direction you are leaning. This can put you into the other lane dangerously close to other vehicles in a matter of seconds.
This can be even worse when the winds are alternating from left to right.
Headwind and tailwinds
Riding in a strong headwind can feel like you are holding on for dear life. Strong headwinds can be especially tiring, too. Tailwinds can be a little easier to deal with; however, they should not be underestimated either.
However, this does not mean crosswinds are any better. Crosswinds will hit you from the side, which will affect your movement trajectory and can be exceptionally tiring after a while.
Check the weather forecast and pay special attention to what it says about at what mph the wind is steady, how much it is gusting, and from what direction it is blowing.
How dangerous is it to ride a motorcycle in the wind?
Riding a motorcycle in winds that are too strong can cause the motorcycle to have a more unpredictable and unnatural behavior on the road.
Unexpected strong wind gusts can easily cause the rider to lose control and crash, so exercising extra caution is vital. Strong wind gusts will cause the motorcycle and other vehicles on the road to move ever so slightly, which makes riding a motorcycle in those conditions very dangerous.
Flying objects and debris
Strong winds can cause random objects to fly across the road, too. Those flying objects and debris can be extremely dangerous if they hit the rider or the motorcycle.
The dirt, debris, rocks, and other flying objects carried by the wind can damage the paint and cause it to look worn out.
More dangerous for new riders
Lack of experience can also be another factor that needs to be accounted for.
A more experienced rider will be able to deal with stronger winds and unexpected wind gusts a lot better than a very new rider. They will be more aware of how to properly position their body to negate the effects of the strong winds.
What this means for new riders is that they may consider not taking their motorcycle even at winds that are noт very strong.
Strong winds can easily knock the rider off the motorcycle, which you don’t need me to tell you, can be extremely dangerous. The result can be injuries in varying severity; such a crash can even be lethal.
Every rider will be different, so if you find that the wind is making you nervous, uncomfortable, and you feel unstable, then the wind, no matter what the forecast says, is too much.
With that being said, riding in windy weather is an acquired skill.
Winds can be deceitfully scary, especially to new riders, who have not yet had the time to get used to the more extreme weather conditions and get over the fear of riding a motorcycle.
The other effect of riding in too much wind is that even if the motorcycle is not noticeably affected by the wind, the whole ride will be a lot more fatiguing. A tired rider is more likely to make a mistake, so more frequent stops should be made to avoid fatigue.
Using unsuitable motorcycle gear can also make riding in high winds more difficult and tricky. This is why it is recommended to have a good aerodynamic helmet.
Windshields should always not be underestimated in this case as they can be a lifesaver.
The strong winds can even push your motorcycle helmet to the side and can take your whole head to the side.
How much wind is too much for a parked motorcycle?
All that being said, strong gusts of wind will affect your motorcycle not only while you are riding it, but while it has been left sitting somewhere.
Strong winds can blow over a motorcycle depending on various factors like:
- How big the motorcycle is—naturally bigger, read heavier, motorcycles will hold their own better.
- The angle of the motorcycle to the road and the angle of the road itself.
- The condition and type of the kickstand or center stand.
- The angle at which the wind hits the motorcycle.
For a more detailed take on this matter, I recommend checking my article on whether wind can blow over a motorcycle here.
Generally speaking, though, the numbers are fairly similar.
Winds between 15 to 25 mph are considered safe in most cases and shouldn’t be able to tip a properly parked motorcycle. If the motorcycle is not in good condition or hasn’t been parked properly, those numbers can significantly lower.
Winds above 30 mph are potentially dangerous and may be able to tip some motorcycles, in which case you will have to take some preventative measures. And winds above 40 mph are very likely to blow over most motorcycles.