Well, it is definitely time to start thinking about winter gear! More and more of us are riding as often as possible to save money and gas. So that means more time spent riding in the cold. Even temperatures that are comfortable when walking around become quickly unbearable at 55mph. With that in mind, here are some things to think about when purchasing items to help make those winter days more comfortable.
Some people’s idea of a winter jacket is to just wear a coat and a sweat shirt. While layering is a good idea, most coats don’t protect you from the high winds experienced when riding a motorcycle. What you actually need is a proper motorcycle jacket with a removable quilted liner that fits well with good coverage. A proper motorcycle jacket will protect you not only from the cold but also from the rain (wet and cold don’t go together well when you are on a bike). A quilted liner will give you the ability to layer up when needed without the bulk of extra clothing once the ride is over.
A proper fit is the hard part. Your need to make sure the jackets fits a little more snugly than a summer jacket to help keep the heat inside and the wind outside. However, the jacket should not bind and should allow full range of motion.
Another thing to consider is length. A proper fit means nothing if the jacket isn’t covering you were it needs to. Make sure the jacket is long enough for your riding position. I saw a rider the other day, covered head to toe but when they started riding their bike, there a huge gap between the jacket and the pants. Having your pants act as a wind scoop on a cold day does not feel good!
If you are a rider that likes to ride in jeans or you’re commuting, give a pair of winter riding pants or chaps some consideration. Jeans and other pants may seem fine as winter wear but when you are on a bike, they offer little or no protection from the wind and cold.
Chaps provide a barrier that wind can’t penetrate. This gives your pants a fighting chance to help keep you warm. However, if you want even more warmth, purchase a pair of winter riding pants with a removable quilted liner. Just like the jacket, these allow you to keep warm without having to bulk up.
I can’t stress the importance of good gloves enough. Keeping your fingers warm and flexible is key to controlling your bike on cold winter days. A glove that doesn’t adequately protect you from the cold and wind will cause your fingers to stiffen and decrease your reaction times drastically. Get a pair of flexible, waterproof, lined (fleece, Thinsulate, etc.) gloves. If they still aren’t warm enough, consider purchasing a silk or fleece liner to give you extra warmth.
Also, don’t forget to buy a winter glove with a gauntlet (the piece that extends from the wrist). Having a long gauntlet on a winter glove keeps the cold air from coming up the sleeves of your jacket and keeps your wrists warm. The less cold air finding its way into your jacket, the better.
If you don’t have a full face helmet, at least get one for winter. Full face helmets help protect you from headaches caused by cold air, wind damaged skin and frostbite (not to mention the added protection you get if you come off the bike). A large portion of your body’s warmth leaves through your head. Keep it covered to keep you warm. If you already have a full face helmet, close some of the vents to keep the cold air out but keep air flowing over the visor to prevent fogging caused by your breath.
Even if you wear a full face helmet, there is still going to be a gap between your helmet and the top of your jacket. This gap allows wind to enter the top of your jacket and the bottom of your helmet making life just a little more chilly. Fortunately, this can be corrected fairly cheaply with a balaclava or a Polar Buff.
Balaclavas, usually made from fleece, can be pulled over the head and neck leaving only the eyes expose to the elements. They are available in a solid or zippered front. However, many riders find that they add thickness to the head and make their helmets too tight.
Polar Buffs (or Thermal Pro Polar Buffs) have a Polartech fleece neckband with a normal Buff sewn to the top. This allows the Buff to be pulled over the head acting like a balaclava. While being thick around the neck, it is thin over the top of your head allowing your helmet to fit properly and minimizing helmet hair.
There are still some of you that ride in sneakers or ankle boots. While you may be comfortable in them during the summer, nothing is going to beat a good pair of waterproof, calf height boots during the cold winter months. Buy a pair of leather or Lorica boots and use a good pair of socks, the combination will keep you comfy and warm. We highly recommend motorcycle Tech-sox for their comfort and wicking but you could use high quality hiking socks (just don’t use wool due to the bulk and it sweating your feet).
Hopefully we have given you a few tips on how to make the winter rides a little more pleasurable. Now get out there and enjoy a warm, comfortable ride. Still cold? Be sure to check out our article on heated gear.
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