Wearing “all the gear all the time” is the best way to ride. During winter, we need to add protection from the cold to our gear selection. Being cold on a motorcycle isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s also dangerous and can lead to hypothermia.
In some regions of the country, you can experience up to a 40-degree difference from daily low temperatures to daily high temperatures. To manage this, the best dressing behavior is layering gear so you can easily adjust to the changing temperatures.
Motorcycle riding, like any winter sport, requires a little more thought regarding our choices of layers than dressing to go to the mall. One thing to keep in mind is the need to be warm at riding speeds, yet flexible enough to safely operate the motorcycle controls. Let’s take a look at layering, starting closest to the skin and moving outward.
The base layer is closest to your skin. In this layer, we use socks, long johns, glove liners, and a head covering. There are many modern materials and natural fibers that can be used based on your personal preference. The main goal with this layer is retaining the body’s warmth, yet allowing moisture to wick away from the skin. Even in very low temperatures, when dressed for high wind-chill factors, you can sweat, and this will make you even colder if not managed properly.
When we peel off all the riding gear at rest stops, this is the layer where we express our style. Lined or insulated jeans can add some stylish warmth. Turtlenecks are great to seal out cold air at the wrists and neck. If turtlenecks aren’t your style, consider adding a thin version under your favorite riding shirt.
If you are using electric gear, it should be located on top of the street layer. It should be close enough to your skin for you to receive the full heat benefit. The layers on top of the electric gear will hold in the heat, improving performance and allowing you to conserve power by using lower settings.
Between your outer layer of protective riding gear and street clothes/electric gear is the place to add some insulating layers. These are the layers easiest to adjust as conditions change.
Heavy socks and glove liners can make boots and gloves a tight fit. The same applies when adding more clothes under your riding jacket. If your gear fits too tight, you can defeat the purpose of the insulation that requires air space to be effective. Tight gear also restricts your movement and reduces your ability to safely control the motorcycle. You might consider larger size winter gear to accommodate more layers.
As you develop your layering plan, remember that one key goal should be sealing out the wind. Try to overlap where individual items meet in each layer.
Till next time, ride safe!