As winter descends, many motorcycle riders park their bikes until spring. Two factors often keep riders cabin-bound this time of the year: weather-related road hazards, and the fact that getting cold while riding isn’t very enjoyable. But with the right gear, you can comfortably discover the thrill and natural beauty of winter motorcycle riding. Plan your next cold-weather ride following these nine tips:
A good base layer is the foundation of all cold weather motorcycle gear. Whether you call them thermals, long johns, or a one-piece union suit, full-coverage underwear designed to retain body heat is a must. Look for base layers that emphasize moisture-wicking. You’ll sweat—even in the winter—and if you don’t get the sweat off your skin, you’ll get cold.
You’ll want to wear several adjustable layers to accommodate changing temperatures and conditions during your ride. Use overlapping layers when possible—overlapping prevents exposed skin and helps seal in warmth. When planning your layers, start next to your skin and build outward:
A good full-face or modular helmet will keep your head warmer than a ¾- or half-helmet would. To make your helmet a year-round option, look for one that has a good neck seal and a removable chin curtain. Along with your helmet, a ski mask or balaclava can be a great addition. Choose one made of a thin thermal material that easily fits in your helmet. It should be long enough to fit under your gear’s collars.
If you wear prescription glasses, consider investing in wraparound prescription glasses made with impact-resistant polycarbonate. When worn with a full-face helmet and balaclava, they provide an effective seal against the wind. Even if you don’t need prescription lenses, you can find sunglasses specifically designed for motorcycle riding. These glasses often have interchangeable lenses and foam to seal out debris and cold air.
You rely on your hands to control your motorcycle. When exposed to cold, your body reduces blood flow to the extremities to protect the organs in your core. Cold, numb hands reduce control and introduce the risk of frostbite. Along with insulated gloves, thermal glove liners—a base layer for your hands—can give an extra measure of warmth. Be sure your cold weather motorcycle gloves and glove liners fit well without being too tight. If they’re too tight, they can reduce circulation and limit dexterity.
Your winter motorcycle riding boots should be waterproof and a bit larger than your summer boots to accommodate thick socks. Speaking of socks, go with thick hunting socks or other winter sport socks. Wearing silk sock liners or hiking sock liners can also provide additional warmth and moisture-wicking.
Some old school riders may scoff at electrically heated riding gear, but once you try it, you’ll never want to ride in the winter without it. A good starting point is an electric heated vest, which helps keep your core warm—and in turn keeps your extremities warmer. Other electrically heated motorcycle riding gear includes:
When choosing a winter motorcycle jacket, look for wind-blocking and waterproof materials that also provide abrasion protection. The same goes for chaps, pants, gloves, and boots. After all, staying dry helps you stay warm. Plus, in all likelihood, you’ll start wearing your outer layer of cold-weather motorcycle gear in the late fall and use it through mid-spring. Encountering rain and puddles is inevitable.
There’s another way to stay warm on your motorcycle rides. By outfitting your bike with accessories that block the wind, you can enhance the effectiveness of all your cold-weather gear. You can also use electrically heated components to warm the places your body contacts the motorcycle. Here are some options:
Motorcycle riding is an excellent way to chase off the winter blues. By investing in cold weather motorcycle gear, you can stay warm and comfortable on those rides—and get more motorcycle riding in your life.