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Protecting yourself from frostbite on winter rides.


A winter motorcycle ride under bright sunshine in the crisp clean air can do a lot to cure the winter blues. The moderately cold temperatures can even be invigorating—but they can also lead to frostbite faster than you might think.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is a medical condition that’s caused by the freezing of the skin and other tissues. When you’re exposed to cold temperatures, the water in your skin cells and the blood in small blood vessels freezes. How fast this happens is directly related to the temperature and wind chill factor.

 Wind chill factor

Wind chill is the perceived drop in temperature caused by wind, taking into account the wind speed and the ambient temperature. It’s multiplied even further during a motorcycle ride. Consider this: traveling at 55 mph on a 40° F day, your exposed skin experiences a 25° F wind chill. Reduce the temperature to 35° F with the same speed, and the wind chill is 18° F. Frostbite starts just below 25° F.

Warning signs of frostbite 

When you start to shiver from the cold, view it as a warning. It marks the start of hypothermia and frostbite isn’t far behind. Here are some warning signs of frostbite:

  • Very cold sensation
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Clumsiness

Avoiding frostbite

 If you ride this winter, dress to avoid frostbite. Exposed skin is most at risk, and there’s a compounding effect to consider—when you’re exposed to cold for a prolonged period of time, your body defends your internal organs by reducing warming blood flow to your extremities. As a result, hands, arms, feet, legs, and covered skin that’s not properly protected is at risk.

Also, riding gear that fits too tightly makes your body lose heat faster than properly fitted gear. Insulated gear can also help block the wind, including:

  • Jacket
  • Pants
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Facemask
  • Goggles
  • Full-face helmet

 You might also want to consider electric-heated riding gear to help maintain your core and extremity warmth:

  • Vest
  • Jacket liner
  • Gloves
  • Foot warmers
  • Chaps
  • Riding suit

Don’t let frostbite start

Winter riding can be a real tonic for motorcycle riders experiencing cabin fever. Remember, you can do it and avoid frostbite by:

  • Dressing warmly and covering your skin
  • Keeping your riding distances reasonably short
  • Stopping when you start to feel cold and getting indoors to warm up
  • Removing your outer gear indoors so your body warms up
  • Having a snack while you get warm to help fuel your body

Once you’re fully warm, gear up and go. A winter motorcycle ride with your buddies is a great way to extend your riding season. Enjoy the camaraderie and remember, spring will come.

Till next time, ride safe!


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