Motorcycle Guides

Home   Product Reviews   Industry News   Blogs   Guides   Videos  
Share |

Popular Articles

cold weather motorcycle gear

Cold Weather Motorcycle Gear

>> Ashley Benson

You may not have noticed, but the temperature has started to drop. And while sunny San Diego can't really be said to get "cold" like most of the rest of the U.S., we still notice our teeth chatter when we ride to work in the morning. Of course, you could pack it up and go through the motions of winterizing your bike... but what's the fun in that? We'd much rather stock up on the proper winter cold weather motorcycle gear to keep the cold out and us on our bikes.

Mind you, you may have buns of steel, but there's still a catch to this whole winter riding thing. There is such a thing as too cold to ride. Sure, you may brag to your buddies or call people some derogatory term associated with a cat on the forums when they talk about packing it in for the winter, but if it's below freezing, you're getting past tough and brave and getting right into downright stupid. Below freezing means snow and ice. Snow and ice mean bad riding conditions. No amount of warm gear will make you feel okay after you've hit a patch of black ice and end up staring at the sky wondering what just happened. So be smart. We won't tell those forum guys but at least you'll live to continue bragging to them about your superior riding skills via computer.

But if ice and snow haven't made their appearance and the chill is your only enemy, there are solutions. Here are a few tips and cold weather motorcycle gear to keep you riding and warm even in the winter:

Quality Over Quantity

cold weather motorcycle gear

Remember the kid in the movie A Christmas Story whose mother thought that bundling him up in so many layers he looked like a red version of the Michelin man and couldn't move was a good idea? Yeah... she was wrong. More layers may seem like a good idea, but honestly, it really comes down to quality over quantity in staying warm. Piling on seven jackets will not only fail to keep you as warm as one high quality winter jacket but will also limit your range of motion. And being able to move is kind of an important thing when you're riding a motorcycle.

cold weather motorcycle gear Instead, wear a high quality winter motorcycle jacket that has a quilted liner. And if that's not enough, invest in a heated vest. Those simple items can really keep you warm all the way down to freezing without forcing you to give up any range of motion. As for the actual jacket, the material you choose mostly comes down to preference. A good leather offers great abrasion resistance if you find yourself in a tango with the asphalt. And the cow hide will do a great job of keeping you warm. But the advances in textile technology mean that some winter jackets made of a textile will not only keep you just as warm as leather but is just as abrasion resistant without being as thick. Plus they're a little better at letting moisture out while keeping the heat in.

When you find a decent jacket, be sure to check that it's waterproof. Most winter coats will be but you really don't want to find out that you managed to pick out the one that isn't when it starts to drizzle. As if rain while your riding isn't bad enough, if it's really flipping cold, that moisture will suck up what little body heat you have left and make 30 degrees feel like 0. Also, get a jacket that has a good closure system. The zippers, cuffs and collar should be covered and able to synch up tight enough to keep both air and moisture out.

cold weather motorcycle gear And since even the tiniest bit of cold air can cut like a knife at even moderate speeds, anything other than a full face motorcycle helmet is just a brain numbing idea. We even recommend throwing on an extra layer under your helmet such as a silk or synthetic balaclava for your neck and face. But stay away from all cottons. It may be "the fabric of our lives" but the stuff has a tendency to catch and trap moisture; keeping it close to your body. And much like the layer of sweat (oh we mean glisten, of course) that sits on your skin after a work out to cool you down; the moisture trapped in cotton will do the same. Instead, throw on a silk, moisture-wicking under layer that may be thinner but will keep you warmer by ejecting that heat robbing body glisten.

So that takes care of your core... but what about the rest? Having cold fingers and toes can not only be excruciatingly painful, they can make it hard to properly use your controls. Motorcycle gloves are always a given, with leather, waterproof motorcycle gloves being the best in winter. But glove liners can add an extra layer to your hands without making them overly bulky. If that's not enough, invest in heated gloves. Sure, the extra wires might be a bit annoying but you'll love them when you're riding and your fingers don't feel like they're falling off.

Toes are the same story with the added moisture factor. Feet have a tendency to get cold quickly but also like to sweat even at lower temperatures. Throw on some winter riding socks that can wick away any moisture while keeping heat in. But socks aren't enough if you're riding with just any 'ol shoe, so invest in a pair of waterproof riding boots that are insulated. Big plus: not only will they keep your feet warmer, they'll keep them safer too in the event of a crash. If your little piggy's still need a little more warmth while they go to the store or rub all the way home, throw in some foot warmers.

Prep Your Motorcycle

the guide to winter riding

Now that your body is all geared up and ready to keep you warm, take a gander at your ride. Interestingly enough, different motorcycles will keep your warmer. The key is the motorcycle windshield. It may be 35 degrees out, but when you add that cutting wind whipping past you as you ride, it'll drop down to a whopping nothing degrees.

the guide to winter riding

A windshield will help to cut that wind and direct it away from your face and torso. But different bikes have different windshields. Touring bikes obviously aren't lacking in the windshield department and will do a great job of redirecting the chill away from you. Sport tourers are next in line and will have a decent amount of wind breakage. But if you're riding on a cruiser, adding an additional windshield for the winter might be the difference between you packing her up till spring or riding despite the cold. If you're a sport bike rider, well... good luck with that. You can try to install a heftier shield and duck a little lower behind it, but naked sport bikes offer the least bit of protection for bone cutting cold.

cold weather motorcycle gear But windshields aren't the only motorcycle mod that you can do to keep you comfortable in cold weather. If heated motorcycle gloves and silk glove liners aren't cutting it for your digits, take a gander at some heated motorcycle grips. And to help cut through the wind, install some handguards. If you really want to make sure your hands are truly as warm as possible, you could always install the BikeMaster Hand Mitts. Yes, they're real and they are insulated and fleece lined arm mitts that engulf the entire hands and arms in warm joy. Plus they're rain and snow resistant. They also come with confused stares from other car drivers and motorcycle riders at no extra cost.

Riding season isn't over yet. At least not until you're covered in snow and you can't walk ten feet without slipping on a patch of ice. But until then, gear up, stay warm and ride on. Don't let that silly weather man - oh sorry we mean meteorologist - ruin your day.

Winter Motorcycle Necessities:

winter motorcycle jackets winter motorcycle gloves motorcycle face masks heated mtoorcycle vests

comments powered by Disqus

Monday, January 9, 2012 4:55:42 AM
Knightray said:

I thank you for putting this info up,It has Reilly helped with info I have Ben needing. I love to ride and hate having to put my bike away when winter kicks in. Now I know there is gear and other things I can do to keep riding.


Monday, January 9, 2012 8:23:59 AM
David Martin said:

Do you have a wind chill chart that isn't metric? Here in South Louisiana the weather can change drastically from day to day. This Saturday I was riding with my brother-in-law and still had my winter liner in my jacket so I didn't zip up all the way for more air. But Sunday I rode to Mom's house with just a t-shirt on. The air was a bit nipply but warmer than the day before.


Monday, January 9, 2012 9:18:32 AM
Carlson said:

Good article. Don't forget hand guards. Dualsports like my KLR come with them, and the mirrors on my old K1100lt performed this job, but you can add them to any cruiser now. The other thing we tend to forget about in our modern society is wool. A good wool sweater under your jacket and a pair of wool socks will do wonders.


Monday, January 9, 2012 8:49:49 AM
Lawrence said:

I don't completely agree. I ride no matter what the temperature as long as there has not been a thaw/freeze/thaw (which tends to produce the most black of black ice) all the way down to 0 Fahrenheit! I do it with layers, the outermost being waterproof (natch) innermost cotton T followed by long sleeve cotton T, followed by turtleneck, followed by armored riding jacket with an oversized winter coat under the waterproof rain gear. On the bottom just one or 2 silk (stay comfortable inside without changing) long john's, regular or heavy weight jeans, and rain pant's when needed.


Monday, January 9, 2012 9:40:09 AM
alberto laguna said:

Thanks for all this useful tips. We are not so cold in western Mexico -it never snows, for instance- nevertheless, at sunrise dawns below zero in many places, so one must drive well protected. Your chart is very illustrative


Monday, January 9, 2012 3:04:09 PM
jim aldi said:

i am just an old man on a day dream.