ThrottleX Blog

Riding in Cold Weather: 10 Tips

Depending on where you are, cooler fall weather has already arrived or will very soon. Which means that many riders –– especially those in the northern parts of the country –– will be tucking their bikes into a corner of the garage for the next few months, waiting for summer to return.

That’s a shame, because cold-weather rides can be enjoyable with a little foresight. Plus, it dramatically increases your riding season –– pretty important if you love riding as much as I do. I still haven’t quite mastered the art of riding a Harley-Davidson in the snow and ice (yet), but I won’t let anything short of that keep me off the road. Here are 10 tips on riding a motorcycle in cold weather.

1 – Keep the wind off. One of the biggest challenges you face when riding in the cold is wind chill. You might be cozy warm in a sweater when just walking around outside, but not so much when faced with a 60-mph breeze. The easiest way to fight wind is with accessories to your bike, like a screen, fairing and hand guards. On your person, make sure your clothes are zipped up properly and there are no obvious places for wind to creep in.

2 – Keep dry. Back in March I got hit by early spring rain while out for a ride. A few hours later, the temperature dropped and the little piece of cloth that I tie around my pants leg to keep wind out froze solid. Fortunately for me, I was wearing rain gear under that strip of cloth but it was a lesson in just how important it is to keep dry. An added bonus of rain gear, by the way, is that it also helps block out wind.

3 – Heated gear. You can get heated everything these days: grips, seat, vest, jacket, gloves, pants, underwear, socks, and so on. I’ll admit I’m partial to heated grips but it should be noted that all this equipment can cost a lot of money and if you read reviews you’ll find it’s not as reliable as you might want something that expensive to be. Also, if you’re plugging it in to your bike you may be creating an unhealthy battery drain, and you run the risk of forgetting to unplug yourself when getting off the bike.

4 – Don’t be afraid of cheapskate options. Instead of spending loads of money on heated gear, there are certain hacks that can help you trap heat. For instance, you know those plastic gloves they have at gas stations? Consider grabbing a few pairs of those next time you fill up and use them as glove liners in the cold. When used in conjunction with some good riding gloves they’ll help trap heat as well as keep moisture and wind off your hands. One of the oldest tricks in the book is wrapping your chest and belly in newspaper before putting on your riding jacket. Another classic is tearing holes for your head and arms in a trash bag and wearing it as a vest underneath your jacket. It might seem a little silly, but trust me, you won’t care.

5 – Dress in layers. Remember what they told you in kindergarten? It still applies as an adult. Dressing in layers is the best way to properly regulate your body temperature. When it comes to cold-weather riding you should especially consider the importance of a thin base layer.

6 – Wear clothes that fit. Often it’s our inclination to think that bigger is better when it comes to cold-weather clothing. That’s not the case. Big, bulky items may allow too much air to circulate. If your jacket puffs up at speed, you need to rethink your gear. On the other side of that, however, don’t wear clothing that is too tight and restricts blood flow; don’t make it a challenge for your body to circulate warm blood to extremities.

7 – Cotton is rotten. Cotton is a breathable fabric that holds moisture well. That’s great in the summer but terrible when the temperature drops. So leave your favorite sweatshirt at home. Choose wool, fleece or other fabric that wicks away moisture –– this is especially true for your base layer.

8 – Wear a full-face helmet. You want as little exposed skin as possible when riding in the cold. A full-face helmet is the easiest way of blocking out the wind and rain, and it will even hold some heat in. I know a lot of guys who in cold weather will spend several minutes fussing with neck tubes and scarves and goggles and ski hats. That’s fine, but I think it’s easier to just throw on a helmet and go.

9 – Rethink your riding. Once you have prepared yourself physically, take the time to prepare mentally. Consider the things that might affect your riding, such as ice patches, cracks in the road that have formed because of ice, gravel or sand left over from snow clearing, and so on. Also think about how the cold affects your bike: the engine and tires will take longer to warm up. In most cases, the solution is to slow things down a little and make sure you pack some extra patience.

10 – Protect your bike. I mean this in two ways. Firstly, it’s true that riding in the cold can increase the risk of dropping your bike. Highway bars, crash bungs and so on can often make the difference between cosmetically enhancing scratches (scars are cool) and expensive repairs. Secondly, be sure to protect the bike’s metal from road salt by washing it regularly and spraying it down with WD-40 or something similar.

A bonus tip: Remember that there is a difference between being warm and being pretty. I know a few guys who refuse to follow these tips because they don’t think they look cool wrapped up in full gear. I understand that, but I also can’t help noticing that I don’t see these guys from September to May. For me, riding is about freedom and individuality. I’d rather be free and my own man rather than worrying about what someone else thinks. I’d rather ride.

Posted by admin at 8:42 pm

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