How to ride in winter and stay warm
Riding in winter in the wrong gear is horrible – and dangerous! Keeping warm is critical, not only for your comfort, but because when you’re thinking about how cold you are, you’re not concentrating on riding. Numb hands and feet also makes using your bike’s controls more difficult, which is less than ideal for riding in low-grip conditions.
We are lucky that in most of Australia you can ride all year round. Riders in places like Europe and the USA often store their bike for the winter months. I live (and ride) in the Adelaide Hills and it’s a bloody cold winter! Many days have only been 8-9 degrees maximum – cold for riding! Still, on sunnier days it’s good to get out on the bike.
Here’s a few tips to ride comfortably during the winter months.
The first key to understand about staying warm on a bike is prevention is better than cure. Once you get cold riding, it’s a lot harder to warm up. To prevent this, stick to three basic principles: get insulated, get wind-proofed and stay dry.
Good Interior Layering
I wear Merino underwear which costs a bit more but keeps me warm so it’s worth it. I learned years ago that cotton absorbs moisture that robs your body heat and doesn’t wick making it inappropriate for motorcycling. Merino such as Icebreaker is light weight yet incredibly effective at keeping you warm. Merino socks and jumpers are great for the same reason.
Also, get yourself a Merino or synthetic neck tube or balaclava to pull on after you've donned your jacket. You’ll be surprised the difference a neck tube or balaclava makes.
Your Jacket and Gear
If you ride in cold weather, do yourself a favour and invest in decent gear. Something like Helite’s Touring Jacket is perfect. The Touring Jacket has a removable thermal layer which makes it perfect for cooler riding. (Obviously, remove the lining and you have a great all year round jacket!) Remember to invest in decent riding pants as well. You’ll freeze if you go out in just jeans and a leather jacket.
A full face helmet is the best insulation for your head (with the neck tube or balaclava mentioned above). Anything else will compromise your body's ability to maintain its heat.
Boots. Full coverage motorcycle boots are essential (with Merino socks).
Heated Seat and Grips
I’m lucky that my bike (an R1200RT) has heated seats and grips. If your bike doesn’t come with heated grips, many manufacturers make them as an add-on for their bikes – and there’s after-market types as well. Since your hands and legs are the farthest extremities and don't have much insulation, they get cold first. Heated grips will keep those fingers toasty and functional.
For really cold days, you can’t beat heated gear. There’s various brands at different price points but if you’re riding in very cold conditions, it’s worth the investment.
Your peripherals get cold first, so it’s worth putting effort into keeping your hands and feet warm and dry. Most brands of gloves have an insulted winter style. I find the downside of these is that they are thick so you lose feel on the grips so another option is wearing rain off over-gloves. These keep your hands warm and dry while wearing lighter gloves all year round. Over-gloves give you better feel plus have the benefit of keeping your gloves dry if it rains. There’s also different brands of heated gloves to consider as well as silk inner gloves.
One of the best ways I know to warm up is to eat. This is because your body burns calories to digest food and in doing so, creates heat. Try it sometime. One morning don't have breakfast, hit the highway at 100kph for an hour and see how you feel. The next time eat a normal breakfast and notice how much longer it takes for your body to get cold.
Take regular breaks.
I take more breaks in cold weather – especially riding long distance. If you're getting cold, that's a signal to pull over, have a warm drink, perhaps something to eat and realign your body temp. Riding cold is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous as you can’t fully focus on the ride.
Wear your rain gear
Rain gear is excellent at reducing the wind chill factor by adding an additional exterior layer. It may not be raining, but it will bring your core temp up a few notches if you use it anyway.
Using these tips, you’ll find that you can ride all year round.
Check out all Helite Airvests and Jackets so you’re safe riding in the cold.