For many riders, the crisp cold air of fall signals when the bike goes into the garage or under a cover to hibernate for the winter. We wrote a post on proper winter bike storage a few weeks ago for that very reason. But for many riders autumn just means adding a few layers to enjoy some picturesque rides with beautiful fall colors and leaf covered streets. If you’re one of those who is not yet ready to park your bike for the winter, here’s a list of cold weather riding tips to extend your season this year.
First and foremost you will need to to be wind proof! Wind will be the bane of your existence for cold weather riding. Here is a chart from cyclefish.com showing what the temperature is with rding speed on a motorcycle. You can clearly see that temperatures drop quickly with speed. When you’re sitting on a motorcycle, you’re not moving and generating much heat and the wind and cold constantly drain your heat. Unless you have heated clothing or equipment (grips, seat, etc.) then you will eventually get cold. The hardest thing will be to keep wind and drafts out. You may think you are sealed up well until you get on the highway and feel cold spots of air getting in at your cuff, neck, or ankle. The warmer you dress, the longer it will take for you to get cold, but if you’re doing a long enough ride you will need to stop every so often to warm up your body depending on the temperature.
- Hands – Keeping your hands warm is probably the most important thing to keep warm, but also the hardest part to keep warm. Choosing a good pair of gloves is crucial. You don’t want gloves that are too heavy and thick that you can’t effectively use the controls but you want them to be very warm and also keep any draft out of your coat sleeves. Snowmobile gloves are a great options since they have less insulation on the palm side for better grip and control of levers, and they are built to withstand extreme cold and weather so most are wind and waterproof. A few snowmobile gloves to look at on GearHead would be the Motorfist Rekon Gloves and the Klim Elite Glove for ultimate cold weather protection. If you’re on a budget, the FLY Racing Aurora waterproof and windproof gloves feature a cool extended neoprene wrist cuff to keep wind out along with a cinch cord cuff and wrist strap to really keep the wind out.
- Torso and Arms – A wind proof jacket is a must when riding in the cold. If you don’t have a good one, invest in one that is tight fitting, windproof, and waterproof, and that you can put on layers underneath. Again, a snowmobile jacket is not a bad way to go since they are made to stand up to low temps for long periods of time. Some people have found leather to be good with layers underneath such as a soft shell and snug fitting base layers. Make sure that the back of the jacket is long enough that there is no draft up your back when you are sitting or you can cinch it tight.
- Head and Neck – A full face helmet does a fairly good job of keeping your head warm. The problems you run into when riding in the cold are keeping the visor from fogging up and keeping your chin and neck warm. Neck gaiters are a great way to go since they don’t make it harder to put your helmet on like a balaclava does and you can adjust them. Use some anti fog on your visor to keep things clear as well and close up your vents to keep your noggin warmer.
- Legs and Feet – Your legs and feet will be receiving the brunt of the wind on your ride and if there’s any water on the road they are going to get that as well, which makes them harder to keep warm. A good pair of thick leather chaps combined with jeans and a base layer will do a fairly good job of keeping your legs warm. Some riders prefer waterproof pants or insulated snowmobile type pants just be careful of not melting them on your exhaust. Keeping your feet warm is almost as difficult as keeping your hands warm. Invest in a some good long socks and warm insulated boots that are wind proof or leather. Some snowmobile boots are too thick to be able to properly shift, but we’ve found the Motorfist Stomper boots to be perfect for keeping warm but not so bulky that shifting is impossible. There are lots of other boots on the market that will fit the bill as well but we love the Stomper boots because they are breathable, insulated, totally waterproof, and they look pretty dang good as well.
- Equipment – While many riders hate the look of a windshield on their bike, they will appreciate having one when it comes to cold weather riding since it will block your torso and head from the biting cold wind. If you ride an adventure bike and don’t have hand guards, now is a good time to invest in some to block some of the wind on your hands and wrists allowing you to keep your hands warmer longer. Many riders will install heated grips and even heated clothing(socks, pants, jacket, gloves, etc.) but most bikes won’t be able to power much more than one or two heating accessories and most heated grips aren’t very compatible with a twist throttle. It’s also a good idea to stuff extra rain gear or layers into your saddle bags or a back pack if you’re going on more than a half hour ride as you want to be prepared. Also make sure your tires do well in the cold and that they have enough air in them (air pressure drops in the cold).
- Be Aware – There are some road dangers to be aware of when riding in the fall. One is black ice, so always be aware of the temperature and if there could be ice looming on the streets. Wet leaves can be just as slippery as ice especially on a corner so be particularly careful on tree shaded roads.
We hope you are able to enjoy riding well into the fall and even winter depending on where you live. Share this post if you found it helpful so that more riders can experience the joys riding even when it’s a bit chilly out.
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