Man for All-Four Seasons
This winter is the first I have stopped riding when it drops below 30 degrees. Having ridden in the Northeastern U.S. for over twenty years-with roughly the last seventeen of those consisting of year-round riding-I have clearly come to embrace the experience of cold weather cruising. However, with a wife and two kids now coupled with the insanity of cold weather metro New York traffic and its highly amplified risk, I have scaled back on the frigid riding. However, when I do venture out into the cold I have a few things that absolutely must be in place before throwing a leg over my Yamaha FJR1300.
The first item is heated apparel; namely a Gerbing's heated jacket liner and their G3 gloves. Unlike big, bulky gloves, the slim styling of the G3s enable me to press the buttons to answer phone calls or adjust volume on my Nolan N-Com (Bluetooth) helmet. Believe me, the last thing you want to do when riding in the cold is stop and take your helmet off to answer or make an important telephone call.
But back to the gear... I have used Widder arm and leg chaps, and their vests for many years prior, but the ease of use plus the fully enveloping heat of the Gerbing's setup is where they trump the Widder and totally justify the higher price tag. I am saving up for Gerbing's socks and pant liners to finish off my ensemble, but my bike tends to run hot and besides, I have a great set of Clover overpants that when combined keep my legs pretty warm and are adequate for now. My feet get cold for sure though. Putting a mix of Cayenne pepper and baby powder in your socks is the old school remedy, but for now I'm going to hold out for the new Gerbing boot liners!
The second key item on my list is my Cee Baileys winter windshield. It's the biggest they make for my bike and man, does it block the wind. The stock shield of my 2005 model is smaller than the one Yamaha currently installs on the FJR (they listened to their customers and made that fix) and it just flows too much cold air into the cockpit even when fully raised. The CB shield is essential in preventing cold drafts from worming their way into your core.
My third essential item are the heated handlebar grips that work very well in tandem with the Gerbing's gloves. Here again, Yamaha sleeked up the look of their grips and corresponding controls after my model year, but what the heck, they still heat up great and that's what counts. In the really cold weather on full blast they can get your digits so hot that once, on a high-speed, deep-freeze trek from New Jersey to Virginia, I got multiple blisters on my hands. That might not have been so great but it shows that you have to work on finding an appropriate setting. (Ideally, I should have had bark-buster type hand shields like on the Suzuki V-Strom to block wind and allow me to run the grips on a non-scalding setting.) As a result, I believe heated grips work best with non-heated gloves in the Fall and Spring when you don't need to crack lots of hot.
Lastly, I believe a neck gaiter is indispensable when riding in the cold. I do not mean doubling up on them like some riders you may have seen who can barely turn their heads. Rather, just one with some decent elasticity to bridge the gap between the heated neck portion of the Gerbing's jacket liner and your helmet. Air always seems to find a way in through there and a good gaiter blocks it like an NFL pro.
In essence, the key to staying warm in really biting cold temperatures is to block any icy wind-drafts and supplement your natural body heat with well designed, reliable electrical under-clothing. Staying warm will not only enable you to ride all year round, but you'll stay safe too.