Recently across much of the upper Midwest and Intermountain west, along with the East Coast, the weather has been wetter and cooler than usual, which really brought this subject to mind.
The days are getting shorter by about two minutes, I’m told. While that’s been happening since June, we tend not to take much note of it until about this time of year, because the effects become more noticeable.
The subject of the moment is cold-weather riding gear — more specifically, our top tips for facing the less-than-balmy riding days upon us. It is September, after all.
So, here we go, the Top Six Motorcycle Gear Tips for Cold-Weather Riding:
The oldest advice for the changeable and cooler, wetter weather of autumn and winter is to dress in layers. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it allows versatility. It allows you to dress for the cool of the morning out on the road and then to remove a layer or two as the weather warms up during the day—assuming it does warm up.
Second, it creates more warmth than one thick garment by trapping air between the garments and creating some additional insulating effect. Many riding gear manufacturers offer “base layer” products (think of UnderAmour) now that not only are designed for this cold weather function, but may also be a way to add impact protectors inside your riding gear that doesn’t already have it. The layers can include the zip out lining in your jacket if it came with one.
Gloves protect the part of you that is most likely to feel the chill first — your hands. They are out there in the wind and often chill down first.
Cold hands can make an otherwise tolerable day long and uncomfortable. What’s worse is that cold hands may not allow you to have the feel of the controls – a huge safety factor.
Think about gloves that feature insulating materials like Thinsulate, and are waterproof – whether they are leather, textile or some combination of both. Gore-Tex is always favored when it comes to waterproof material.
Keeping your hands warm and dry on chilly days can make a huge difference in the enjoyment of the ride.
Your riding jacket is a key element in protecting you from the cold — even from hypothermia. Gear up with a wind resistant and waterproof jacket when the going gets cold.
That may sound like it has to be leather, but there are a lot of options out there these days. Yes, leather is a great choice not only for wind and weather resistance, but for abrasion protection, but modern textile and hybrid leather/textile jackets offer all that may come in lower in price, as well.
If you are in the market for a new cool-weather riding jacket, think about one that offers impact protection at the elbows, shoulders, back and in some models, even over the chest. And don’t forget to check into the options for heated jacket liners or jackets with integral heating elements.
Look for a good storm flap over the main zipper—that can keep a draft from blowing right through the front of the jacket even when the zipper is closed. Look for adjustability and maybe some knit cuffs in the sleeves to seal the wind out.
Riding pants have come a long way in the past few years; everything from heated gear to advancements in materials for comfort, warmth and durability, as well as impact protectors built in at knees, hips, pelvis and more.
As with riding jackets, leather is great but textile and hybrid material construction options exist, as well. Think about long zippers up the legs to allow for easy-on and off, adjustability in the waist, plenty of pockets, and removable, washable inner liner options. Overpants work nicely, as well — just allow room in sizing for the kind of pants you plan to wear inside. And of course, don’t forget base layers.
Next to cold hands, cold feet can do a lot of damage to an otherwise great day on the bike. Protecting your feet from injury on the bike is the purview of a good riding boot or shoe, but add the potential for cold, wet weather and the list of qualities your footwear must have gets longer.
When picking out cold weather riding boots be sure to take into account what you may be wearing inside the boots — heated or thick woolen socks for example. Think about layers there, as well.
I’ve found that a light sock inside a heavier wool or athletic sock works great — but not if it makes your boots fit too tightly. That will actually make your feet feel cold sooner, not to mention being uncomfortable from the start. There are also base-layer socks specific for cold-weather riding available.
Good insulated, waterproof boots with stout non-slip soles are a good investment for autumn riding.
Don’t forget that even though a properly fitted helmet does provide pretty good weather protection, there are some things that can make it even better for cold weather, such as a helmet liner (which may even be heated) or balaclava and neck gaiter to close the gap between your helmet and collar of your jacket.
If you ride snowmobiles, this is not news, but motorcycle riders may not use anything inside the helmet as often as the snowmobile crowd.
Don’t miss the great fall riding just because the temperature drops—gear up and get out there—in comfort!
For other cold-weather riding info, visit our Top 7 Cold-Weather Motorcycling Riding Tips.