Now that October is officially here, and with it the fall weather most of us love (or love to hate, as some bikers feel), it’s time to talk about cold-weather riding. Some of us love to ride when it’s chilly. Seeing the changing leaves from the saddle is one of the most beautiful sites you can ever imagine; but the cold temperatures that usually follow can not only be painful, they can actually be dangerous. Riding in cold or colder weather is not just as simple as throwing on an extra hoodie under your jacket, and that’s why we’ve made this easy guide to help you stay warm and safe this year, and all the years ahead.
1.) The Helmet
The temperatures outside might not yet be cold enough to allow for snowfall, but that doesn’t mean that the road is your friend. Wind chill is the number one thing you need to protect yourself against when you’re out there on an autumn afternoon, and making sure that you’re warm and as comfortable as possible is as easy as buying/owning the right gear and accessories.
Whenever I am going to be riding in cooler weather for any extended amount of time (usually anything over 20 minutes) the first thing I do is think about my head. Head safety is something that we at LeatherUp take very seriously, and even more-so when it comes to colder riding. The places you lose the most heat from are your head, groin, hands and feet. Of all of these the head is absolutely most important, and that’s why we recommend that if the wind-chill temperature is low you always, always wear a full-faced helmet.
Getting a full-faced helmet, like this one from Xelement will be the best money you’ve ever spent if you plan on doing any riding this fall or winter.
Adding a balaclava adds an additional amount of warmth and protection, while not wrecking your wallet. Balaclavas like this start off at just $14.95, for instance.
2.) The Jacket
We know a thing or two about jackets here, and of all the jackets we sell we love our leather jackets the most. When it comes to cold-weather riding you will definitely want to consider using a genuine, premium leather jacket to help block that constant enemy: the wind. Leather is a better wind blocking material than almost anything out there on the market, and price-wise it makes the most sense to get a solid leather jacket you can wear all year round, instead of buying one exclusively for the fall. I personally wear this Xelement Charcoal Dark Brown jacket, since it is thick, comfortable, and features level-3 armor for added protection in the event of a spill. I also like the mandarin-style collar on this jacket, and it goes perfectly with the aforementioned balaclava and full-face helmet combo.
If you’re going to be riding in particularly harsh weather this fall or winter think about adding duct tape to any holes or openings your jacket may have. Duct tape is an extremely useful and inexpensive fix that won’t ruin most leather jackets when applied. Another thing you can do, which may seem a little unorthodox, is take some newspaper and line the inside of your jacket with it. Yes, it may sound a little crazy, but there is a reason why people have been stuffing their pants and jackets with this stuff since the dawn of motorcycling. It’s cheap, and it just works at cutting the wind. It’s a thin, light-weight insulator that you will be thanking the stars you bothered to shove inside your jacket when the sun and temperature drop quickly. Try back to back rides with and without the stuff. Guarantee you will notice the difference, especially while wearing thinner jackets.
3.) The Gloves
Your hands are important. They are arguably the second most important thing when it comes to riding a motorcycle, which means that you should treat them as such when thinking of riding in the cold. Fall and winter riding is not the time for wearing fingerless gloves and trying to look hard. This is the time to get a hefty pair of gauntlet-style, insulated leather gloves, and be thankful that you did. Gauntlet-style gloves are perfect for cold riding because they extend past the sleeve of your jacket, making them easy to tuck in or cover your sleeve as you see fit. A pair of gloves like this are perfect, as they are thick, warm, and still have the flexibility you’ll need to have while riding. With anti-slip panels on the inner thumb, index and middle finger tips, you don’t have to worry about gripping onto your clutch or brake. The padded palm also makes these perfect for bikers who don’t have cruise control.
Lastly, go to your local hunting/camping store or outdoors section of your big box store and pick up a pack of air-activated feet and hand warmers. You’ll spend a few bucks now but get up to 6 hours of warmth that you can simply just drop inside your gloves or boots, keeping you all kinds of toasty in the areas that matter most.
4.) The Boots
We’ve already talked a little about feet — specifically that you should always have some cheap warmers at hand to throw inside of them when you’ll be riding in the cold — but a couple more things you want to consider with boots is the fit and style. The style should be self evident: you’ll want to have a taller boot that will provide more wind protection than what a riding shoe or smaller boot can provide. This pair of boots, for example, are one of our best selling boots; and while they are great for riding in any kind of weather, they are absolutely perfect for cold-weather riding due to their high, 13″ shaft.
Secondly, while it may not seem like a big deal now, having the right fit on your boot means more for cold-weather riding than you think. You’ll want your boot to have enough extra room for a pair of extra socks, and you never want to have your boots be too tight, as closing off the circulation in your feet will just make them colder quicker. Even though it may seem to go against your gut instinct, having a little bit of breathing room in your boots will go a long way to keeping them warm and snug while shooting down the cold roads and highways near your house.
5.) The Bike
What can you do to your bike to make it warmer? Well, the simplest addition to your bike will be a windshield. This will redirect airflow (duh!) and keep it from pounding your body with freezing winds.
Depending on your make and model you can also buy a pair of wind deflectors for your handlebars, which are the perfect way to give your hands the extra warmth they need to stay sharp and flexible during a fall ride. Check out our full selection of windshields, wind deflectors and windscreens by clicking here, and see if your make and model are available.
Finally, we get down to it. You. What you can do before you put on all the other things we’ve talked about to stay absolutely warm. The best way that I have personally found to stay extra warm while riding in the cold is to go to a local military surplus store and buy a set of thermal underwear — both top and bottom. Thermal underwear, like the kind worn by our soldiers, is relatively thin and light, but it is so warm you probably won’t believe that you can just wear that and your normal gear on shorter rides and be 100% comfortable. Thin and light, no matter what you put on under your jacket and gear, is the main thing you want to consider. When it comes to riding you’re not just packing on as many layers as you can. First of all, that’s not really efficient — cost wise or otherwise — but more importantly, you never want to sacrifice flexibility for warmth. You always need to remember that you’re a rider first, and being a rider means making sure that your ability to ride safe, without any handicaps to maneuverability or flexibility, is of the ultimate importance. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars finding the right pair of under garments, though. Fleece or thermal undergarments work just as well as any specialty things you can find (for the most part), and will save you lots of money in the long run.
And that’s it, folks! See, that isn’t too painful is it? One of the last things we’ll mention is that when it comes to cold-weather riding, you’ll want to find any holes and plug them. Whether they are gaps in your collar and helmet, gaps between your pants and jacket, or gaps between your boots and pants; find the holes and plug them as best you can. Each hole and gap that wind can find its way through is a painful experience, and it’s worth it to just give yourself and your gear a quick once over before every extended ride in cold weather.
We’ll see you later, and have some happy and safe riding this fall!