Women Riders

Winterizing Yourself for Cold Weather Riding

Written by  November 30, 2008

If you own a bike, you probably have heard all the methods for winterizing your ride. Some methods contradict each other, some methods make no sense and some require the skills of a master mechanic. I, with the help of my friend and chauffeur, Don, will wade through all the confusion and give you the simple truth about winterizing your motorcycle. Don’t.

Our novel approach requires only one action. Keep riding. I know, it’s cold outside. However, instead of preparing your bike for hibernation and looking forlornly at it as it sits under a canvas cover in the garage, winterize yourself and stop wishing for the first robin of spring to appear. Even a short ride once or twice a week will keep the bike in shape and make winterizing needless.

I am not advocating riding in the snow or attempting to maneuver on icy roads, but as long as the sun is out and the roads are clear, why not just add a few items of warm garments to cruise regardless of what season it is? You can even use the warmth that your motorcycle engine generates to help keep Old Man Winter at bay.

The easiest way to determine what you would need in your particular locale in way of protecting yourself from winter’s grip is to go to your local sporting goods store and check out both the hunting and skiing gear. In the hunting department, you will find all kinds of cool little items, such as heat releasing packets for your hands and feet. Most last for hours, long enough to enjoy a day’s ride. The ski department is great for finding undergarments that block the cold air, scarves and insulated gloves. One lady rider recommended getting bibbed insulated ski pants, claiming they work better than chaps for keeping the body warm.

I am, admittedly, wimpy when it comes to the cold. I hate it. Because I hate it so much, I do as much as I can to block it and still be able to move. My favorite purchase thus far has been my flannel-lined jeans. Paired with my leather chaps, I can’t feel any air at all hitting my legs. I have found that undergarments made for skiers do indeed block the sensation of any cold air, but they also wick moisture and my skin feels cold to the touch. Since I belong to Patriot Guard and we have been called upon in the dead of winter, my best bet has been to don a pair of Under Armor leggings, then the flannel lined jeans topped by the chaps.

My leather jacket is very warm when the lining is zipped in, but I have still felt the cold through it. I first put on a camisole-synthetic materials are good for blocking airflow, so I don’t use any that have cotton in them. Next goes on a turtleneck pullover; those plain soft knit ones make terrific undershirts. Finally, a good heavy sweatshirt completes the ensemble. I have a few that are also turtlenecks and I love them. If it’s really freezing out, I can pull the shirt’s neck up over my mouth after putting the balaclava on and before the full-face helmet.

Gloves are probably the most important part of cold weather gear. Plug-in ones are probably the best investment a rider could make when it comes to comfort. Almost all riding gear comes as plug-ins now but the first purchase should be gloves. Barring that, look for gloves designed for cold weather riding. They should be waterproof and well insulated but not too bulky. The cuff should be able to cover the bottom two or three inches of your jacket sleeves to prevent air infiltration. I add gloves that are made of an insulating but thin cloth. They stretch so I can put them over my thinner leather gloves or under the gauntlet ones. Did I mention I hate the cold?

If your bike has highway bars, you can get aftermarket rain guards like Desert Dawgs, that will not only keep the wind and any precipitation that may come along off your legs, but can actually hold back some of the heat generated by the engine to further warm your legs and feet..

Now that we are all warm and cozy, there are other things to consider when riding in the winter that will make the ride not only comfortable, but safe as well. Generally, people don’t expect to see a motorcycle going by them in January, so it’s important to maintain a good amount a visibility when in traffic. Keep your bike in the driver’s line of vision. Don normally stays on the driver’s side of the car in front of him when coming to a stop, keeping him out of any blind spots and within the sight of the driver’s rearview mirror. Maintain a good distance between you and the vehicle in front; don’t tailgate. EVER. 'Nuff said.

With the shorter days, keep in mind the darkness that comes so quickly and make sure you have something reflective on, the more the better. Consider doing some helmet customizing with reflective pin-striping. Those little DOT stamps are supposed to reflect, but they are too tiny to be effective. I have seen riders wear those orange reflective vests and that’s not a bad idea, especially on really dark roads. The best single line of advice I ever got was, “Ride like you’re invisible, because to most people, you are.” In other words, make the effort to be seen.

Be sure to bring your camera with you. Winter scenery is always pretty and sometimes the bare trees reveal things you didn’t see in the lush green of summer. My personal passion is photographing abandoned things like houses or farms and I have found places that we passed dozens of times in the warmer months but didn’t know they were there until winter.

Now that it’s gift giving time, I think I just gave you some great ideas to put on your wish list. And after you tear open the wrapping paper and see everything you asked for, put it on and announce that you will be back later--you have to go winterize your bike.
By Louise Reeves