Safe Riding

Your Riding Temperature

Written by  April 30, 2009

Ever wonder what the temperature of your ride really feels like? As soon as you start moving through the air on a motorcycle, the temperature you experience and what you see on a thermometer are different.
So different, that once you hit 30 mph, the temperature you’re experiencing is a full 12 degrees less than what you see on the bank clock. After 30 mph, your riding temperature continues to decrease 2 degrees for every 10 mph. So, by the time you reach 70 mph, your riding temperature is a full 20 degrees less than what you’ll see on the thermometer.
Let’s say you step outside and see that it’s a mild and beautiful morning at 50 degrees. While your clothing may keep you warm enough while standing in that 50 degrees, if you start riding the open road and approach 70 mph, it will feel like 30 degrees to you.
Safely riding a motorcycle includes managing and preparing for your riding temperature, the one you’ll really experience on the open road. The best way to do this is to dress in and carry layers of clothing on the motorcycle, including gloves.
Having a jacket, whether leather or synthetic, is your first need. Along with it, you’ll want at least one and perhaps two other items of long-sleeve upper body accessory wear. You’ll want these layers to keep you warm when it’s cold and then take layers off as it starts to warm.
You’ll find the same to be true of gloves. Thick, over-the-wrist gloves will be handy for early morning and late evening riding. But during the day, a lighter pair that just comes up to the wrist bone will be fine.
What would be wrong, you might wonder, with forgoing layers and just committing to wearing a thick jacket and gloves throughout the day of riding? This could be dangerous for two reasons.
For one, you might become too warm during the day and get woozy while riding. Second, wearing a thick, non-layered jacket when it’s 30 degrees will certainly keep you warm but could lead to sweating inside the jacket later on. When you stop for gas or a break, you’ll no longer be acclimated for the weather and probably be cold when you start riding again if any sweat has dried and your clothing is a little wet.
Overall, having 2-3 options for your upper body, 2 pairs of gloves, and 1 set of chaps or similar cover for your legs will help you properly prepare for riding. Since your riding temperature and the ambient temperature differ as your riding speed increases and the temperature throughout the day will change, these layers will make the difference in your enjoyment and keep you safely riding instead of being preoccupied by discomfort.
Remembering your riding temperature is easy: 12 degrees less at 30 mph, 2 degrees for every 10 mph thereafter. Plan ahead to enjoy the ride.
By Christopher Hess
MSF Certified Rider Coach and owner of NEET Motorcycle Institute in Lawrence, Kansas