Cold

A warm rider is a safe rider

On a motorcycle, wind chill drops the temperature a lot, especially at high speeds. On a cool day (63 degrees Fahrenheit), temperatures for a rider at 55mph approach freezing point. Wind chill can lower the current temperature 20-30 degrees. So on a cold day, a rider gets really cold. Feeling cold distracts you from riding safely. If your fingers get too cold, you cant “feel” the bike controls. If your body chills rapidly, you get hypothermia, and cant think clearly.

The way to deal with cold is to dress right. This means good warm gear. Without it, you can only ride on the sunniest of days (and for short distances). With the right gear, you can be snug in almost any weather, and a warm rider is a safe rider. Any fool can freeze.

The layer system

It is not the thickness of each layer that counts, but the number of layers

The layer system lets you adapt to the cold. I have good warm gear, but sometimes in the winter, it is still not enough. The layer system means adding clothing layers for extra warmth. It is not the thickness of each layer that counts, but the number of layers. This is because the air between layers is also an insulator. On a long cold trip, I might wear:

  1. A thermal body vest
  2. A warm shirt
  3. A warm woolen waistcoat
  4. A light windbreaker
  5. A full riding jacket over it all.
The advantage of layering is flexibility

Can it get that cold? Sure it can! Especially on a long trip. The advantage of layering is flexibility. If it warms up, drop the waistcoat and windbreaker, i.e. take a layer off. If it gets colder, stop and add one. I travel with a windbreaker in the back - its a spare layer. Having layers also keeps you dry in the pouring rain. If the water gets through one layer, the next one stops it.

To boost your gloves in cold conditions, wear glove liners

The same principle applies to keeping feet, hands and legs warm. Two pairs of socks, an inner thin pair and an outer thick one, are better than one very thick pair of socks. To boost your gloves in cold conditions, wear glove liners - thin fingered gloves worn inside your main gloves. Or add glove covers, worn outside your gloves for extra warmth or waterproofing. For the legs, inner long-johns always add warmth. You can pull lightweight leggings over heavy leggings for an extra layer.

Keep the heat

When travelling, keeping warm is largely a matter of keeping the heat you have

Without good gear, you can go about half an hour when its chilly before you have to stop. In the winter cold, its even less. As you go faster the wind chill increases, so without good gear you cant travel fast. Normally you generate heat by moving about, but on a motorcycle you cant do that. It is dangerous to try to move about to generate heat while riding. Once you lose your heat, the only way to get it back is to stop, go inside somewhere, and warm up. It can then can take 10-20 minutes to warm up. Stopping every half hour is not a good way to complete a long trip. A long ride in the cold tells you how good your gear is. It is hard to keep warm on a long, cold trip. Over time, your heat drains away. When travelling, keeping warm is largely a matter of keeping the heat you have. Once you get cold, you have to stop.

Face cold

A scarf can keep the chill wind from your face

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You might have good gear, but what about the freezing wind coming up under your helmet on a really cold day? As you go faster, the problem increases, and a frozen face is bad news. When your lips and nose get cold, they hurt. I find a scarf helpful here. Pull it up under the helmet and wrap it around your chin. A scarf can keep the chill wind from your face. Even better is a balaclava, but you have to put that on in advance, under your helmet. A scarf you can just pull up as needed.