7 Cold-Weather Riding Tips

Do you put your motorcycle away during the colder months of the year? Most people do, and find little enjoyment in riding when it’s cold.

But what’s cold? Some riders tap out if the thermometer falls below 60 degrees, but if you live where it gets really cold, temps in the 30s or 40s won’t seem like a big deal. The further the mercury drops, the fewer riders you’ll see, but there are some who take on the cold and look forward to the challenge of riding year-round. 

So are you one of those riders? Do you spend winter months daydreaming about when you can ride again? If you want to put down some miles during the cold season, the following tips may prove helpful.

  • Tip 1: Start warm. It’s easier to stay warm than it is to get warm. If you start your ride while you’re cold, it’s unlikely you’ll warm up. You’ll be miserable from the time you get going, and it won’t get better. I find it best to have the bike ready and warmed up, then head back inside to finish putting on all my gear. Additionally, try not to sweat. If you have on all your cold gear and have to load up your bike, or push it out of the garage, you may find yourself overheating. The last thing you want to do in the cold is sweat. It will freeze, and you’ll lose heat quickly.
  • Tip 2: Layer up. Dressing in layers is essential for cold-weather riding. It not only helps you stay warm, it allows you to take off layers if the temperature starts to rise. (Remember that bit mentioned above about sweating!) Take more layers than you think you’ll need. After you’re dressed, throw another layer of clothing on your bike. You’ll be glad later if the temperature drops further and you thought to bring an extra sweatshirt.
  • Tip 3: Use a windshield. Wind is the enemy in cold weather. Having a windshield will keep the cold, and rain, away from you. It will be possible to wear less layers and still be warm. If your bike is not equipped with a windshield, consider getting one. They can be found for not too much money, and will be worth the cost. While I recommend a windshield for everyone, this is one piece of advice I don’t follow myself. I only have one motorcycle with a windshield, but I keep it off because it causes too much buffeting. Besides, I like the way it looks better without the windshield.
  • Tip 4: Go electric. Dressing in layers is great, but heated gear is better. I’d ridden for plenty of years before getting any electric gear. It was doable, but heated gear is the difference between being “not too cold” and actually being warm. It’s the difference between shivering, and having that feeling you get when you grab a load of laundry from the dryer.
  • Tip 5: Keep up with maintenance. Cold weather will expose any weak points on your motorcycle. Make sure you keep up with maintenance and have your bike in good running condition. Make sure your tires have good tread, antifreeze is adequate, and that you check things regularly. Any roadside repairs will be much more difficult in the cold.
  • Tip 6: Check the weather. Being properly dressed and having your bike properly prepared are great, but it’s only part of the battle. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather. If the roads are dry and there is no precipitation on the weather map, the cold alone won’t keep me from riding. Snow and ice are a different story. It’s unnerving to be on a bike if bad weather unexpectedly strikes. Keep in mind, the weather report isn’t always acute and sometimes “some flurries” can turn into a couple of inches. You may be fearless and not worry about slippery roads – I am not.
  • Tip 7: Know when to stop. There comes a point when it’s not practical to tough it out. It can be dangerous to ride if you’re too cold. Reaction times will be slower and it’s harder to maintain focus. There is no harm in stopping for a bit to warm up, grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, and get out of the cold. Once you’ve warmed up, you can resume riding and enjoy the rest of your journey.

OBSERVATIONS

  • It’s colder than you think!
  • What seems like a good idea from the comfort of your couch isn’t always a good idea.
  • People will look at you funny and be afraid of you when you ride in the cold, especially if it starts snowing.
  • Being cool is cool, being cold is not.
  • Buy the right gear –it’s worth it.
  • If someone has ever ridden their motorcycle in the cold even once, they’ll be more than happy to tell you how they endured an entire winter with only a motorcycle as their mode of transportation –riding naked through blizzards.

Riding in the cold isn’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with putting your bike up for the winter if it’s not your thing. With a little bit of preparation, riding through the winter is more than just possible, it can be enjoyable. So, what are your tips for cold-weather riding?

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