As portions of the United States take on round two against a polar vortex, the majority of motorcycle riders in these areas will hunker down in the comfort of their cozy abode and wait it out before throwing a leg over the saddle. Then there will be those few individuals that will come unhinged waiting for the weather to pass and will just suck it up and battle the freezing conditions in order to get their two-wheeled fix.
Riding in cold weather isn’t much fun if you aren’t properly outfitted with the right motorcycle riding gear. Not only is it not fun, but it can also be dangerous causing numbness and stiffness which can result in reduced reaction times. Cold weather can also be distracting, leading you to focus on the chill running through your body rather than paying attention to the road. However, with the proper motorcycle attire you can put up a better fight when taking to two wheels in freezing weather.
Drop that Base:
One of the best ways to combat the cold is starting with a good base layer. It will be the first layer of defense against escaping body heat and the last layer of defense against penetrating wind and rain. Fly Racing’s Lightweight Base Layer Pants and matching top have been designed to provide form fitting comfort and un-restricted movement with its multi-direction stretch fabric. Featuring an advanced evaporation technology, this lightweight base layer will trap body heat and wick away moisture to the outside of the garments. With its thin structure the top and pants will easily fit under your regular riding gear without adding extra bulk or making you look like you’ve gained ten pounds in five minutes. And with built in odor control you won’t smell like a barnyard animal after a long days ride. The lightweight layer is ideal for those days when it’s going to be kind of cold in the morning and will warm up later in the day. If you are heading out to more extreme weather then Fly Racing’s Heavyweight Base Layer Top and matching pants might be a better option. Comprised of all the same features as the lightweight layer the heavyweight layer is made of a little bit thicker material to provide additional warmth.
Okay, so you’ve got your chest, arms, and legs covered in a base layer, but what about the rest of your body? It’s important not to forget about the feet, hands, and your head/neck. Sure you’ll probably be wearing a full face motorcycle helmet which will provide plenty of protection against wind chill, but there will most likely still be some gaps that will allow air to reach your ears, the top of your head and other areas. Therefore you should cover your head in a base layer in the form of a Balaclava under your motorcycle helmet. No, we’re not talking about that pastry your grandma used to make, that’s spelled Baklava. A Balaklava is basically what you see most bank robbers wear. Schampa’s Pharaoh Deluxe StormGear Balaclava is the ultimate in under-helmet cold weather protection. It is comprised of a brushed micro fleece WarmSkin material around the face and head areas for a silky smooth feel against the cheeks and forehead, and a thicker windproof /waterproof StormGear micro fleece down the lower front section. The Pharaoh has been designed for comfort with fully flat seams throughout to reduce irritation while the extended front and rear panels provide the additional warmth for the chest and neck area, preventing wind from slipping through the cracks. Even if you’re brave enough to step out in a 3/4 helmet or half helmet this balaclava will protect you from the elements. The best part is if you get into a conversation or get too hot you can easily slip the mouth portion out of your way and tuck it down under your chin.
While Stiff Little Fingers might have been your favorite punk band, when it comes to motorcycle riding they’re the last thing you want to think about. Slipping a pair of Olympia’s C6 Polypropylene Glove Liners under your regular motorcycle gloves or winter gloves can make a world of difference and help keep your digits fully functional. Made from 100-perecnt polypropylene, the gloves provide thermal insulation but will also keep your palms and fingers dry by wicking away moisture. In case you get caught in a rain storm and your gloves aren’t waterproof you don’t have to worry too much about the liners as they are quick drying and can be ready to go in a short period of time.
The last piece to the base layer puzzle is a pair of heated socks. Just like your fingers, your toes can easily tighten up pretty quickly in cold weather. Extremely thin and featuring flat heat technology Firstgear’s Heated Socks will easily slide into your motorcycle boots without cramping your toes. In addition, the flat heat technology means you won’t feel any uncomfortable or bulky wires. Designed with fitted heels, seamless toes, and comprised of micro fleece material, the socks will slip on your feet and between your boots with ease. Heat is controlled via an external controller (sold separately) and delivered to where your feet need it most, the toes. Similar to other base layers these socks feature a moisture wicking material to keep your feet free of sweat and moisture.
Turn up the Heat:
When trying to ride your motorcycle through a polar vortex you’ll probably need even more protection than just a light or heavyweight base layer. You’re going to need the utmost in cold weather battle armor, heated motorcycle gear. To go along with the heated socks, there’s Firtgear’s Heated Pant Liner. Similar to the base layer mentioned earlier in the fact that it’s form fitting, this pant liner heats things up even more by offering indoor heating. Once you have one of Firstgear’s Heat Trollers (sold separately) connected to your motorcycle battery you can plug in the pants and deliver heat to the thighs, knees, and seat area—about 35 watts, 2.7 amps at 12.8 volts. Made of spandex fabric, the pant liner allows for free movement while anti-bacterial treatment prevents odors. For convenience, the pants pack up into the included zippered carry pouch and the sock plugs down at the ankles stow in to their own zippered pockets when not in use.
You always hear people talking about keeping your core warm. Well, you can do exactly that with Venture’s Soft Shell Heated Vest. Features of this motorcycle vest include weather-resistant, lightweight polyester, a soft shell exterior, fleece-lined collar, and form-fitting stretchable side panels to help keep heat close to the body. Powered off your motorcycle battery, the heat panels in the front, back, and collar are maintained via the included controller (battery harness and safety fuse are also included). The control unit has four different settings so you can dial in the perfect micro-climate.
For the female rider Venture offers its Battery Powered Women’s Heated Vest. Designed specifically to fit the curves of a woman, this vest can be used as a middle layer in extreme cold or as a standalone to keep the upper body warm when the sun dips below the horizon. The vest is made up of quilted nylon and has an insulated, wind-blocking material to keep the breeze out and the heat in. No need to mess with external wires connected to the battery or worry about plugging in/unplugging every time you get on or off the motorcycle, the vest comes with a compact rechargeable lithium-ion battery that delivers more than five hours of heat to the three zones (two in the chest area and a larger zone in the back). For ease of use, this heated motorcycle vest comes with a one touch controller with three temperature adjustment settings. To keep the profile of the vest slim and optimize maneuverability, the vest is internally wired with micro-fiber Xtreme Comfort Technology (XTC) heating panels that are soft, pliable, and extremely thin.
If you think a vest isn’t going to be enough cold weather protection then a heated jacket is your next best bet. Mobile Warming’s Classic Softshell Jacket is your basic heated jacket operated off of a rechargeable 7.4v 2.2aAh lithium-ion battery. By fully charging the battery with the included wall charger you can expect up to 10 hours of warmth (depending on settings) delivered through three heating panels, two in the chest area and one in the back. With its multi-level adjustment you can crank up the heat reaching a maximum surface temperature of 135 degrees at full power. As a lightweight softshell jacket it’s easy to move your arms and torso allowing you to lean, bend, and twist your body and arms as you operate your motorcycle. The exterior features Windshark 4-way stretchable and highly breathable fabric that is also waterproof. To help lock in the heat the jacket has an adjustable hem draw cord.
Another motorcycle jacket option would be the Venture Battery Powered Heated Jacket. This jacket is also of the lightweight soft shell variety and comes with a weather resistant, 100-percent polyester exterior and a breathable black mesh lining on the inside. It has a fleece-lined collar which makes for a very comfortable fit when fully zipped and provides additional warmth around the neck. This jacket comes with a rechargeable 7.2v lithium ion battery and a wall charger. It is equipped with two heaters in the chest and two in the back which are operated by a remote that allows you to centralize the heat to either low, medium, or high heat where you want it. Capable of delivering several hundred miles of heat while you ride, the Venture is up for any motorcycle adventure.
If you’re in the market for a set of heated gloves you’ll definitely want to take a look at Venture’s Epic 2.0 Battery Powered Heated Gloves. These gauntlet style motorcycle gloves will keep you smiling for miles. An adjustable Velcro strap around the wrist allows you to trap in heat and keep rain, hail, and snow from gaining access to your hands. For supreme weather protection the gloves are comprised of a weatherproof shell and waterproof Thinsulate lining. Two lightweight, rechargeable lithium ion batteries are included and easily zip into a small pouch on each glove to deliver up to five hours of heat depending on the settings. You can choose from three heat settings with the push of a button. A combination of a textile top exterior and a leather palm area the Epic 2.0 will allow you to maintain a firm hold on your motorcycle grips even in wet conditions. What many riders will appreciate most about these gloves is the conductive fibers incorporated into the thumbs and forefingers. These fibers make it possible to manipulate touch screen devices such as cell phones and tablets without having to remove the gloves—a very important feature when in extremely cold conditions.
When It Rains it Pours:
When it comes to riding it the rain, it’s all about the outer layer. Some good motorcycle rain gear can make riding into a storm a little more tolerable. Without rain gear you become a sloppy, sopping mess. Not only do you look like a drowned rat, but it can weigh you down and tire you out more quickly as you deal with the extra water weight. Donning rain gear is like a knight getting ready for battle with his suit of armor. Frogg Toggs Pro Action Rain Jacket and matching pants are 100-percent waterproof and windproof while also providing breathability so you it doesn’t feel like you’re riding around in a mobile sauna. Optimized for the stresses and abuses that motorcyclists put their gear through the Frogg Toggs Pro Action Pants and Jacket have high strength seams with waterproof taping for durability and water protection. Made up of a patented process that features three layers of polypropylene material with a center layer of microporous film, this combination eliminates moisture penetration. Full movement is maintained due to the roomy sizing of the garments and the addition of elastic waist bands and wrist and ankle cuffs mean that the pants or jacket won’t creep up when riding at highway speeds. The rain gear features the convenience of a zip-out hood and full length zipper with a snap-down storm flap built into the jacket and easy access pass through pockets and 8-inch leg zippers incorporated into the pants.
Above and Beyond:
For those that want to go above and beyond the standard base layers, heated gear, and rain gear here are a few other items that can be incorporated into your cold weather arsenal.
If your riding boots aren’t completely waterproof or you want to protect your boots from the muck, mud, and nasty road debris that get flung up when riding then Frogg Toggs’ Frogg Leggs Boot Covers are exactly what you need. Slip these 17-inch, full coverage leggings over your boots and you’ll be ready for anything. These motorcycle boot covers have adjustable arch and ankle straps, a custom fit calf, and a cinch draw sting at the top to keep the water and debris out of your boots. Gaining traction on your motorcycle foot pegs or floorboards won’t be a problem as these covers have slip-free rubber outsoles with tiny teeth incorporated into them. Constructed of a durable, waterproof 600 denier rubberized nylon these covers will also add burn proof protection from your motorcycle exhaust.
Don’t laugh, these Bikemaster Mitts can make a world of difference when riding in the biting cold. The exterior is made up of a 600 denier polyester blend, colorfast, UV resistant and water repellent material while the inside is insulated and lined with cozy fleece. These mitts slip over the ends of your motorcycle’s handlebars and have slotted openings for the mirrors and cables. They cinch down with Velcro to block out air and provide protection from wind, rain, snow, and hail. These mitts are like cozy dens for your hands.
If you don’t want to ride around in motorcycle mitts then maybe a set of Bikemaster Heated Grips are more up your alley. Available for both 1-inch and 7/8-inch handlebars these heated motorcycle grips come with everything you need to hook up to your battery and install onto just about any motorcycle. They can even work as ATV grips. The grips are constructed of a specially selected rubber material that resists outdoor environments while providing a secure and comfortable resting place for your hands. With five levels of heat to choose from you can easily dial in the right temperature no matter if you’re going for a brisk spring ride or attempting to summit Colorado’s Mount Evans in the dead of winter.
There was a lot of material covered here, but hopefully we enlightened you to some useful riding gear that will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and go for a mid-winter ride.