Well, let's make this blog earn it's namesake!  We're now on the cusp of December and being the Northeast, that means temperatures are reliably falling below the freezing mark.  So where does that leave us?  I could yabber on about fuel stabilizers, battery tenders and gasoline-soaked rags stuffed in mufflers, but instead we'll go over some very simple steps you, yes YOU can take to extend your riding season.  Hell, maybe even not have an off season!

When I first started riding, I would make it until about mid-November and then I would go through an all-day process of cleaning, waxing, stabilizing and packing up, stuffing the bike into a corner of my father's garage for the winter.  This was the modus operandi for a few years and multiple bikes until we had a warm stretch of days one February.  I would have loved to have gone for a ride, but my bike was not home and not ready to ride.  Both of which were not cool.  Ever since then, the bikes don't get packed up and I take advantage of any warm(ish) day we get while the Northern Hemisphere tips away from the Sun.

So what can you do to make sure your ride is as comfortable as possible when you cruise past that bank thermometer when it says 31 degrees?  There are two schools of thought - The New School, and the Old School.  Let's start with the latter.

Old School

When riding in cold weather, you're battling two things: the ambient temperature, and the windchill factor.  While there is a lot of crossover, there are some separate things to do to combat each.  To keep warm, layers are where it's going to be at.  Personally, if it's below about 50 degrees, I put on a thermal base layer and go from there.  There's a fair amount of engine heat as well as leg fairing on my bike, so not much else besides a thick pair of socks and sweatpants or jeans goes on the lower half of my body.  The upper half gets a t-shirt, maybe a long-sleeve shirt and a hoodie.  Really cold days will also add a fleece vest.  All of that gets wrapped up in a one-peice riding suit (to keep the wind out) with the insulated liner in as well.  It all feels a bit cumbersome when you put it on, but once you're on the bike you don't need to move around much so it's not too intrusive.  A full-face helmet is a must as well as something to cover your neck.  If your various layers don't have a tall collar, you can spend $15 or whatever on a purpose made neck gaiter, or just use a cheap neckerchief.  You'll want warm boots and winter-specific riding gloves to finish everything off.  Obviously the more fairing your bike has the better off you'll be, but this shouldn't be a make it or break it kind of deal.

New School

Real simple, here... add electrics!  The Old School methods should be enough for most hearty people down to around freezing and for short rides in the sun.  Past that, you need to be exceptionally warm-blooded or turn to technology.  Currently I have heated gloves and socks and can vouch for both.  There is the rumor that simply adding a heated vest or jacket to keep your core warm will also keep your hands and feet warm, so if you're budgeting on buying all of that stuff anyway try starting with just the jacket and see how it does.  The only brand I've used is FirstGear (which just rebrands Warm & Safe products) and can recommend them.

That's about it - I think the next entry will go over some good riding habits to use when things get frosty.
12/1/2012 04:37:52 am

I like to wear a windbreaker as well as a fleece under my leather and I am usually toasty as I have no fairing. I also wear a leather over glove on the armor leather gloves I usually wear.

Joel Storm
12/2/2012 10:20:08 am

breaking wind!!!!
i mean something windproof makes a huge difference- i have windproof jacket with quilted liner that is quite warm and can add a flannel type shirt or fleece under that.
pants have a windproof water proof liner.

those one size fits all stretch gloves from the dollar store (or h-d dealer, it's your $$) under your winter gloves really helps.

i have a "turtle fur" (fleece tube) for the neck
and can supplement with a balaclava (think joan of arc) that can be worn below the chin or up as far as the nose.
thin material fiats best under helmets, thicker material is warmer but can get hot.
above all, allow no air leaks at cuff, neck or ankles.


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