Don’t underestimate cold weather and the importance of proper winter motorcycle gear. Two third of motorcycle accidents in winter months are caused by riders unable to react accordingly to situations on the road. How? The slightest temperature drop of your core i.e. brain, hart or lungs decrease the effectiveness of your brain functioning.
It’s been a good few months without riding. The thermometer outside shows 12°C (54°F) so you decide to take your machine for a spin. Fed up waiting for summer, you put your motorcycle gear on and off you go. What a feel this is, again you are back where you belong. After 20 minutes you realise it is still bloody cold and the wind isn't your best companion. Your nose starts to run and the occasional shiver become more pronounced each time. After another 15 minutes you've had enough and decide to go back. It's only 25 miles but you really start to struggle thinking of some hot brew you're going to have back home. By the time you arrive home you can barely move and get off the bike with your legs and hands frozen.
Does this scenario sound familiar? I bet it is if you don’t put winter motorcycle gear in temperatures around 10°C (50°F)
For your body the main priority is to maintain the core temperature at 37°C for normal functioning. Your body uses energy to do that. If it starts to lose that heat faster than it can produce your nervous system won't work normally. It's really easily done with the cooling effect of wind. Your reactions are slower and situations become misjudged. Riding without winter motorcycle gear can even lead to mild visual hallucinations and auditory disruptions. You'll find yourself being tired and seriously dangerous for yourself and other road users.
It's intuitive to think that it's the impaired tire grip and bad visibility that makes riding in colder months more dangerous than in summer. Yet, it's simply the cold that makes you worse rider! It's the physics that you need to get your head around it. Here it is how the wind chill works:
The speed on the above graph represents the speed at which you travel on your motorcycle, providing the wind speed is less than 4mph when you stop. You can see that as soon as you get on your bike there is a significant drop in temperature that you become exposed to. Even in air temperatures just above 10°C (looking at the thermometer outside) you need to think of whether you’re going to ride on motorways, and if yes; for what length of time, how often you plan to stop (to warm up) and so what you should put on.
Be comfortable with your winter motorcycle gear. There is no point of putting so many layers of cloths as they would just restrict your ability to move. Putting the extra jumper under your jacket rarely solves the problem. You will probably use skiing socks and winter motorcycle gloves but for the rest of your body, thermal mid layer one piece suit would be most welcomed. Note here that winter motorcycle gear doesn’t need to refer to winter months.
When the weather forecast look promising but you've got to set off early in the morning and you know temperatures won’t reach double figures get the thermal mid layer ready. Take a good look of what you wear to stay warm. Hands and feet are the easiest to lose the heat. However, you may have the warmest gloves and socks but if your torso and legs get cold they won’t be of much help. Remember that for motorcycling, thermal mid layer as a once piece suit is always best.
Now you’ve got yourself this thermal wear, it’s comfortable and warm. What a big difference it makes! It’s a piece of clothing you would not dare going without when temperatures are on the colder side whatever you do. If you’re touring or spending a day on a track, this will always come handy for anybody who owns a motorcycle.
However, you have no choice, you'll have to tune-in to different road conditions and adapt your riding style accordingly when temperatures drop to single figures (°C). It's not surprising that there is more road hazards in winter than in summer, just to name a few: dead leaves, patches of wet grit, ice, etc.. At least you can expect the trouble and so can deal with it. Time after time you can do that effectively by simply REDUCING SPEED! Sounds obvious, doesn't it? Believe me, it's not that obvious for some. The other thing you need to keep in mind is that your brakes are not as effective in colder weather (they work better the hotter it gets) so keeping a good distance from the front is always a good idea. Everything else is exactly the same as with motorcycle riding skills we discussed elsewhere.
What else can you do? Be visible to other road users! This you should always keep in mind regardless the temperature outside. When riding in rain for example, it's always good to have a Hi-Vis vest or jacket on, not to mention the lights on your bike.
Take a good care for your vision. Do not allow your view to be impaired by mist on your visor or on the mirrors. Be prepared; use readily available sprays to combat this. If you wear glasses, use contact lenses instead. Whatever you use for your visor, consider the Pinlock inserts. I found them to be the best.
Return to motorcycle sport touring Home Page