Tips for Winter Motorcycle Riding in Safety and Comfort

A few weeks ago at the Gravitate Jeans blog we offered up some great advice on how to store your motorcycle for winter. But that got us to thinking: How many of our readers are intrepid enough to forego storage and stay on the road until spring?

For those of you willing to brave the elements through the colder months, we’ve got some tips on how to keep yourself as comfortable (and safe) as possible when you’re on the road in winter.

How to Ride in Winter

First and foremost, let’s establish that a motorcycle isn’t an SUV or all-terrain vehicle. It’s not impossible to ride in the winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s never a bad idea. If temperatures are sub-freezing before factoring in wind-chill, the highway on a bike probably isn’t the best idea. Likewise, if there’s snow or ice in the forecast it’s best to avoid the road altogether, especially on a motorcycle. All that being said, here are some general tips on winter riding when conditions allow.

Take It Slow

This should be obvious, but the first, best piece of advice on winter riding is “slow down.” Not only is there an increased risk of snow and ice in winter, but cold weather causes your tires to contract resulting in less traction. (Not to mention, going slower in winter also reduces wind-chill.)

Avoid Sudden Movements

A piece of advice related to “slow down” is, “don’t make any sudden movements.” Sudden stops, swerves, turns, and other movements can be perfectly fine in the spring and summer, but with reduced tire traction and the possibility of black ice, snow, rock salt, and sand in road, these kinds of moves bring an undue risk of slips and falls.

Keep Extra Distance between Yourself and Other Vehicles

Each of the winter conditions you’ve got to contend with on a motorcycle are also faced by drivers in closed vehicles – the difference is they tend to pay less attention to the road. Tailgating is never a good idea, obviously, but it might be worth it to have a little extra space between your and the SUV ahead of you in case they hit a patch of ice and swerve out.

Know When to Stop

This tip might not be necessary if you’re just running around the block for milk and eggs, but if you’re planning on any kind of lengthy winter journey on your motorcycle, take frequent breaks to warm up. Cold temperatures and high wind make for a significant thread of frostbite, especially to extremities like fingers and toes.

Get off your bike often, and head inside where it’s heated. If there’s nowhere to stop, pull over and do a little cardio to get your blood pumping. (It’s best to plan your route to avoid this though. Be sure there are plenty of heated gas stations, rest stops, etc. on the way to your destination.)

While you’re taking breaks, remember to eat and drink plenty. Being out in the cold increases your metabolism, so a hearty meal or two can go a long way to keeping your body temperature normalized. And staying hydrated is just as important in winter as it is in summer – don’t forget to drink plenty of water or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages.

Must-Have Gear for Riding in Winter

Of course, the smartest winter riding in the world isn’t going to help much if you aren’t dressed for the occasion. If you’re planning on going out in winter, be sure to do it with these essentials.

Base Layer

The trick to staying warm in winter is to layer, layer, layer, and nowhere is this truer than on a moving bike. Your base layer should cover your upper and lower body, and help to insulate while also allowing moisture to evaporate from your skin to keep you dry.

Old-fashioned long underwear might do the trick, although, many companies make base layers specifically for use on a motorcycle, often out of synthetic modern fabrics. Use whatever you’re most comfortable in.

Insulating Layer

If you’re riding in extreme cold, the insulation included on your winter riding jacket might not cut it. If that’s the case, consider an extra warming layer between your base and out layers. A long sleeve fleece or sweatshirt could be a good option for the upper body. At the very least you should be wearing a decent pair of biker jeans over your legs – ideally something that cover up while providing a good range of motion, like Gravitate Jeans.

Outer Layer

Winter riding pants and jackets are designed with all the normal features of any other gear: protection against impacts and abrasions, with the added benefit of extra insulation and weather-proofing.

There are plenty of options to choose from a variety of manufacturers, but ideally look for a setup with as few gaps in the material as possible. This keeps heat in and cold out. Matching winter jackets and overpants can be purchased to zip together, and one-piece winter suits are also available. Shop around and find what’s best for your needs.

Full-Face Helmet, Gloves, & Boots

This should go without saying, but you’re going to want your face covered when you’re riding in cold weather! A full-face helmet is a must.

As for gloves and boots, be sure to get pairs that are rated for winter insulation and can fit over your sleeves and pant legs for added insulation. Heated gloves, socks, and boot insoles are also available for additional warmth on long rides or in cold temperatures.

Motorcycle Mods for Winter Riding

In addition to your own gear, you might want to get your bike up to snuff before winter riding. The following mods will make your ride a lot safer and more comfortable:

  • Windshield: If you don’t already have one, get one. This will significantly reduce the wind-chill you endure on the road.
  • Hand Guards: As extremities are especially susceptible to extreme temperatures, hand guards are advisable as well. Think of them like mini-windscreens for your handlebars. Wind deflectors are also available for lower extremities.
  • Heated Handlebar Grips and Seat Cover: If you really want to make sure to stay toasty, electrically-heated handlebar grips and seat covers are available for reasonable prices.

Stay Comfortable All Year Long in Gravitate Jeans

Whether you’re wearing them under leathers or chaps or with sneakers and a t-shirt in summer, nothing keeps you more comfortable on your bike than a pair of Gravitate Jeans.

Gravitate’s denim biker jeans are made with comfort in mind, featuring a patented Comfort Panel in place of a normal center seam. This eliminates the bunching and riding in the seat and thighs that most other jeans are prone to.

With cuts available in men’s, women’s, and women’s plus sizes, there’s a pair of Gravitate Jeans for everyone. Find yours today and enjoy the ride.

Featured Image Credit: Johan Viirok via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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