A GUIDE TO DRESSING FOR COLD WEATHER MOTORCYCLE RIDING
Riding your motorcycle during cold wet weather requires planing, foresight and the right gear. Clothing that seems fine when you are driving your car or walking down the street in the rain probably wont cut it at 70 miles an hour on your motorcycle. It takes the right gear to keep you warm under these extreme conditions. Buy gear designed for motorcycling. There is a difference. Women riders have had a tough time finding gear made for them at an affordable price until fairly recently. Happily myself and other vendors are offering affordable quality gear tailored for women.
DRESS IN LAYERS
COVER ALL SKIN
BLOCK THE WIND
KEEP YOUR HEAD WARM
Breathable Layer: This is the layer that comes in contact with the skin. It should allow body moisture to escape and evaporate more quickly, which keeps the skin dry and comfortable. Use thermal underwear made of synthetic fibers like polyester and polypropylene to wick moisture away from the skin. Avoid natural fibers such as cotton, they tend to hold moisture close to the skin and dry very slowly.
Insulating Layer: The insulating layer creates dead air space between the layers of clothing, trapping warm body air and keeping it around the body. Look for outerwear that is warm, water-resistant and well insulated with a synthetic fiber such as Thinsulate Insulation.
Outer Shell: This layer protects against wind and rain. This is probably the most important layer.
Machine-washable jackets retain their waterproofing better than those that require dry-cleaning. Jackets with sealed seams also prevent water from getting in. If you wear a non-leather jacket get one designed for motorcycling. The stylish $300 jacket you bought at the department store probably wont work as well as a $100 jacket you buy from me because its not designed for motorcycling.
Leather is a great wind stopper. A well made leather jacket designed for motorcycling will last for years, keep you comfortable and protect you in a skid.
Look for outerwear containing Thinsulate or similar Insulation, it provides about 1 - 2 times the warmth of down.
Look for features such as cuffs that close tightly to keep out cold air and snow, zippers with large teeth, wind flaps over the zippers and double breasted chest openings to block wind and water. Cuffs, pockets and chest closures with multiple closure systems such as zippers and snaps or zippers ,Velcro and snaps tend to stop more wind. Zip out liners are very handy. You can remove your liner when its warm in the afternoon and put it back in when the temperature dips.
Add leather,string or zipper pulls to zippers etc so you can open and close them with your gloves on.
Nehru or Euro style collars on jackets tend to cover the neck better. A turtle neck sweater will help some. In really cold weather a balaclava or mask will make a big difference. Remember to cover your neck! By the time you have traveled a half a mile in cold weather you will know if you forgot to cover that Adam's apple!
Protect your legs from the wind. There are a variety of choices for protecting your legs. Chaps, Leather pants and Textile pants. There are variety of these available in various price ranges. All of my items are designed for motorcycling. Once again wear layers; thermal underwear and lined pants or chaps to block the wind. When it gets cold a pair of Levis and long johns won't do it!
Wet feet become cold and numb quickly, keep your feet dry by wearing appropriate boots. When your feet become wet (through sweating or immersion) you need to put on dry, fresh socks.
Insulated boots help. Wear socks made of synthetic fibers like polyester and polypropylene. Make sure your boots are loose enough to comfortably wear thick socks. Avoid steel toe boots. A pair of cold feet will ruin an otherwise great ride!
You loose a significant amount of heat through your head and neck.
Wear a full face helmet with face shield for optimum comfort.
Masks cover the neck and lower face. Balaclavas cover the neck, face and insulate your head.
Neoprene masks are great for protecting your face.
Water resistant gloves lined with synthetic insulation offer effective protection, keep your hands covered at all times.
The savvy rider has several pairs of gloves designed for various riding conditions:
Fingerless gloves for warm summer riding. This cuts down on vibration, reduces calluses and offers some protection in a skid.
Zip Cuff Gauntlet gloves The next choice is usually flexible gloves with thin lining that offer wind protection and a gauntlet cuff to keep wind from blowing up the jacket sleeves. I carry a pair all the time in my saddlebag along with a pair of liners to add when it gets cold. They are handy even on cool summer nights.
For really cold weather I wear a pair of thick gauntlet motorcycling / ski gloves with thick insulate lining.
Gauntlet cuff gloves are very important. They fit over the jacket sleeve and keep ice cold air from blowing up to your arm pits at 70 miles an hour!
Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves but offer less dexterity. They are a definite no-no for riders or passengers. You cant feel the controls and the passenger cant hold on!
Keep a set of nylon rain gear in your saddlebag for each person on the bike. They don't weigh much but they are a real life saver when the rain or sleet starts coming down.
Just my opinion on heated clothes. They work great when they work! I used to wear a heated vest and heated socks. I stayed warm and toasty even in really cold weather. One day in January one of my heated socks quit working, I didn't realize it. I froze a couple of toes and darn near lost them. That was enough for me!
A few general observations:
Avoid tight clothing. You loose the insulating warm air layer when you wear a jacket, pants or boots that are too tight.
Dress for comfort and protection. Wearing your beanie and a denim jacket when the chill factor dips below 30 only impresses dummies. Surprisingly this occurs at about 45 degrees F at 70 mph!
Bring gear for the worst weather you may run into. You probably will. Those nice 70 degree October days sometimes turn into a rainy 35 degree ride home.
The cooling effect of wind at 70 mph is astounding. Plan carefully before you leave. At about 10 degrees Fahrenheit you are entering very dangerous territory. Wind chill is not something to fool with:
WIND CHILL @ 70 MPH
DEGREES F-> 50 40 30 20 10 0 -10
WIND CHILL ***38 24 9 -6 -20 -35 -49
1. Hypothermia is a decrease in the core body temperature to a level at which normal muscular and cerebral functions are impaired." Hypothermia can creep up on you and seriously reduce your thinking abilities and coordination.
2. Conditions Leading to Hypothermia
Cold temperatures Improper clothing and equipment, Wetness, Fatigue, exhaustion, Dehydration, Poor food intake, Alcohol intake - causes vasodilation leading to increased heat loss
3. Temperature ranges at which hypothermia can occur on your motorcycle:
32 degrees and below - freezing ALWAYS DANGEROUS WITHOUT PROPER GEAR
40 degrees - ENTERING DANGER ZONE: PROPER GEAR NEEDED IF RIDING MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES
60 degrees - CAUTION! COVER EXPOSED SKIN ESPECIALLY IF IT IS RAINING.
4. WHAT TO LOOK FOR; SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
a. Watch for stumbles, mumbles and fumbles which show changes in motor coordination and levels of consciousness. Having troubles with controls, have to consciously think about where the brakes are etc.
STOP AND GET WARM. DON'T DRINK ALCOHOL, THAT REDUCES BLOOD FLOW AND MAKES IT WORSE. A WARM DRINK WITH SUGAR HELPS.
b. Mild Hypothermia - core temperature 98.6 - 96 degrees F
AT THIS POINT YOU CAN MAKE DANGEROUS MISTAKES; FORGET TO PUT ON THE BRAKES, OVER OR UNDER STEER A CURVE. ( ONE TIME I STOPPED FOR A RED LIGHT AND FORGOT TO TAKE MY FEET OFF THE PEGS!)
Shivering - not under voluntary control Can't do complex motor functions, can still walk & talk Vasoconstriction to periphery
c. Moderate Hypothermia - core temperature 95 - 93 degrees F
Dazed consciousness Loss of fine motor coordination - particularly in hands - can't zip up your jacket, due to restricted blood flow to the hands.Slurred speech Violent shivering Irrational behavior - Paradoxical Undressing - person starts to take off clothing, unaware s/he is cold MANY SYMPTOMS LIKE BEING STONED. A person in this condition needs help.
Immediately get them indoors. They may not be able to make good decisions for themselves. If you or someone riding with you reaches this point reassess your plans; Make frequent stops to warm up, get a room for the night or park the bike and get better gear. You are taking a serious risk!
d. Severe Hypothermia - core temperature 92 - 86 degrees and below (immediately life threatening) You won't have any trouble noticing this stage. The person falls down, curls into a fetal position appears to die!
Shivering occurs in waves, violent then pause, pauses get longer until shivering finally ceases - because the heat output from burning glycogen in the muscles is not sufficient to counteract the continually dropping core temperature, the body stops shivering to conserve glucose Person falls to the ground, can't walk, curls up into a fetal position to conserve heat Muscle rigidity develops - because peripheral blood flow is reduced and due to lactic acid and CO2 buildup in the muscles Skin is pale Pupils dilate Pulse rate decreases at 90 degrees the body tries to move into hibernation, shutting down all peripheral blood flow and reducing breathing rate and heart rate. at 86 degrees the body is in a state of "metabolic icebox." The person looks dead but is still alive.
Make sure your passenger is dressed right before you leave. They may not know how to dress. It's up to you to help them make the right choice. And guess who is going to listen to them nag to wear your nice warm jacket on the way home if they don't?
Keep these guidelines in mind the next time you venture out on that bike in cold weather.
You don't have to park that bike when fall rolls around. Just dress right and enjoy!
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