Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can not ride your motorcycle, unless you’re living in an area that sees permanent deep frost and deep snow. And even then, depending on your motorcycle, you can still ride, but in this case you’ll need to change the rear tire for a snow track system (like those on tanks), and the front wheel will get some skis.
But if you live in an area where it is cold, rainy and sometimes some snow, you can still ride, but you’ll need to take some precautions.
The most important factor for riding in the cold, is that you need to trap your body heat. Heat tends to dissipate into the cold, and it is difficult to stoke the fire inside your body to replace the lost heat. So the best way is to insulate your body from heat loss.
In the old days, people would wrap old newspapers against their body to trap the heat. Nowadays you will not need to worry about newspaper ink rubbing against your skin, giving you who-knows-what-kind-of-sickness. A microfiber layer against your skin is the first defense layer against the cold. A microfiber T-shirt is great, better yet a long-john made out of microfiber. If you don’t have microfiber, get a good cotton one. A one-piece is better than two, but having one is better than none.
TIP: You need to put on the first layer, the microfiber, when you are warm, not outside in the cold. In that case, all you will be doing is trapping the cold temperature, so defeating the idea of keeping warm. Put on the microfiber when you are warm!
Next you can put on layers of woolen sweaters or cotton or silk shirts. Don’t put on too much, if not you’ll not be able to operate your motorcycle properly. Alternatively, you can get a heated vest. Plug it into your 12V system, and you’ll be as snug as a bug in a rug.
The final layer, your jacket, needs to be totally windproof; leather or nylon will do the trick, and ideally it should be a one-piece suit. If you don’t have a one-piece suit, get one that can be zipped between the pants and jacket. This way, less heat will escape.
Your body extremities will see the fastest heat loss. Feet, hands and very important, your head, will loose heat very fast. It’s important to keep them warm.
Hands: Make sure your gloves are the gauntlet type, i.e., fit over your jacket sleeve. This way, no cold air can come in or out via the top. You might also want to get some silk gloves to wear inside your normal gloves, since they keep the fingers warm & dry. Remember that your hands & fingers are exposed to a very cold air when riding. It’s the reason many all-year riders have heated handlebars, or heated gloves.
TIP: If heated handlebars or gloves are too expensive, consider chemical heat packs.
Feet: Your feet will not be moving much on the motorcycle so they will tend to get cold quickly, but they have a source of natural heating; your motorcycle’s engine (unless you are riding a sports motorcycle).
But you will still need to wear warm socks, preferably with silk under-socks. Make sure your boots are rainproof and do not let wind in (and therefore hot air out). In the worst case scenario, get rain boot covers.
Head: Your head, believe or not, is very important. A head, and therefore brain that is exposed for long periods of time to cold temperatures will not function properly. You will start to loose concentration, and make judgment mistakes; your reaction time will diminish dramatically. At the very least, wear a balaclava, preferably with a silk hood underneath it. An advantage of a balaclava, one that goes up to your nose, is that it will prevent your visor from fogging up, something, no matter how good your visor, will happen in the winter.
Since you will find that cold air will enter your back, get a proper neck warmer that covers your neck, chest and shoulder.
Next we’ll look at what you need to do for your motorcycle in order to ride it in the winter.