COLD WEATHER RIDERS How To Tackle Winter Like A Pro

winter riding

How To Tackle Winter Like A Pro
Colder months bring their own challenges for motorcyclists. With a little bit of planning and a positive attitude, you can make it through to the warm rays and blue skies of spring. Here are some tips to help you prepare for winter.
Sometimes, Old Man Winter—and holiday travel obligations—simply can’t be beat, and you have to put your bike away for a month or three or four. A few simple steps can help ensure your motorcycle will be ready to ride when it’s time.
First, if at all possible, store the bike inside a garage. It’s amazing how much damage can be done by exposure to the elements, even in a few months.
But before you put it away, take a little time to check the following:
Gas: Top off the tank and add the recommended amount of a fuel stabilizer. This additive will keep your gas from breaking down and leaving a gunky brown “varnish” on the inside of your carburetors (assuming your bike still has carbs). Then start the engine and run it for several minutes to make sure you get the treated gas distributed throughout the fuel system.
Oil: Oil starts out golden and clean, and winds up black and dirty. This is bad. The contaminants in the oil can be corrosive, and you don’t want your engine parts sitting in a corrosive bath all winter. So do yourself a favor and change your oil just before the bike goes into storage.
Coolant: Because most motorcycles don’t get a lot of use in sub-freezing temperatures, many riders overlook the importance of checking their coolant for protection against winter freeze-up. Use one of those floating-ball testers to make sure your coolant will resist freezing in the temperatures you experience. If you need to add any, make sure you use the type of coolant recommended by your manufacturer.
Battery: Some modern motorcycles can put a slight drain on a battery to run a clock, maintain radio presets or operate an alarm system. If you’re in this situation, make sure you have a charger system in place to keep your battery alive. Otherwise, at least make sure it starts the winter with a full charge, and give it a recharge every month or so. I keep My bike on a battery manager all year when not in use I simply plug it in.
Other stuff: Some will insist you should store your bike with the tires off the ground. This is a great idea—if you can arrange it. If not, inflate both tires properly, put the bike on its center stand, if your bike has one and every week or so spin the front tire to avoid flat spots. Also, a good coating of wax will help preserve your paint and chrome, and a breathable cloth cover can keep off dirt and dust.
Do it right, and all you’ll have to do come spring is turn the key, press the starter button and begin racking up the miles again.
While cold temperatures and cloudy skies can try to put a damper on your riding, there’s a lot to be said for experiencing the changing landscapes of fall and winter on two wheels. While I don’t advocate riding in truly treacherous conditions (ice and snow, for example), with some commonsense, you can stretch your riding season out considerably, even if you live in the northern United States. I love to ride in the winter. I just make sure there is no ice out on the roads before I head out. I do not ride at night though in the winter months only during the day.
Unlike summer, when you can just throw on the same jacket, gloves and helmet any morning, autumn and winter temperature swings mean you need to think before you ride.
In many parts of the country, it’s not uncommon to see temperature swings of 20 degrees or more from morning to afternoon. That may not matter much when the high and low are 80 and 60, but it can make an enormous difference in your comfort level when the numbers involved are, say, 40 and 20. With the chilling effect of air flowing past at 65 mph, the perceived difference to exposed skin can be 20 to 30 degrees or more.
Here’s a simple, three-step program to help dull the sting of those colder temperatures.
Remember the last time you were at an overcrowded event? Remember how hot it got? That’s a real-world example of one important fact: The human body is a pretty good source of heat. So as the temperature drops, your first priority should be to preserve as much of that heat as possible. Here are a few tips:
Think layers: What keeps you warm it isn’t just the material in the clothes you wear. It’s also the air trapped inside. That’s one reason why a few lighter layers are better than one heavy one for fall riding. Plus, layered clothing allows you to fine-tune your comfort level by adding or subtracting a layer in variable autumn temperatures.
Build a base: The stuff you wear right next to your skin is called a base layer, and it can be incredibly important in staying warm. Old-school cotton provides warmth, but if you sweat, it’ll stay damp, and you’ll get chilled. Synthetics like polyester wick away perspiration to give you more consistent warmth, and they adapt better when the temperature goes up. Looking for an unconventional choice? Some well-traveled motorcyclists swear by silk long underwear for its combination of warmth and comfort.
Get fleeced: Remember when you were a kid and your mom dressed you in so many layers of winter clothes you could hardly move? It didn’t work for throwing snowballs then, and it won’t work for operating a motorcycle today. What you need is a light insulating layer that fits comfortably inside your riding jacket. Consider an inflatable vest, which makes maximum use of the insulating properties of trapped air. Best of all, you can adjust the level of insulation by adding or subtracting air through an inflation tube.
Adapt to conditions: Lots of riding jackets offer liners you can zip in when the weather gets chilly. Some are just thermal vests, which can leave your arms unprotected from the cold, while others have an entire inner jacket for maximum warmth. Remember, though, that this is likely to be the layer you’ll want to shed first when the sun gets high in the sky. So plan space to carry it on the bike.
Get dressed inside: If it’s chilly in your garage or the parking lot of your hotel, be sure to put most of your gear on indoors. There’s a fine balance here—you want to retain the indoor heat, but you don’t want to seal everything up and start sweating. You might want to zip that last zipper just as you’re headed out the door.
Have a glove strategy: Some riders carry as many as four pairs of gloves on a cold-weather ride, with heavy gloves, lighter gloves, glove liners and rain gloves. There’s good reason to take this element seriously: Your hands are the most important interface between you and your bike. When they get cold, your ability to operate your bike safely is compromised.
Cover your head: If it works for ninjas, it can work for you. We’re talking, of course, about wearing a balaclava—a thin head-and-face covering that allows only your eyes to show. Sure, you look funny. But you’ll be warmer. You can find balaclava’s in motorcycle shops or outdoor stores. Just make sure the one you buy is thin enough so you can still get your lid on.
Wear a full-face helmet: It may seem obvious, but a full-face helmet can keep you much warmer than an open-face lid. The trade-off is that you risk fogging your face shield, so keep it cracked while moving, and be ready to open it wide when you stop.

dress for winter

You can be wearing all the layers in the world, but if they don’t prevent the wind from getting in, sooner or later, you’ll get cold. So consider these strategies for fending off wind.
Stop it cold: Make sure your outermost layer is windproof. Leather is pretty good at this, and so are some high-tech fabrics, but you probably already have an effective wind-block layer in your tank bag—your rain suit. No, it doesn’t add warmth, but it can be remarkably effective in keeping the chill out.
Watch where clothing overlaps: When the wind is blowing at 65 mph, it will find its way through any cracks in your cold-weather armor. Take the time to pull your gloves completely over your jacket sleeves and clinch them down tight. At the waist, “weave” upper and lower layers over each other—pants over base-layer top, fleece pullover over pants, rain suit pants over fleece pullover, jacket over rain suit pants, etc.—to keep the wind at bay. Finally, make sure there’s no gap between your pants and boots.
Don’t stick your neck out: When it comes to heat loss, one of the most vulnerable areas is your neck. Even a simple bandana can help, but there are products made specifically to protect this area.
Don’t forget the bike: You don’t have to wear all your wind protection. A fairing, even a small one, can make a tremendous difference in cooler weather. In addition, many dual-sport bikes and adventure-tourers come with hand guards that serve as mini-fairing’s for your hands. Don’t have a fairing? A well-packed tank bag can be almost as effective in blunting the wind.
Few things in life beat the sense of well-being that comes from riding down the road on a chilly day all toasty warm. You can get that feeling with electric clothing.
What’s especially nice is that most electric garments offer some level of insulation when they’re turned off, too, meaning they’re perfect for variable fall weather.
Here’s what’s out there:
Going electric: In the beginning, electric clothing for motorcyclists meant vests. That’s still a good starting point, because if you can keep your body’s core well-heated, your extremities should stay warmer, too. These days, though, they have come a long way for motorcycle riders. Now you can choose from electric jackets, liners, pants, chaps, gloves’s and socks. If your alternator is up to the challenge of powering them, those pieces can generate enough heat for extended forays in sub-freezing temperatures.
Hand warmers: Like other electric clothing, heated gloves turn your bike’s generating system into protective warmth. Here, though, it’s more than just comfort at stake. Warm fingers handle the throttle, brake and clutch more safely than stiff, frozen digits. Plus, electric gloves can often be thinner than their fully insulated counterparts, making for better control feel.
Hot bikes: Instead of wearing your heated gear, you can outfit your bike with electrics. Heated handgrips come standard on some models, and they’re available as options on some other bikes. Some companies sell do-it-yourself kits to warm up the grips on almost any machine. Want to get your heat from another direction? Try a heated seat, available as a factory option  for a variety of bikes. There are aftermarket company’s out there with a heated seat for almost every bike. On my Ultra Limited I have heated grips along with my heated seat and passenger seat and backrest. I use my full heated gear jacket liner,gloves,pants and socks when I ride in the winter months. And this has made one huge difference in why I ride and can stay out all day long riding in the cold months.
Hope these tips helped you out some remember if you do ride in the winter months slow it down some ride safe.
Michael Theodore
National Road Captain


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Michael Theodore is married to Laureen, and both are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Michael serves the Azusa StreetRiders Motorcycle Ministry as both National Road Captain and as Ohio District Coordinator. He is passionate not only about riding, but also using motorcycles as a witnessing tool to affect souls for the Lord Jesus.

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