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Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding: Wind Is Your Enemy

Hands and Feet

I've found that I can insulate my body and legs adequately, but when the temperature really drops, I have the most problems with my hands and feet. Many people have a similar problem. The reason is that as you get cold your body focuses circulation on your internal organs to keep them warm, while your feet and hands get the shaft.

The only way that I've found to keep my hands and feet comfortable in really cold weather is to 1) add additional heat sources, and 2) invest in quality boots and gloves

For additional heat sources I use those air-activated hand and feet warmers that you can find in the hunting section of any Wal-Mart. Crack open a couple of these, stuff them into your boots and gloves, and your hands and feet will be toasty for 5+ hours. Not sure what I'm talking about? Check them out here:


For boots, I'm a strong believer that you don't have to go and buy a pair of $250+ Harley motorcycle boots to get the performance you need in cold weather. The best pair of boots that I've ever had (and still wear) cost me $40 from a Wal-Mart somewhere in Missouri (Herman Survivors: Commander model). They are comfortable, waterproof, and windproof and have seen me through a lot of crappy weather. I was so happy with them I took a picture of them in action, not the best pic but you get the idea.

The key things you want to look for in boots are:

  • Fit (you don't want them to be tight because this will reduce circulation and make your feet colder)
  • Water-Proof. Don't even consider them if they aren't.
  • Above the ankle. This really helps with wind proofing.
  • Comfortable to walk around in. I've had motorcycle boots that made me walk like a robot from Starwars. This is not what you want!
  • Insulation is a nice to have, but not a must; you can get most of your insulation from putting extra socks on.


NatureGuy says:

After several years of riding in the rain & cold (mostly to/from work,) now that I'm retired and living in a warmer climate (Tampa vs Portland), I've become a fair-weather rider. So, I'll leave the joys of winter riding to the rest of ya.
Fri Feb 5, 2016 at 8:36 AM

Cjohnson says:

I ride during the winter too. I love it. Your article was so helpful. I use to own a horse and the gloves, along with the overalls I used during winter season truly kept me warm in the winter months. I got them at tractor supply. The company that makes these great warm articles are from Schmidt workwear. I just purchased my body armor as well. And last year from Burlington coat factory purchased a ski jacket that literally makes me sweat. So I just used the lining and it does very well. So far I have been able to endure 30 degree weather with winds hitting me left and right.
Sat Nov 2, 2013 at 8:18 PM

Doc2nd2 says:

I am also an avid cyclist (bicycles) and all of my base layer clothing has mcome from the cocal bicycle shop. There you will find numerous options for base clothing all very light and affords great mobility. My favorite is my Garneau brand socks. The inner layer is fleece and the outer layer is a type of nylon/ neoprene. I affords a great wind barrier while also creating a warm air space between your feet and the socks. This with a pair of thin socks underneath for the really cold days is great. They are also boot height usually.
One last tip for the legs and feet. This is from my Army days and it works.Guys, pantyhose! Just ask any soldier that has been in the cold on bivuac or assignment. Pantyhose. Dont worry, none of your riding buddies have to know youre wearing womens underwear!
Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 6:45 PM

Ghostbikes says:

Heated grips are a nice idea and you can buy one's that grip onto your handlebars and heat to any temperature you like.
Try something like
Thu Nov 5, 2009 at 2:26 AM

Skyclad says:

Good article. The only thing that I would add is hand guards and heated grips. My bike (Buell Ulysses) came with both, and they make a world of difference.

I went for along ride last weekend. It was in the high 40's when I left, so I didn't think about my winter gloves. By the time I got home, it was right around freezing.

The only part of my hands that got uncomfortably cold were my finger tips. The hand guards kept the wind off most of the hand, and the grips provided plenty of heat. For the finger tips, and just curled them under my hands so they were up against the grips every so often.
Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 7:12 AM

januaryman169 says:

In November,2000, My friend and I, rode our motorcycles from Richmond, IN to Versailles, KY. That was the day after Thanksgiving. He was riding a cb900 and I was on a 750 Suzuki. I rode that bike all year,rain or shine.
Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 5:42 AM

OpenRoadRider says:

For more great OpenRoadJourney tips and tricks on riding in the cold make sure to visit the forums on this topic:
Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 5:56 AM

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