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Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding: Wind Is Your Enemy


I've tried quite a few gloves and have found very few that really do the trick. Gloves can really be a trial and error process for motorcycle riding so make sure that you've found the right pair before embarking on your next long cold weather ride.

In looking for gloves:

  • Make sure that they are long enough that they completely cover the wrist (remember: wind-proof, wind-proof, wind-proof!)
  • Find a pair with a hook and loop closure system at the wrist that allows you to tighten the gloves.
  • Good fit - if the glove feels tight at all, get the next size up. We don't want anything to impede circulation!
  • Good insulation - you want the high-efficiency stuff like 3M Thinsulate, not just a bunch of fluff.
  • Good insulation placement - most gloves only put insulation on the top. You want a pair with a little bit in the palm and other parts of the hand as well.
  • Pre-curved fingers - motorcycle gloves can wear you out if you're trying to squeeze that throttle all day. Pre-curved fingers alleviate this. If at all possible, try to squeeze a throttle before purchasing. Make sure the gloves don't get tight or bunch up - you'll really notice it after 30 minutes of riding.


Finally, after you've got all your gear sorted out there are a couple of things you'll want to be aware of in terms of safety before getting out there in the cold: Frostbite and Hypothermia.

Exposed skin is always at risk for frostbite, so make sure you don't have any exposed skin! If you feel like your skin is being pricked by needles, frostbite is on its way and you need to do something immediately. If your skin starts to turn white or waxy and feels numb and hard you need to get immediate medical attention.

Hypothermia is a separate concern. Hypothermia is where your core body temperature drops below the minimum temperature required for your body to operate. Hypothermia causes mild confusion, sluggish behavior, poor muscle coordination, and incoherent behavior

If you start feeling cold and can't decide if you should pull over, you are facing an early stage of hypothermia. Pull over immediately and get a hot coffee!

If you start shivering uncontrollably, feel sluggish, or even drunk, then you're in serious trouble. Hypothermia is already underway and you need to stop immediately to warm up.

Thats All Folks

Lastly, if you are going to be riding for long periods of time in cold weather or ride in REALLY cold weather, then you need to invest in heated clothing. In these situations, the body needs an alternative source of heat to keep itself warm - and heated clothing is the only way to go. Maybe we'll discuss heated clothing in a later article.

Riding in the cold weather is a relatively easy task. It's all just a matter of insulation. With a little trial and error you'll be out there on your motorcycle getting those looks of "he/she must be crazy" too!

Keep Ridin'


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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