Riding Season?

Oct 01, 2013 View Comments by

Riding Season?It’s late September and here in the Northern Hemisphere the days are becoming shorter. On a recent outing I noticed that the leaves are beginning to morph from green to yellow, orange, red, and brown. The air is getting a bit crisp and last week I had to dig out my jacket’s insulated liner. This, of course, means that before too long many will be calling it quits for the 2013 riding season. When I moved back to the Midwest I knew that I would potentially be spending less time on two wheels, which in turn meant finding ways to continue riding as long as possible. Here in Michigan, my regular gear with liners installed will usually keep me comfortable well into October. By mid-November, the highs don’t often exceed the mid 40s (it’s downhill from there for the next three to four months) and then it’s time to get serious about the task of staying warm.

Starting from the ground up, nothing beats wool for keeping the toes intact and a good pair of heavy wool socks under a waterproof (hence windproof) boot goes a long way towards making sure the piggys are cozy. For the body, layering is key. A cold weather base layer under street (or work) clothes topped off by a waterproof riding jacket and pant with full thermal liners does the job. On top, several helmet makers offer snowmobile helmets, many of which are essentially motorbike helmets with a few add-ons: Dual pane shield (helps to prevent fogging), a breath deflector (also to prevent fogging and to stop the cold air from getting into your lungs), and chin guard (this prevents the wind from getting in under your helmet). Other options include an electric heated shield. For the really cold weather, I add a balaclava under my helmet. The hands are the most difficult part to keep warm. I have tried several different types and styles of gloves (including heated); none fully did the job on their own. This leads to preparing the bike for the cold weather riding.

The first step on the bike is mounting a large windscreen (it isn’t always a beauty contest), followed by heated grips. Since I outfit all of my bikes for off pavement riding, hand guards are a year round accouterment (they help to cut down on the wind a bit). The larger windscreen really helps and the heated grips are an improvement, but additional measures are required when old man winter gets serious about things. Enter the single ugliest, but most effective piece of winter riding gear I have yet found. The gauntlet. No, not the protective glove worn with medieval armor, but the protective glove that attaches to the handlebars and blocks the wind, rain, and snow from your hands. Originally designed for ATVs and snowmobiles, my first pair were exactly that, designed for use on ATVs. In recent years, I have noticed a few manufacturers have caught on and now offer them designed specifically for motorcycles. It is also worth mentioning that more aggressive tires can be a big plus in the winter months (I haven’t resorted to spikes, yet.)

Suited head to toe and the bike prepared for most of what Mother Nature can dish out (so long as the plow trucks have done their job), I am ready to roll. It may sound like a lot to go through and I have gotten some strange looks from cagers (who are they to judge in their warm and cozy automobiles), however, the added effort means I get to ride much longer than most sane people.

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself, for now it’s fall, one of the most beautiful times of the year to be outdoors, on two wheels of course.

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About the author

I've been called a "Free-Spirit", "A Lost Soul", and "A Wanderer" for as long as I can remember. I prefer to think of myself as a Traveler. Most at ease when I am in motion, two of my favorite things are arriving somewhere new, and heading off for somewhere yet unexplored.