Most of us here ride to work every day all year round, and we have lots of personal experience when it comes to taming the elements.
There are a few tricks to keeping warm on a bike, but the basic rules are to be well insulated and to stay dry.
I’ve been riding all year round since the 80s, so I understand the basics and maybe some of the secrets. Let’s have a look at some of them here.
We’ll start at the top of the neck. This is an important area as you have many blood vessels close to the surface, which can be a massive area of heat loss.
So it’s worth ensuring you get a good seal around your jacket and under your helmet.
There are a lot of good neck warmers on the market which are functional and unintrusive. However, I prefer something like the oxford snug.
It’s got a thermal area at the base, but it’s nice and thin on the top half so that you can turn it into a balaclava under your helmet.
Unlike a regular balaclava, it can be worn around the neck, and with a couple of quick twists, it can also make an emergency beanie.
They are also great for the ski slopes and make a great present for the rider or the skier in your life.
For the torso, I’d recommend multiple thin layers underneath your outer jacket.
They’re a great way to keep warm without bulking up too much, restricting movement.
Quality base layers from companies like DXR, RST, and oxford are a great place to start.
Some people wear a couple of them underneath to keep their core extra warm.
Synthetic layers are better than cotton as they will wick away the moisture. Cotton ones absorb moisture, making you feel cold and clammy.
For people who feel the cold, those who are out and about all day, and those who like being snug, a heated vest is the ultimate way of keeping warm.
One of the reasons your hands and feet get so cold is the body is protecting your vital organs, so it draws heat away from the extremities to warm up the bits inside the torso.
That’s why a heated top will not only help keep your top half warm but also your hands and feet.
There are quite a few on the market, some powered by a lead from your bike, some powered by batteries, and some can use both. With the battery version, you can also stay warm off the bike.
You might already have a waterproof textile jacket and matching trousers, but if you don’t, they’re very well worth investing in.
Leather is great when it’s dry but can’t be breathable. Textile gear is better for warmth when the going gets tough.
The waterproofing quality of leather leaves a lot to be desired as well. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been caught in a one-piece in the rain.
Another thing to remember is that wet skin loses heat around 25 times faster than dry skin, so keeping dry in the cold is important if you’re planning on riding all year round.
Look for a jacket with many adjustable straps, zips, and poppers to allow growth.
With the extra layers, we recommend most jackets and trousers have removable warmth liners, so they become more usable all year round.
Ideally, you want a full-length connecting zip to join the jacket to the trousers. This helps keep the drafts and water out.
Rarely, if ever, do two manufacturers share the same zip, so if you’re buying both from scratch, it’s best to go with the same brand.
The same applies if you’re looking at buying a top or a bottom to match what you already have. But, again, go with the same brand; it should match up for you.
It’s harder to layer up the lower half of your torso. So a thin base layer under your trousers is usually all there is. Room for knee armor can also make for a good wind barrier.
You can bring electrical assistance with heated trousers designed to work under your existing garment.
If you feel the cold, you also cheat with heat for your feet, and unsurprisingly there are a great range of heated socks and heated insoles, but sorry, no heated boots.
Water Proof Boots
A simple pair of waterproof boots use a membrane to keep the water out, which helps keep you dry, and, therefore, warmer.
Membranes also have a windproofing element to them. The best and most well-known membrane is Gore-Tex.
It breathes better than anything else, keeping the cold clammy sweat out, which keeps you warmer as there’s less skin cooling.
So once you’ve layered, fleeced, and sealed up, you need to secure your hands against the cold, and these are the real tuff gloves.
Water Proof Gloves
Genuine Gore-Tex gloves are the best at avoiding sweaty, clammy hands.
But there are a lot of decent quality budget gloves on the market these days, so you have lots of options.
The rule of thumb when it comes to gloves is thicker is warmer, so you have more thermal layers, but with the thickness, you sacrifice feel.
We get asked all the time for warm gloves with lots of feeling. But, unfortunately, I’m afraid the simple fact of life is there’s no such thing as a thin warm glove.
One good option is the two-fingered ones, as there is less surface area exposed to the cold, and your fingers can huddle together for warmth.
Heated gloves are another popular option. There are both battery and bike-powered models to choose from.
Like everything else, though, they may not work for everyone. Especially as they’re not the cheapest on the market, but they can make a massive difference to your daily ride.
Heated grips are easier and cheaper, and they’ve been around for many years. As a result, most manufacturers offer them as an option on new models.
Another option is handlebar muffs. Some people can’t bear to be without them, and some people will happily suffer the cold rather than use them.
The simple truth is they’re very effective, especially if you’re out in the cold all day long.
The way it works is that it’s zero degrees outside, then at 60 miles an hour, you’re dealing with a wind chill factor of minus 9 degrees Celsius.
With muffs, it means you’re only battling the ambient temperature inside the muff. The other advantage of muffs is that they are waterproof, which can pay big dividends if you use heated grips.
Gloves can get wet from heating moisture going through the waterproof membrane. Scientifically it’s a process known as reverse osmosis.
Some couriers use fingerless gloves with heated grips and muffs to get the grip heat straight to their fingers.
The hands feel warmer because there’s a thinner barrier stopping the heat from the grips getting to the hands, and the muffs stop the heat from being dragged off the back of them.
Another pain in the fingertips is the constant breaking and clutch demands placed on a commuting rider.
Keeping your fingers away from those icy cold levers is impossible, especially in traffic.
The only solution I found for this is oxford lever sleeves, which are foam rubber sleeves for your levers.
They can be a very tight fit, especially on thicker levers, so look at them carefully before trying to put them on.
Another way to keep your hands warm is with inner gloves. Some people swear by them; others swear at them.
Yes, it’s another layer, but they don’t work for me. I think they add an uncomfortable thickness to the glove and push out the air that keeps you warm in the first place.
However, many people swear by them, so they may well work for you.
That’s how I’ve been keeping warm on the road for more years than I care to.
As with anything, motorcycling it’s whatever works for you. There are plenty to choose from, and I hope you picked up some tips to help keep you comfortable on the road this winter.