For many riders throughout the country, Labor Day signifies a change in our riding habits. Granted, the really cold weather is still a few weeks or months out. It’s not too early, though, to consider how to prepare for those changes.
Here are seven ways you can ride more comfortably, and safely, during the coming colder months.
1. Start with a Good Base Layer
A good base layer is one of the most effective ways to stay warm while riding. Your base layer should draw moisture off your skin. For this reason, cotton is not a good choice. You’ll be better off with a synthetic material offering good wicking properties. Both Schampa and First Gear make quality clothing with the wicking properties you need.
2. Take Care of Your Extremities
Cooler temps also require giving thought to your extremities. The same advice regarding a base layer applies to your feet. Instead of cotton socks, consider switching to a blend of wool and synthetic material. This will help wick away moisture from your feet, and make you more comfortable.
Without a fairing or hand shields, your hands will be affected by both the cold and the effects of wind chill. This isn’t as minor a point as it might seem. Cold hands aren’t just uncomfortable – they also affect your ability to quickly operate your hand controls. There are plenty of options available, from liners to synthetics to leather, as well as heated gloves.
Speaking of heated gloves, many riders swear by their heated gear. From gloves to socks, liners to full attire, heated gear increases your options and opportunities for riding. And a good heat-troller will keep your gear primed for comfort even in extreme riding temperatures.
3. Wind Can Be a Formidable Adversary
Wind turbulence is a factor motorcycles deal with year-round. During colder months, higher winds present more challenges. Obviously, wind turbulence makes riding more difficult. If you’ve been riding without a windshield, reinstall yours, or consider getting one.
More wind also means colder riding conditions. As you can see from this chart, riders need to pay attention to wind chill.
Before continuing, a note about what the “wind chill factor” really means. It does not mean the wind lowers the actual temperature. What the wind does is make it feel colder, blowing heat off and away from your body.
The obvious solution is to wear outer clothing that is more impermeable to the wind. Leather is always a good choice. And regardless of the outer garment, a good windproof layer underneath will help considerably.
4. There’s Nothing Worse Than Being Cold and Wet
Getting caught in the rain isn’t pleasant, but in warmer temperatures it’s bearable. When the temperature drops and the wind is blowing, the effects increase exponentially. If you’ve been cold and wet, shivering as you ride, you experienced the early stages of hypothermia. According to WebMD, “Hypothermia is an emergency condition and can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death if heat loss continues.”
To avoid any chance of hypothermia, it’s especially important to choose quality rain gear during colder weather. Our post about riding in the rain discusses several factors in choosing rain gear. Besides keeping you dry, rain gear should also make you more visible.
5. Less Sun Requires More Visibility
Rain isn’t the only time when you need to increase your visibility. As the days get shorter, we ride in the dark more often. And dreary, overcast days also decrease our visibility to drivers.
Clothing options are just one piece of the visibility puzzle. While a thorough safety check is always important, it’s critical when visibility is poor. Make sure all your lights are working properly. Especially taillights and turn signals.
6.The Corresponding Drop in Tire Pressure
It’s an easy step to add a tire pressure check to your pre-ride safety inspection. Understandably, reading a tire pressure gauge in the early morning can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, there are glow in the dark tire gauges that make the job easier.
A last word about tires. Keep your eyes on your tire tread. Road surfaces are affected by colder temperatures, especially in the early morning hours. While it’s not necessary to do daily, check your tread wear every 1-2 weeks on older tires, depending on how often you ride.
7. Temperatures Change and So Do the Roads
Crisp fall days bring a welcome change from the summer heat. For many riders, fall is the best season for riding. But fall presents it’s own set of challenges riders should keep in mind.
The fall foliage creating colorful backgrounds for riding will soon end up on the ground. Wet leaves make for a slick riding surface, but don’t let the dry days fool you. Moisture can get trapped under leaves, creating deceptive road conditions even on clear days.
Deceptive road conditions can also be caused by water sprinklers. In the early fall, the days are still warm enough to continue lawn watering. The problem is that watering during the summer is often done in the early morning. During the fall, it gets colder in the morning. And those broken sprinklers that used to water the street now create icy road conditions.
Preparing for the coming cold weather isn’t difficult. By following these seven simple ideas, you can continue riding far into the fall and winter. And that’s what really matters. After all, you didn’t buy a motorcycle to keep it in the garage.