Winter Riding – How To Survive & Stay Warm
I’m not sure I like the idea of muffs (err… 😕 ) like many Winter riders suggest. I prefer having my hands free to bat away stray squirrels and gesticulate at Audi drivers and stuff.
I have Polish ancestry, and would happily live in a fridge, so it doesn’t seem to affect me the same as most. Either that or it’s because I’ve ridden bloody stupid sportsbikes through the snow and ice and THAT was enough to keep me pretty warm… Anyway, here’s what my 12 Winters on bikes and 2 as a courier have taught me:
Something for your neck is ESSENTIAL. The one time you forget your neck warmer, The Forces That Be will wait until your throat is so painfully frozen you can’t even close your jaw properly, and then… THEN, your helmet strap will -ing whip you in across the throat like some hungry housewife who speed-read the 50 Shades Of Grey trilogy whilst fantasizing about Indiana Jones.
This tiny little strap will never do this for any amount of Summer riding – just when you decide you’re going to nip down to Tescos for a baguette on your lunch break.
I bought a Buff polar fleecy thing when I first started biking, and to be honest have never wanted for anything more. It’s perfect. Well, apart from the fact I picked the one with the logo all over it – which, when viewed from two steps back from the shop display, suddenly looks like tiger stripe print. Seriously, why would I buy a tiger stripe print neck warmer? Stop asking me why I did! It’s a Buff LOGO.
You’re screwed for your helmet. The visor will mist up despite spending £400 on the latest de-mist-o-prene coating, and you could tape all the vents closed and then stuff them full of thermite and somehow freezing cold gayness will still pass directly through your skull.
What you can do is buy a Foggy facemask. This directs your shivering breath out of your helmet as opposed to onto your visor. I wear mine all year round. It’s uncomfortable at first until you get it adjusted right, but then so is riding into a snowplough because you can’t see.
If it’s snowing, enjoy it. It’s like being in Star Wars! Warp speed! Hell Yeah! And then it all builds up on your visor… which is why I think muffs are a Bad Idea…
In fact most gloves are crap when it gets really cold. Your best bet is warming the buggers up before you get out, and hope they stay a bit warm before you get frostbite.
I can’t really recommend any Winter gloves. I found wearing my regular Summer gloves (tape over the vents, if they get too bad) with some Cold Killers windproof gloves underneath did the job. Rubber gloves will allegedly save you if you get caught out – I tried this once and have to say it didn’t seem to help. You can call into any petrol station and get a free pair from near the diesel pumps, though.
If you’re doing long distances the ONLY thing I found that worked was a set of Oxford Hot Hands heated grips. You wire it in (easy) and wrap them around your hand grips, and they work perfectly. You may find you need to tuck your thumbs under your palms for a few mins to get them up to temperature, but other then that you can happily wear your Summer gloves with them.
I wear my Summer race leathers (Halo Oracle) as much as I can through Winter. Remember thin layers are the best for staying warm, so get 3 t-shirts on under them and it will do the job! I’d also recommend (again) Cold Killers thermal long sleeve windproof top thingy. I also have a synthetic Lookwell Goldline jacket with removable thermal liner that’s excellent, although loosing its waterproofing after 12 years. With that and the windproof top I’ve pounded out thousands of motorway miles – I’ve actually got off the bike before and been able to pull off a complete layer of ice from my front. It kept me fine for all day long Winter riding at high speeds.
I have no miracle cures for the lower half! I just wear my regular Summer leathers and am fine. I did have the Lookwell trousers to go with the jacket, but a wet road, RGV250R and a flatbed truck did for them years ago. They had a thermal lining, but even then I never actually used it.
And it’s the same for my feet – Sidi Vertigo Corsa race boots. I’ll probably close the vents, if I remember. I wear normal socks, but again if you get cold feet I’d advise doubling up rather than one thick pair.
Other than that the main thing I’d say is to get a bike with a fairing! I have no idea why the ‘ideal’ commuter bike is seen as an upright bike with no fairing?! Are you mad? Sportsbikes have a fairing, naturally tuck you in out of the wind, and get your adrenaline singing nicely, as mentioned earlier!
Whatever you’re riding this Winter, though – keep it safe and do whatever you need to keep yourself warm!