Winter motorcycle gear and heated motorcycle clothes are two ways to extend the riding season. Any rider contemplating motorcycling all winter should first have a strong understanding of the issues facing him in the cold. The next step is to wrap up warmly and maybe install heated motorcycle gear.
Covering the Extremities Goes a Long Way Towards Making a Winter Motorcyclist Comfortable
The places where a motorcyclist is likely to feel coldest are her feet, her hands, and her head. These are good places to start when buying winter motorcycle gear. Many riders like to have a pair of thick, waterproof gloves for cold weather, keeping a lighter pair for summer. For extra warmth, motorcycle gloves can usually be worn over a pair of wool, fleece or silk gloves.
A second pair of thick socks helps takes care of the feet. For the head, there are balaclavas, caps and helmet liners. A scarf keeps the exposed neck and torso covered. Any helmet vents should be kept firmly closed.
Improve Winter Riding Gear With Warm Layers
Effective winter motorcycle gear is all about layers. The advantage of layers is that they can be switched in and out if conditions change. The winter motorcyclist may start with a t-shirt (a silk one is particularly warm). On top of this can be worn a sweatshirt, then a sweater. Some jackets come with fleece liners.
Motorcycle pants can fit over panty hose (tights) or silk long-johns. Waterproof pants can be worn on top of leathers. Such pants also help keep off the wind. Some riders also wear gaiters, a layer that goes over the boot and keeps the bottom of the pants dry.
Admittedly, such extreme layering generally results in the rider looking and feeling much like Michelin Man; on the other hand, it enables him to keep riding where less hardy souls give up. Slightly restricted movement is a small price to pay for warmth, and usually only comes into play when mounting the motorcycle.
Heated Motorcycle Clothes Extend the Riding Season
The simplest way to heat up a rider is to slip hand warmers inside gloves and boots. Some glove liners have in-built pockets for such hand-warmers, which are found in outdoors and department stores.
For the ultimate in cold-weather comfort, there is a wide range of heated motorcycle clothing. The rider can buy heated hand grips, seats, vests, gloves, pants – even insoles. Gerbing is leading provider of such heated clothing, but any motorcycle gear store will have several options.
Most heated motorcycle clothing hooks into the bike’s battery, but some run off rechargeable battery packs. The simplest versions have no temperature controls and are thus either on, or off. Their advantage is simple ease of installation and low cost.
Suitably equipped with winter motorcycle gear and alert to cold weather dangers, a rider may not need to winterize her bike after all. She can continue to enjoy her sport year-round, protected from chills with layers of clothing.
Should I Ride a Motorcycle
In a world of unstable gas prices and rising environmental consciousness, more and more people are exploring the idea of using a motorcycle or scooter as their primary source of transportation. When thinking about learning to ride, here are some important real-world items to consider to determine if a motorcycle is the right choice.
Reasons to Ride: Riding for Fun vs. Riding to Save Gas
The first question a prospective motorcyclist should ask themselves is why they want to ride. If the only answer is “to save gas”, then they might want to consider another mode of transportation.
Motorcycles are great at being fuel efficient, but there are trade-offs, especially when it comes to weather protection, luggage capacity and safety. Many people have purchased a motorcycle to reduce their commuting expenses only to discover that thanks to rain, cold and after-work trips to the grocery store, they end up driving their less efficient car or truck just as much as they did before. Others simply underestimate how difficult it is to ride a motorcycle, and quickly realize they made a bad decision.
If, on the other hand, the reasons for wanting to ride come from a genuine interest in and passion for motorcycles, and a motorbike is viewed as more than just an efficient mode of transportation, then there is no reason not to go for it! If motorcycling is thought of as a hobby first, one will never be disappointed, and once a rider gets to the point where getting caught in bad weather and stuffing groceries in a small saddlebag is no longer bothersome, then they get the added bonus of a fuel-efficient commuting machine.
In short – if the goal is simply to save gas, buy a Prius. If the goal is to have fun, a motorcycle is worth considering.
Learning to Ride: Taking an MSF Beginner Class
Riding a motorcycle is inherently unsafe. There are no seat belts, no bumpers, no airbags (other than on the Honda Goldwing) and no doors to keep a rider inside. Other drivers do not see motorcycles well, increasing the chances of a wreck. Most importantly, many motorcycles are extremely powerful, and can quickly get out of control in the hands of an inexperienced rider.
Because there are so many dangers in motorcycling, the best thing to do is take a Beginning Rider Course endorsed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes safe riding.
The course takes a few nights and one weekend, but it is totally worth the time commitment; if a beginning rider takes the class seriously, they can learn a lot about riding safely. Plus, MSF class participants can take their riding test at the end of the course instead of having to go to the DMV.
The MSF Beginner course is not necessary to get a license, but consider it a requirement for safe riding techniques. In fact, it is a good idea to take some kind of motorcycle training course every two or three years; not only can classes help a rider hone their skills, but many insurance companies offer a discount for passing.
Hidden Costs: Tires, Maintenance and Safety Gear
Once a prospective rider has decided to ride for the right reasons and is willing to make the time commitment to get proper training, they need to realize that while bikes are fuel efficient, there are many hidden costs involved that typically do not apply to cars.
The biggest recurring cost for motorcycles is tires. Where car tires can usually last anywhere between 30 and 60 thousand miles, motorcycle tires rarely go past 10 thousand, and some will only survive 3 or 4 thousand. Replacement tires usually run between $100 and $200 a piece, plus installation.
The other major expense is maintenance. Valve adjustments, oil and fluid changes and regular brake service can add up quickly, especially for more upscale motorcycle brands like BMW and Ducati. Learning how to do the basic maintenance is a good idea; if an owner is mechanically inclined and willing to commit the time, they can save a lot of money.
The last major expense – or what should be a major expense – is safety gear. Because motorcycling is dangerous, quality protective gear is a necessity. One should budget for a helmet, jacket, gloves, pants and boots. A set of quality gear can run over $1000, and it is not something that should be put off; consider it a required cost of motorcycling, and once a beginning motorcyclist has decided that they are serious about riding, they should do some research and buy great quality equipment as soon as possible. In the end, it is a small price to pay for added protection.
Motorcycling is an incredible hobby, and those that are interested should first consider why they want to ride and if they are willing to commit the proper time and money. If so, find a local MSF class, and get ready to have some fun! After getting a license, here are some fuel-efficient motorcycles to consider for a first bike!