It’s a sad day when the first frost hits and you have to cover your bike in the back of the garage.
But what if you didn’t have to wait until next spring?
I’ve found that with the right equipment, you can keep riding all through the winter, whether it’s commuting, long-distance travel or even just for fun.
Here’s what you need.
Unless you live in Cancun, riding in the winter is basically impossible with anything but a full-face helmet. If the helmet has any openings at all, the cold wind will hit your face, making the ride unbearable.
You can go with either a modular or standard full-face helmet, but ideally, you want one with adjustable ventilation.
You have to have some amount of ventilation, even in the winter, but you certainly want to be able to open or close it based on just how cold it gets.
However, by far the most important aspect of a winter helmet is fog resistance. When it’s cold, your breath more easily condenses on the inside of your face shield, making it difficult to see.
The best way to prevent this is a Pinlock insert, which many helmets either include or accept one that you have to buy separately. A Pinlock insert creates a bubble of air between it and the face shield so it doesn’t fog up.
If your helmet doesn’t have a pinlock insert, there are other ways to prevent fogging, such as chemical coatings.
Your neck is one of the places most vulnerable to the cold. Even with a great helmet and warm jacket, you’ll likely have a thin strip of skin that’s still exposed to icy wind.
Luckily, you can blend your jacket into your helmet with a neck covering, either some kind of scarf or a balaclava.
A balaclava works great to simultaneously keep your head and ears warm inside your helmet.
The most important thing to consider is how easily the balaclava will fit under your helmet and whether there are any seams that would become uncomfortable.
A winter motorcycle jacket is your first line of defense against the cold.
For a jacket to adequately take on winter weather, it needs multiple layers, including one for insulation, another for waterproofing, and an outer windbreaker layer.
It should have a high, insulated collar as well that combines with your neck covering to keep your neck warm.
Of course, your motorcycle jacket also has to keep you safe, so it should have the appropriate armor on the elbows and shoulders. Plus, you want it to be comfortable, so pay attention to the fit and sizing.
This jacket is perfect for those who have to deal with wind, rain and snow in the winter. In addition to protective armor and an adaptive fit, it comes with a thermal liner and waterproof membrane.
Go here to see all my favorite winter jackets.
Even if you have a winter jacket, you might need a little extra warmth for the coldest days.
The best way to do this is to simply add another layer with a jacket liner. This can be a warm fleece liner or another nylon liner to stop the wind from reaching your skin.
One modern solution is a heated jacket liner. This is a jacket liner like any other except that it has wiring to hook it up to your motorcycle’s battery. It then draws electricity and warms up.
I trust this jacket liner to keep me warm and safe because it has carbon fiber heating elements with an automatic temperature cut-off that won't let you overheat. Plus, it seamlessly connects to other Hotwire heated clothing like pants and gloves.
When the temperature drops, it’s not just your torso that you need to protect. And your jeans aren’t going to cut it. Motorcycle pants are essential for winter riding, specifically those with warm, waterproof material like Gore-Tex.
Naturally, you want the pants to be comfortable too and not inhibit your movements. In some cases, you may be able to slide them over your regular pants, while other models are pants in their own right.
Just like you can add a layer to your jacket for extra warmth, you can do the same thing with your pants. If it’s not too cold, you can even use a pants liner to stay warm while still wearing your normal pants, which is a lot better for commuting.
Like with jacket liners, some pants liners are heated and plug into the battery for warmth.
Motorcycle gloves are important for protecting your hands year-round, but in the winter, you may want a bit of extra warmth.
That’s easy enough to do because there are plenty of gloves out there with electronic heating just like jacket and pants liners.
Some of these wire into your motorcycle’s battery while others have their own battery packs. Those that wire into the battery tend to be warmer, but they’re also more of a hassle.
Of course, if you’re wiring them into a full suit including jacket and pants liners, this is a good option.
You can find in-depth reviews of the best heated gloves, both wired and battery-powered, in my full roundup.
Surely you already wear socks whenever you ride, but in the winter, they might not be enough. You need thicker socks that provide more insulation for your feet, especially your toes.
The biggest problem with thick winter socks is breathability. If they warm your feet correctly, you’re likely to sweat, at least a little.
For this reason, you want the socks to be made of a breathable, moisture-wicking fabric so they don’t turn into biohazards after just a few rides.
Another thing to look at is the fit. Thick socks more easily bunch up in your boots, so ribbing or a pre-curved design is ideal.
Your usual motorcycle boots might be warm enough for the winter, especially if you have thick socks. However, if you’re going to ride in the snow or temperatures below freezing, I suggest getting a specialized winter boot.
Winter boots have extra insulation for more warmth, of course, but they also have extensive waterproofing to keep out moisture. Additionally, they normally have thicker and better traction on the soles to handle wet, snowy environments. This way your feet don’t slip when shifting gears.
Naturally, if you’re buying winter boots, they shouldn’t just be warm, though. They need to be safe. This means cushioning at the heel and reinforcement at the ankles and toes. Some may even have shin guards.
Believe it or not, seat warmers aren’t just for cars. You can add a little bit of luxury to your winter ride by heating up your caboose with this device that wires into your motorcycle battery.
The biggest issue you’ll have when looking for a seat warmer is getting one that fits your bike.
You’ll either have to find one that’s listed as compatible with your make and model, or you’ll have to get one with a universal fit, which is frankly the easier option.
Finally, if you want to eliminate as much cold as possible from your winter rides, you can go as far as to install grip warmers.
Like seat warmers, they plug into your battery, heating up your grips. Grips and handlebars get ice cold in the winter, and they can draw heat from your body out through your hands, so grip warmers make riding a lot more comfortable.
Don’t say goodbye to your bike just because it’s getting cold. Invest in some winter gear and enjoy your winter rides with comfort.
You might also be interested in this article about summer motorcycle gear.