“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” wrote famous fellwalker Alfred Wainwright, and it’s as true for rambling as it is for motorcycling.
Not only does winter riding extend your motorcycling season, it’s also a sure-fire way to sharpen up your skills. When you’re confident in the cold and wet, just imagine how much better you’ll be when the roads dry out again. Plus, there’s the simple fact you won’t be anywhere near as rusty when the season starts again in spring.
And the good news is that a few additions to your kit cupboard will help you deal with pretty much whatever’s thrown at you, and extend your season right through ’til the sun starts shining again. Here’s how:
Think about adventure riders, they have to manage four seasons in one day: from balmy sunshine in the valleys, to biting winds and blizzards on the mountaintops, and everything in-between. There isn’t a riding suit made that’ll cope with that and still be comfortable, affordable or practical, so their solution is ‘layering’.
Layering allows you to tailor what you’re wearing to suit the conditions and to be able to react to changes instantly. Don’t go crazy though, four is the magic number:
- The BASE LAYER is probably the most important, as it needs to keep your skin dry. Having water (rain or perspiration) next to your skin is a bad idea, because as it evaporates it takes your body heat with it. Cotton can absorb up to ten times its own weight in water and takes forever to dry so forget that old T-shirt and get a proper technical base layer – like the Rukka Mark – that is fast-drying and breathable. Go for something that’s close-fitting, so it doesn’t crease up under your riding kit, and that has flat seams for extra comfort.
- Next you’ll need to be trapping a layer of warm air next you, the logic being if your core is warm the rest of you will be. A MID LAYER does this job. There are no hard and fast rules with this, it can be a naturally insulating fibre like wool or synthetic, but your best bet is to go for something tailored for the job like the Windfilter Climate Shirt and Trousers. Whatever you choose it should be thin, so it doesn’t restrict movement, and breathable to help keep that body moisture moving. If you can, go for one that has some kind of windbreaker layer too: wind chill can drop your body temperature seriously quickly.
- Then comes the MOTORCYCLE LAYER, providing protection from the elements and accidents. Go for a longer length jacket, like the Dainese Carve with adjustable neck and cuffs, to seal in that warm air and keep out the wet and wind. Don’t get too hung up on the thermal liner, your mid-layer will do the same job. Ideally get one with venting, so if it gets warmer you can get some airflow. Pair that with a decent set of textile trousers, that are waterproof, breathable and offer a decent amount of armour and protection, and you won’t go far wrong.
- If it’s properly miserable add a fourth, waterproof OUTER LAYER – this keeps out heavy rain and acts as an extra barrier against wind chill. One piece suits, like the Alpinestars Hurricane, do a great job of sealing out the elements, but are a bit of a faff to get on and off. Two-piece suits like the Weise Stratus Jacket and Trousers are easier to manage, and still do a decent job. Bright colours are also a good idea, for a little added safety.