Each year as autumn and then winter approaches, the number of bikes on our roads plummets as many of us understandably swap two wheels for the warmth, comfort and convenience of four.
However, some people have no option but to ride all year round. Not many years ago winter kit was of dubious quality (as I can testify to) but these days it can actually be an enjoyable experience, providing you take a few simple precautions.
The first issue is the drop in temperature compared to the summer months. Cold is probably the biggest enemy of the winter biker for a whole number of reasons. Once you are cold it will affect your concentration and a lack of concentration is something no biker can afford to have. It can also affect your visibility as many riders suffer from watering or streaming eyes as they try to stop their visor fogging up (despite many modern anti fogging systems available).
Modern man made materials can and will afford you warmth and protection which can be supplemented by the use of thermal underwear, thermal socks and inner gloves, or you could splash out on a heated waistcoat and trousers.
A balaclava will keep your head and neck warm, or you can simply wear a roll neck shirt or proper neck warmer if you don’t like the idea of wearing something under your helmet.
Heated handlebar grips for many (myself included), are a must have accessory, but many choose heated inner gloves instead. Whatever your choice you need to try and prevent your hands from becoming cold to the point where your control of the bike is affected and the risk of an accident is increased.
If you cannot afford the little extras, then it is worth remembering that if you put a warm head into a warm helmet and, in particular, warm hands into warm gloves, the heat will be retained for much longer than if everything is cold.
If you only wear leathers then consider wearing a cheap anorak or paddock jacket over the top of your leather jacket rather than a number of layers underneath. Too much additional underclothing will stretch your leather to the point where it will become baggy and less protective, allowing cold air to pass through it so that you won’t actually feel any warmer. If you wear an “over-jacket” a pocket of warm air will be formed between your leather and the outer garment so you will stay warmer for longer. In addition, if you are unfortunate enough to take a tumble you are more likely to damage a cheap jacket rather than your expensive leathers.
If you are on a real shoestring budget, then a trick from my youth works well. Put the previous days newspaper down the front of your jacket. It is a great way of keeping the wind and cold out.
The bottom line is if you keep yourself protected as best as you can from the cold and the wet, then you are already half way to starting to enjoy cold weather riding safely.