I run into people all the time who have put their bikes up for the season by now. I get it, the temperature is dropping, the days are shorter, and wet roads are more dangerous. Nevertheless, when the conditions are good, there’s still a lot of great riding all year long, even here in Utah. I have a couple of hard-core friends who, like me, take pride in riding 12 months out of the year. Here’s how we do it.
We stay home if the roads are wet and we don’t venture into the mountain passes, but if the roads are dry and the sun is shining, our motorcycles beckon and we often mount up on Saturday for two or three hours. I have a non-ridding friend who says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” The same is true on a motorcycle. How you layer will make a difference between whether or not you’ll be able to hit the road on Thanksgiving or cruise down to Arizona in late January.
Without a doubt, my favorite layering piece is a mid-weight softshell that gets packed on every trip, winter, spring, summer or fall. When the temperature drops around 45 to 50 degrees, it takes the edge off and makes for a comfortable ride. They don’t make the particular jacket I wear any more, but they still make one. It cuts the wind when I’m wearing a textile jacket and it gets cooler in the evening and does a good job of insulating inside my heavyweight leather jacket I’m wearing this time of year. It’s also great to slip on before dinner when we’re on the road.
When it starts to get colder than that (low 40s or high 30s), motorcycles give us the ability to plug in a nice, warm, heated jacket—which I always take with me on rides this time of year. Whether I ever put it on or not, over the years there has been a time or two when I’ve needed it, so now it’s packed any time we’re riding late or early in the season.
I’ll admit, I don’t like being cold, but combined with my heated gloves, and some long underwear, I’m usually pretty comfortable. How well you can handle the cold might impact whether you opt for heated socks or heated pants under your jeans—both are available.
I've had my heated gear for several years now so I'm sure there have been updates and improvements made since then. I don't use a programmable thermostat for example. It's either "on" or "off" which works OK for me. I have friends who prefer the thermostat. I also have friends who think wearing heated gear isn't part of their thing. I guess they can be cold if they want to. Because of the times I wish I'd had it but didn't, I'd prefer not to be cold.
Winter riding is not for the faint-hearted and requires an extra measure of caution. You really need to pay attention to the road conditions and watch the weather. Cold, wet roads are not safe and getting wet in the winter can be life threatening. With that said, if the roads are dry and the temperature is pushing 40 degrees (which it often does in the winter around here), I’m usually up for a ride out in the west desert or heading south.
Not long ago we did a late January ride down in Arizona (which is a great way to beat the cold), but we rode down instead of trailering the bikes. We stayed a lot warmer than I thought we would riding into St. George, we put a few miles under us, and had a great time. Stopping in Salina on the way home I commented that it had been a fun weekend, but then I’m easy to please.
This time of year the right layers will make the difference between whether you enjoy the ride or simply survive it. Oh, and don't forget to keep your bike pugged into the trickle charger.