Winter Commuting, Winter Gear

The last six or seven weeks have been unusually cold across most of the Midwest, and much of the rest of the USA too. It's been about six or seven degrees below seasonal norms here in Duluth, MN. Which doesn’t sound like that much but when it comes to winter riding the difference between thirty-five and twenty-three degrees is huge. Same for +17ºF and -2ºF.

What works best for winter dressing depends on the specific riding application. For all-day low temp exposures have as much electric added-in heat as possible: Heated grips, saddle, jacket liner, etc. There is no substitute for adding heat for long rides in cold conditions. (Though I have seen old men on Gold Wings happily ride all day in freezing weather wearing huge puffy arctic-looking goose down parkas and sitting behind some of the most oversized accessory windshields imaginable, without using any electrical heat supplement. YMMV.)

For commuting, everything depends on distance and speed. With a short commute (three to five miles) on surface streets, one can get by with very little, using the ‘thermos bottle effect'. A nice sweater and good gloves, bundle up completely before leaving a warm building to trap heat inside your layers and that’s it.

To ride farther, and at highway speeds, requires some additional strategy to stay warm and comfortable, including several layers and some electrically heated gear. Starting with a combination of Merino wool, bamboo or synthetic base and mid-layers is the foundation for keeping you insulated and comfortable.

Several Aerostich associates who ride regularly in cold weather plug-in the added warmth of Kanetsu electric gear. A WarmBib is the favorite, because it does such an amazing job of heating your core, in such a small and easy-to-wear package. It takes up almost no space inside your suit or jacket (in case you, um, may not have as much room for layering as you once did…). The WarmBib does a great job of blocking the wind too, and it stashes easily in a tank bag or cargo pocket so you can always carry it with you.

Keeping out drafts is an essential part of staying warm in cold temps. There are many options available, from an original Cotton Bandana to a Breathguard mask, or Shellaclava Neckwarmer to an Aerostich Fleece Windtriangle. One of our favorites is an Aerostich Silk Scarf. Worn underneath your suit or jacket it wraps around your neck for comfortable softness and effectively seals out any cold air from leaking inside, especially with your jacket collar snugged up tight and the top of the scarf tucked in-place underneath the chin-strap of your helmet.

Still looking for even more ways to add or retain heat? If you want to push your riding boundaries deep into freezing territory then consider adding heated grips or even a heated seat. Several versions of battery powered gloves are also available, giving you an hour or more of added heat and comfort with just the press of a button. We've also found that Triple Digit Glove Covers work great to not only keep your hands dry when riding in the rain, but they are a great wind blocking layer and help retain heat in your hands.

Check out the selection of products below to extend your riding all winter. For additional cold weather tips, gear advice and stories, ask for a copy of Zero Below Zero, our account of the first all-winter Duluth electric motorcycle commute, and see how we did it.

Products mentioned in this post:

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