Here is how to layer for warmth on a bike in the cold. We tell you what winter motorcycle gear you need, how much it will cost and how to put it on.
Winter is coming. Gone are the days of simply tossing on a light jacket and helmet, if you’re going to keep riding into winter, you’re going to need to learn how to layer. We’re here to help. This is the winter motorcycle gear you need and how to assemble it to stay warm.
The goal with layering is to create a maximum amount of warmth with as little bulk as possible, there’s no reason to keep yourself warm if you can’t operate a motorcycle safely. Motorcycle jackets are generally fairly warm when standing around, making wind-chill the biggest barrier you have to get around to be able to ride comfortably. Smart layering can keep you warm without turning you into Joey from Friends.
Base layers are crucial to your staying warm on your bike. Any of the motorcycle or athletic base layers, designed to keep you warm, will be effective in keeping your naturally generated body heat in close where it counts. Make sure they fit snugly and are an appropriate length to cover your body completely. We recommend the Dainese Evolution Warm Shirt and Pants.
A fleece mid layer works really well at creating the “warmth” part of this whole operation; the thicker and softer the better. If you live somewhere especially cold, or are an exceptionally sensitive to temperatures (as I am), a down jacket like the ones sold by many brands at REI are ideal for keeping you warm in even the coldest situations. They’re often quite a bit pricier, but can be used for all kinds of applications and are definitely worth the money. We recommend the Schampa WarmSkin Thermal Windbreak Shirt, and use a Marmot Zeus Jacket for super cold days.
Your outer layers are where you most effectively combat wind-chill. Make sure our outer layer is wind-proof (look for the WindStopper logo on textile items). Length is a huge factor in your outer layer; if your sleeves or torso are too short the jacket will let frigid air in near your core and ruin any chance you had at warmth. Another area you want to pay attention is at the neck. Your neck is incredibly sensitive and you’ll want to make sure your jacket covers it sufficiently, or you have a fleece neck tube to keep it warm and block out wind. The Rev'It Defender GTX Jacket is a solid go-to for cold, winter rides.
When your body gets cold, it circulates less blood to your extremities to keep your core warm which means your hands are the first place on your body to feel cold and the first place on your body to go numb; it’s a shame they’re kind of important in controlling the bike.
It sounds weird, but one of the major ways to keep your hands warm is to keep you core warm so that your body doesn’t feel the need to regulate itself as fiercely. I’ve worn tons of great pairs of winter gloves, but my hands still get cold if I don’t have a neck gaitor on, or I’m testing a new jacket and it rises too high in the back.
For places that are super cold, BarkBusters hand guards do a great job of helping to block wind. Cheap grip warmers can also keep both your hands and the rest of your body warm. The best gloves we've found so far are Rev'It's Bastion GTX gloves.
Most boots, when paired with nice thick wool socks, will keep your feet warm as long as you don’t allow cold air to get in any of the seams anywhere. That goes double for water. ICON Patrol Waterproof Boots do the job nicely without breaking the bank.
When shopping for a helmet, do your homework and research how well the helmet keeps air out and how well the helmet keeps from fogging. My Shoei RF-1100 is really drafty and fogs easily if I don’t use the pinlock visor. My ICON Airmada is drafty but refuses to fog no matter how hard I try. My Schuberth C3 Pro lets in zero air, but fogs if I don’t leave the shield cracked a bit if I’m not using a pinlock visor... If it’s too late and you already bought a helmet, try and find a pinlock visor to help with fogging and buy a Proline Windjammer to keep cold air from entering the bottom of your helmet. If you want to buy a good wind-stopping helmet, we advise looking at the Schuberth and then adding a pinlock visor, their over-sized neck roll keeps everything out.
How To Layer
Start with your winter base layers, something soft and form fitting from any of the athletic companies or gear manufacturers. Then, put on your wool socks and then add any fleece, sweatshirts, or down layers as needed.
Next, put on your outer layers, be it actual riding pants and matching jacket, or just denim and leather jacket. Make sure you overlay each layer to insure cold air won’t get under the outer layers while you’re riding.
Once you’re mostly suited up, add your neck gaitor, making sure it’s tucked up above the chin curtain of the helmet and down below the collar of your jacket, ensuring it doesn’t just act as a funnel for cold air down onto your chest.
Finally, put your helmet and gloves and do this before you go outside. If you touch the cold metal handle of the garage door, your hands won’t regain that warmth and you’ll be cold the whole ride. Try and capture all the warmth possible before going outside as your outfit is designed to keep it in.
Don’t want to go through this whole layering process or think it’s a pain to strip down to take your base layers off once your at work? Buy a heated jacket/vest and some gloves. Then all you will need is a good outer layer. We recommend anything by Gerbing or Powerlet.
What tricks have you found to help keep warm on a bike in winter? What are your favorite brands and products for layering?
Low Budget Options: $688.84
Base Layers: Hanes Thermal Underwear - $8.95
Mid Layers: Columbia Men's Steens Mountain Hoodie - $44.95
Outer Layers: REV'IT! Brera Jacket - $219.99
Helmet: ICON Alliance Dark Helmet - $150
Medium Budget Options: $1,675.83
Base Layers: Dainese Evolution Warm Shirt - $89.95
Outer Layers: Rev'It Sand 2 Jacket - $489.99
Helmet: Bell RS-1 - $399.95
High Budget Options: $3,254.84
Base Layers: Dainese Map Windstopper Shirt - $139.95
Outer Layers: Spidi Ergo 365 Pro Expedition H2OUT Jacket - $1,399.95
Helmet: Schuberth C3 Pro - $769
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Review: Schuberth C3 Pro