If you love riding so much that you think any time you can spend in the saddle is a good time, then chances are excellent that you'll try to get out on your bike no matter what the weather is doing. That's especially true if you commute on a bike. Although you may have someplace to be at a certain time, one thing we unfortunately can't do is control the weather.
Being cold sucks. Period. Full stop. It's worse on a bike in many ways, because you're guaranteed to get even colder any time you move. If you're moving quickly, the wind feels particularly vicious. Even if you have a gigantic windscreen and front fairing, you're still going to feel it. Nice bike accessories like a heated seat and heated grips can make a difference, but there's still an awful lot of you that's left exposed to the wind.
What About Heated Gear?
You could get yourself some heated gear, which may or may not solve your problem. However, as with most things to do with motorcycle gear, your personal preference and mine may not be the same.
For example, you might hate the idea of any accessories that draw power from your bike's charging system. At the same time, you might find that battery-powered heated gear either doesn't get warm enough for your needs. Some heated gear may also not get as warm as you'd like, so you'll experience the double whammy of added bulk with nothing to show for it.
Even if you do opt for heated gear, you may still find that you're more snug and comfortable in the saddle if you stick a warm base layer under that heat, so let's talk about it.
Warm Base Layers
If you do any type of outdoor activities during the winter, chances are good that you're already familiar with these. In fact, if you're the type of person whose personal body temperature tends to run cold, you may know about these whether you're active or not.
While you can certainly splash out a bunch of cash for technical base layers from high-end outdoor gear brands, there are also lots of inexpensive options that you can get as seasonal items from your local big-box store. Some top base layers might have thumb hole cutouts, so you can keep your long sleeves in place as you add more layers (or gloves) on top. Try it on and see what you like.
Many base layers are made of synthetic, stretchy materials. Some might also offer anti-odor/bacterial/fungal properties. Others might incorporate Merino wool into the fiber mix, and these usually tend to be more expensive. Depending on your personal preferences and your budget, you may have a lot of browsing to do before you narrow it down to a few choices to try.
Warm base layers tend to come in tops and bottoms, made to fit men, women, and children. For this part, don't feel like you need to limit yourself to strictly what motorcycle gear makers offer. There are lots of options out there, at multiple price points. In all cases, something is usually better than nothing.
If you also like to ride when it's hot, there are cooling base layers out there as well. These can make a huge difference in keeping cool on a bike, and work well with your favorite ventilated gear. But that's a separate topic for a different piece. It's something to keep in mind, though; base layers aren't only for cold weather riding.
Warm Mid Layer
Adding a warm mid layer is nice if it suits your ride, as well as your preferences. It can also be helpful when you want to get off the bike and walk around without being constrained by a full motorcycle jacket. Depending on your bike (such as, say, if you have a touring setup), you may be able to stash your outer motorcycle jacket layer inside a side bag and just walk around with the mid-layer as your incognito outerwear of choice.
An added bonus with adding a mid layer is that if you get too warm, it's easy to take it off and just keep the outer and base layers on. For that reason, a packable mid layer is supremely helpful.
As with base layers, you can find mid layers at multiple price points. You also don't need to strictly keep to what motorcycle gear makers offer in this category, although there are plenty that offer this type of gear. Ideally, though, what you want here is significant warmth without significant bulk.
This is a broad generalization, but packing warmth into as thin, light, and packable a mid-layer as possible is when this category tends to become more expensive. It's possible to not pay a lot for mid layers, especially if you can take advantage of sales. However, you definitely want to pay attention to how bulky and/or packable this layer is when you're considering your options. You'll be happier in the long run if you do a little homework before hitting that Buy button.
Here's where you want a motorcycle-specific outer layer. Most winter moto jackets are going to have some type of textile construction. Premium details like CE Level Two shoulder, elbow, and back protectors, specialty protection against abrasion (like Kevlar or Dyneema), and waterproof integration (GORE-TEX, D-Dry, H2Out, and so on) are usually where these layers start to get more expensive.
That said, there are often sales to look out for if you want to save money, so keep that in mind as you're browsing. You can be more flexible if you aren't necessarily intent on buying immediately, too.
In terms of waterproof gear, obviously your mileage may vary in terms of effectiveness. That's especially true if you're looking for that unicorn of gear: Waterproof and breathable. No one likes to feel like a baked potato when they're all suited up to ride, so some gear manufacturers offer options that they claim have both waterproof and breathable characteristics baked in. Like the best news, it's one of those things that's fantastic if it's true.
Some motorcycle gear manufacturers offer outer three- or four-season gear that integrates the waterproof layer right into the outer piece, without the need for a separate liner. More commonly, you'll find gear makers offering a removable waterproof liner that you can add or take out as necessary. Keep that in mind as you browse, and as you refine what you want and need in a cold weather-focused outer layer.
Balaclavas are great to wear with your favorite full-face helmet in all kinds of weather, but they're especially good in the winter. Besides keeping the inside of your helmet from getting super gross with sweat, sunscreen, and hair products, they also add another layer of warmth and wind protection to your head, face, and neck.
While you don't want a thick ski mask situation under your helmet, there are also winter-specific balaclavas that are made to keep you a little warmer. Summer-weight ones are made of lighter material, much like summer-weight cooling base layers. Keep that in mind as you browse.
Neck gaiters are great, but they won't keep you as warm as a balaclava. I have both in my personal gear collection, and they both serve different purposes.
Hands and Feet
Keeping your core warm is the most important thing when you're riding in cold weather, but no one likes cold hands or feet. You can get glove liners to add an extra layer under your favorite pair of winter gloves, but my personal problem with that is the added bulk. I like being able to feel the controls while I ride, as much as possible. You may feel differently.
You could also take the wind deflection and warmth to the outside of your gloves with motorcycle hand covers. A few moto accessories makers offer these, and they're basically big wind-blocking, warm protectors that go over your handlebars and that you stick your gloved hands inside while you're riding. As with all gear and accessories, your feelings and personal preferences may vary.
As far as keeping your feet warm goes, my best suggestion is the warmest socks that fit comfortably in your boots. For winter boots, you want something that isn't ventilated, but is still breathable. Many people also want some level of waterproofing, but that's really up to your preference (though there are few things more annoying than soaked socks inside your boots).
You can also get heated socks, but those typically plug into heated pants or a heated liner of some kind, so it becomes a more complicated (and expensive) ecosystem than simply layering up.