don't occur [very often] in South Carolina.
Although it doesn't get as cold here as it does in other parts of the country, riding in the cool season requires some consideration and preparation. So far, the lower limit of riding comfort for me --skinny and cold by nature -- is about thirty-five degrees, but forty is much more bearable.
To be warm enough at forty degrees, I have come up with this list of gear, in order from inside to outside:
- Shorts, Bicycling -- a smooth first layer with synthetic chamois for chafe reduction and padding. These are good no matter what the season.
- Tights, Compression, Polyester/spandex -- Starter (Wal-Mart) Men's Compression Pants
- Pant, ECWS (fleeced polypropylene military surplus)
- Pant, windbreaker, Nylon
- Shirt, compression, polyester/spandex, long sleeve -- Athletic Works (Wal-Mart) Men's Cold Gear Long-Sleeve
- Shirt, ECWS (fleeced polypropylene military surplus)
- Jacket, windbreaker, Nylon, size large to give freedom of movement
- Shirt, armored, Velocity Gear Juggernaut
- Jacket, windbreaker, Nylon (over the armored shirt), size extra large
- Leather suit, Fieldsheer, 2-piece
- Balaclava, Nylon -- Fits beneath helmet.
- Neck warmer, Frank Thomas Antifreeze -- Tuck it into the suit collars and bring the top up to your lower lip. Warm, but the seams are not robust.
- Breath guard, Foggy Respro -- This is the only device I have found that prevents fogging of both the helmet face shield and my eyeglasses. It is made of Nylon bonded to neoprene and attaches to the inside of the helmet with Velcro.
- Helmet, Scorpion EXO-700.
- Glove liners, Frank Thomas Antifreeze
- Glove, Icon TiMax, long (look like they are from a rock star supply store, don't they?)
- Socks, wool, heavy
- Boots, Joe Rocket Sonic
- Grip heaters, Trackside Delux, variable heat
A tip: Don't alternate overlapping layers at the waist. Instead, put all of the shirt tails under all of the pants tops. Reason: Speed, especially when nature calls urgently. (No, I don't think it makes the bike go any faster.)
This amount of clothing is too much if the temperature is above 60 degrees. As the day warms up, I can remove a few layers, provided I have a place to put them. I almost always have my tank bag with me, so this is not much of a problem if the item I remove is compact. The Nylon windbreakers are examples.
One thing that I have occasionally done to keep warm in the cool morning hours is to add some layers that I can discard along the way as the temperature rises. I have used a plastic dry cleaner bag, and I have tried newspapers as well.
A couple of layers inside the front of my suit helps keep in the warmth a surprising amount. Once I get too hot, I stop, remove the extra layers, and go on my way without having to carry the stuff back home.
I am not the first one to use newspapers for this purpose. See this 1916 ride report of the sixteen year old Charles K. Findlay who rode an Indian motorcycle
"I was ready to go as soon as I was dressed. I put on my riding suit [which] was already dirty and greasy, so you can imagine what I will look like at the end of the 859 miles. I cranked off at 5:20am. I was leaving Montgomery behind me. 5:45 I almost froze! I didn't know a June morning could be so cold especially in Ala. I found some of yesterdays newspapers by the road. Looked clean so I stuffed them under my coat and then rode on more comfortable."Adventuresome lad, I'd say. Meanwhile, back to the present.
My leather suit for winter is a size 44. It fits over all these layers fairly well, but it takes a long time to get dressed and undressed --- to dress, usually about ten minutes if I have all the stuff laid out beforehand. My usual suit size is about a 40, but there is absolutely no room for any insulation in a suit of that size, despite my skinny build.
You might ask why I don't get some heated gear; say a vest or jacket liner. Well, you already know that I am frugal, so that is one reason. Another is that the alternator on my Ninja doesn't have a huge electrical surplus. A third is that should the electrical garments fail, you don't have any way to keep warm.
One thing that would help keep my hands warm is a pair of Hippo Hands. These are fleece-lined covers for the grips, controls, and hands.
They have never made a pair especially for my Ninja 650R, so I bought some on E-Bay to try. They may a bit awkward to fit to the bars, but I'll report when I try them out.
Dressing for Cold Weather Riding -- Take Two
Dressing for Cold Weather Riding -- Take Three