Winter Riding Essentials Guide

Winter Motorcycle Riding Essentials Gear List

Winterizing your bike shouldn’t necessarily mean putting it away until Spring. What it should mean, is getting yourself and your bike road ready for colder temperatures. That is, if you live in a place where the roads are clear of ice and chrome-damaging salt. 

If you’re planning to get as many miles as possible this winter on two wheels, let me help you enjoy them! Riding in cold weather doesn’t have to be miserable, you just have to dress accordingly and prepare for it. Let’s get into some of my Winter motorcycle and riding gear essentials so that you can stay warm all season long!

Winter Gear Essentials For the Rider

This is a public service announcement: You do not need to look like a stuffed sausage rolling down the highway in the Winter! With a little bit of proper layering from head to toe, you should be able to easily move your limbs and be comfortable for any length of ride.

Here are a few pieces that I personally wear, as well as additional suggestions for those looking to go full throttle through the frigid temps. What’s even better? You might have some of these items in your closet already. You just didn’t realize you could use them on the bike as well!

Wear a Full Face Helmet: Bell Race Star

For winter temperatures, a full face helmet is essential. You’ll want a helmet that allows you to close as much ventilation as possible in order to keep the warmth inside your lid. That means you’ll want a built-in shield and closable vents. 

While the Race Star is also my go-to for almost any day’s ride, it’s also a really great helmet for the winter months for both of the reasons I just mentioned. Additionally, The Star series helmets come with a rubber “plug” that acts as a reinforcement for the vents near the chin of the helmet, aiding to block as much wind as possible. While I don’t use this piece personally, it’s nice to know that Bell took the time to consider this extra piece of equipment when creating this product.

Balaclava’s & Neck Gaiters

Winter Riding Essentials | Bell Race Star Helmet and Neck Gaiter
Tucking the Neck Gaiter into your jackets and helmet will significantly help keep you warm.

No, we’re not talking about tasty pastries, or southern swamp creatures. We’re talking about an affordable piece of gear you should have in your winter riding arsenal! Your neck is essentially a “middle ground” for the warmth created by your head and chest. You don’t want that body heat to “leak out.” By keeping your neck covered, you’ll be significantly more comfortable while riding.

If your helmet fits correctly, a balaclava is going to make for an uncomfortable ride with the extra layer added to your noggin. I personally choose to wear a neck gaiter, as they don’t cover my entire head.

A neck gaiter should work perfectly to keep you warm, assuming you tuck it into your jackets and into the bottom of your helmet. Make sure to find one that is windproof, like this one on amazon that’s under $10 (currently). This is something I take on almost all of my road trips. It’s small, compact, and makes a world of a difference if the temperatures drop.

Heated Gear

Winter Riding Essentials | Harley-Davidson Heated Gear

If you have the cash, heated gear is one of the best investment you can make to your winter riding wardrobe. I actually use my heated jacket year round here in Colorado, depending on where I’m riding. I currently use the Harley-Davidson® women’s heated jacket and gloves.

If they made pants for women, I would definitely purchase them to provide extra heat to my entire body. But for now, the jacket and gloves have made the world of a difference in my cold weather riding. I’ve been able to comfortably ride hundreds of miles in 40 degree temperatures thanks to heated gear.

Base Layers

Winter Riding Essentials | Cold Weather Riding Gear

Base layers can truly make a cold riding experience significantly more enjoyable. While a cotton long sleeve is better than nothing, using quality, Wool Base Layers will make a world of a difference. My personal favorite base layers are the 250 Series from Smartwool. I wear the Smartwool 250 crew neck long sleeve, as well as their leggings under my jeans. The 250 Series is available for both men and women!

Windbreakers Aren’t Just for Dyna Bros

While leather is great for protection, a water and wind-resistant liner that is purposely made to retain heat and block external temperatures is ideal. I almost always carry a windbreaker in my bags with me just in case it gets chilly. A lot of motorcycle companies print on these Independent Trading Co windbreakers. In fact, this is the one that I typically ride in.

Want to carry one less item with you on a trip? Your rain gear doubles as a wind breaker. That also includes the pants! I have definitely pulled out my rain gear pants on many cold nights to give my legs a little bit of extra warmth.

Choosing a Leather Jacket for an Outer Layer

Winter Riding Gear | Roland Sands Design Trinity Leather Jacket
The Roland Sands Design Trinity Jacket is made of thick Buffalo Leather and features pre-curved sleeves and rotated shoulders for a performance riding fit.

With base layers, a heated jacket, and thick windbreaker, I usually only ride with a leather vest on to keep my core warm. If you plan to ride long distance, a leather jacket would be my next suggestion. You’ll want a premium cowhide jacket (no lambskin or fashion jackets) that features minimal ventilation options (like perforated leather, that’s a no-go), and fitment is roomy enough to add layers. Nobody wants to feel like a stuffed sausage in a leather jacket. You need to be able to bend your arms and control your bike properly.

I personally really like the Trinity jacket from Roland Sands Design, as well as the new Mia Jacket for winter riding. And, while I’ve never worn one, I think the Atwyld Alltime Moto Jacket is super cute, and many ladies seem to find it very comfortable and warm for long rides.

Leather Gloves

Winter RIding Essentials | Deerskin Gloves

If you’re primarily commuting, or not planning to spend hours on your bike in temperatures under 45 degrees, you’ll be fine with a very affordable pair of deerskin leather work gloves. I have ridden thousands of miles cross-country in a pair of Tillman 864 Unlined Deerskin Gloves over the past 5 years. No, they’re not motorcycle specific, but they have outlasted every pair of motorcycle-branded gloves I’ve owned. They’re my go-to gloves for the cold, assuming I’m not going too far. If you want something a little nicer, look for a glove that is Fleece Lined, paired with 3M Thinsulate Insulation, like the Tillman 865.

Winter Motorcycle Riding Essentials | Gauntlet Gloves
Gauntlet Glove Styles From Left to Right: 1. Basic, unlined leather with a true gauntlet cuff. 2. Fleece and Gore-Tex Lined with a elastic cuff for closure. 3. Waterproof and Heated

If you want the BEST leather glove for your buck, you’ll want to find more of a Gauntlet-style glove that goes over your forearm to keep the wind out of your jacket sleeves. Look for waterproof gloves (or Gore-Tex labels), as they will also be the most insulated and wind resistant, like these budget friendly Deerskin Gauntlets from Milwaukee Leather. Additionally, There are so many gauntlet options available on the market, you’ll need to do some serious shopping to see what fits your needs best.

Thick, Warm Socks

If you live somewhere that’s cold, you probably already have a drawer full of thick, wool socks for the winter months. I prefer to wear knee high, wool socks from Smartwool. Any kind of thick, wool sock will work. The taller and thicker they are, the better, in my opinion.

A second option to consider is to layer a compression sock underneath a taller, thicker sock. If you are like me and tend to have cold feet and hands, you may need the extra boost of blood flow that compression socks can offer.

H-D Footwear’s Beechwood Boots

I think everyone knows how much I love these boots. If you follow me on any of my social media pages, you’ll know that they’re ALWAYS on my feet. The H-D Footwear Beechwood Boot is a year-round staple in my riding wardrobe. Not only are they comfortable for every day wear, they’re also extremely tall, which adds a little bit more wind-resistance in the winter months! You can check out my full review of these boots, here!

The Heating Hack of Hot Hands

In the Fall of 2020 I spent 5 days camping in northwest Wyoming where temperatures stuck between 30-19 degrees at night, and usually around 55 during the day. Knowing that I would be camping in colder temperatures, I ordered a Hot Hands Variety Pack off Amazon and stuffed them in my saddlebags for when things got chilly.

Turns out, wearing the foot and toe warmers in my boots was a great addition. After a night of camping, I threw the larger hand warmers in my back armor pocket, which helped keep my lower back slightly warmer. While these weren’t a necessity, I was glad to have them. Especially the toe warmers.

Winter Gear Essentials For the Bike

I’m sure by now, you’ve seen the motorcycle wind chill chart that shows the impact that speed has on the temperatures that hit your body as you’re riding. Dressing warm will help you tenfold, but adding a few things to your bike in the winter months will significantly reduce the wind chill, thus helping you stay warm in the process. We’ve got you geared up. Now let’s talk about some additional options for your bike that will help you stay warm! 

“Elephant Ears” and Hand Guards

Winter Riding Essentials | Elephant Ears on a Harley

Yes, the plants, of course! No, I’m joking. Crazy plant ladies, leave your plants at home. Elephant ears are also known as hand mitts or hippo hands. The only people I’ve ever seen use these on a motorcycle, are hardcore, year-round riders. Most people will look at you like you’re crazy, but you’re going to be snug as a bug ripping down the highway. For under $50, they’re easily the most affordable “bike mod” you can make to keep your hands warm. These BikeMaster Elephant Ears are what I use. They also go over my hand guards, which is a huge plus.

Hand Guards will significantly help with wind resistance, but not as well as adding a fully enclosed apparatus to your handlebars. There are dozens of types of hand guards out there that fit different makes and models. Try to find legitimate hand guards that have bar-end mounting capabilities, like these from JD Fabs.

What Kind of Fairing is That? 

Fairings and quick detachable windshields are great for cold weather riding. Again, the more wind you can deflect from direct impact of your body, the less the cold is going to bother you. The taller the shield, the more wind you’ll deflect. 

Looking for something budget friendly? The Krator T-Sport Fairing and Quarter Fairing are EXTREMELY Cheap for what they are. At $90 and $60, they’re a steal if you’re looking for a fairing without spending a ton of money. However, they won’t be nearly as nice as one from Altered Industries, JD Fabs, Memphis Shades, or elsewhere. In fact, I’ve heard many people complain about the Krator shields being “warped,” making it difficult to see through. If you want a taller shield for a quarter fairing, I’d suggest an Altered Industries shield. They work and look great.

Windshields and Fairings can become a really pricey addition to your bike. Without knowing the exact specifications of what you ride, it’s really hard to point you in the right direction. You could be looking at $200-$1,200 for some decent quality parts.

You’re Ready to Rip!

And just like that, you’ve got a handle on riding all Winter long. I hope this guide has helped you to find a few ways to stay warm! After eight years of riding, I’m still learning what works best, but this list is pretty much everything you’ll need, and then some.

Got any additional ideas? Be sure to drop a comment down below. I’d love to hear how YOU stay warm while riding through the winter!

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Winter Motorcycle Riding Essentials | Tips for Staying Warm

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Staci Wilt

I’m Staci: a freelance journalist, photographer, and marketing consultant. I primarily focus those skills around my passions of motorcycles, travel, and food…and yes, we will count margaritas and craft beer in that last category. Thanks for checking out my blog!
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