by Victor Wanchena
The sun isn’t quite as warm, the changing of leaves to their dormant color and the brisk chill of evening signal the close of another year. As fall extends its cool arms around our northern territory the sad reality that the riding season will have to draw to a close sooner or later is apparent. We soon will have to roll our bikes to their winter resting-place at the back of the garage. Regardless, I do not let this dampen my spirits. In fact, I find fall to be one of my favorite times to ride. The beauty of the changing season always spurs me to ride a little more and keep riding until the snow finally sticks to the ground.
With that said, I am always surprised to see so few bikes on the road, especially when the temps drop below 60û. The odd stares and bewilderment I get from riders and non-riders alike when riding on days that are less than warm make me wonder. Why, in a state that embraces snowmobiles, does a motorcycle ride on a 40 degree day cause such a ruckus? I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I can answer the other pressing question on peoples’ minds. How do you stay warm?
Staying warm is the obvious key to enjoying late season riding on our sometimes frozen tundra. The first thing you need is the equipment on your motorcycle. A faring or windshield is an obvious plus. They help by keeping the wind from hitting you directly. Most windshields are easily removable for those of you who find them too warm in the summer. Likewise the windscreens on bikes with fairings are often available in longer and shorter versions if you need flexibility. The other accessory I find invaluable is heated hand grips. Before you start giggling, let me just say that once you have used them on a cold day you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. Heated grips are especially nice because they allow you to wear lighter gloves than the conditions would normally dictate. Fumbling with the controls of your bike due to bulky gloves is eliminated.
Next is your choice of riding gear. The gear you use for summer riding is a good base, with a few additions. The old saying about dressing in layers is true. 3 – 4 layers of good insulating clothing will keep you warm down to freezing. The only problem is fitting all those layers under your riding jacket can be difficult. Some jackets allow extra room for layering, but for those who feel tightly packed into gear I suggest they get a Zip-R- Strip from Minnesota’s own Tom the Tailor. The Zip-R-Strip zips into the existing zipper of you jacket adding a couple of inches of room for all the insulation you need. Check out his web site at http://www.winternet.com/~roadtrip/. Good thermal underwear or a sweater will generally provide ample insulation when combined with a long sleeve shirt and the liner that comes with most jackets. A good set of over-pants designed to be worn over your pants is a must for cool riding. I prefer bib style over-pants since they leave no room for a potential gap that could let an icy wind up your back. Be sure they are large enough to allow extra layers on your legs. As the temps drop further an electric vest or jacket is a big plus. Besides dumping needed heat into your body an electric vest allows you to feel just as warm with less bulk and less restriction to movement.
Lastly, the most important item in my mind is a good attitude. If you go out riding hating the cold, you will not have a good ride. Accept the season for what it is and enjoy your riding regardless of the temperature.
So this month ride fast, take chances, and try it in the cold.