In the world of two-wheeled motorized vehicles, winter separates the boys from the men. See, the boys just give up when the cold months come calling. They hang up their helmets, winterize their motorcycles, and stare wistfully out the window until spring rolls around. The men, on the other hand … the men break out the winter motorcycle gear and get to work.
If you’re ready to step up to the plate that is winter riding, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll need a few supplies before you brush the frost off your seat and saddle up though, so here’s a primer on everything you need to get out there and earn your turns in the cold this winter.
At its core, motorcycling is an outdoor activity like any other. And, like any other outdoor activity, that means when the temperatures start to drop, layers are your best friend. When it comes to base layers, all the usual rules apply: Cotton is your enemy. Merino wool or synthetic fibers are your friends. Personally, we prefer the merino route, as it’s got the same moisture-wicking and temperature regulating properties as synthetics like polyester but with the added bonus of natural odor resistance.
FXE Tenacious Merino Base Layers
Technically any existing winter base layers you’ve got on hand will do the trick here, but for our money, we’re keen on the Tenacious series of tops and bottoms from the folks at FXE. These layers use an 80% merino/20% synthetic blend to give you all the benefits of natural fibers with a little extra durability. We particularly like their long-sleeve merino shirt, as its generous sleeves feature thumbhole cuffs to make wriggling into your jacket and gloves a hassle-free experience.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to just layer up under your warm-weather jacket. For cold-weather riding, you need something with serious wind resistance and some extra insulation to boot. You can always opt to ride with a waterproof/windproof shell and your favorite insulating mid-layers, but we prefer the all-in-one solution of a winter motorcycle jacket with a removable thermal layer included.
Rev’It! Flare 2 Jacket
All-weather motorcycle gear has the unfortunate habit of looking out of place around town. Too techy, too bulky, too loud. We’re big fans of the Rev-It Flare 2 jacket because it looks natural as a casual jacket off the bike, but still offers great safety features and weather protection as well as a removable thermal liner that extends the Flare 2’s versatility into fall and spring. The Flare 2 doesn’t have a premium Gore-Tex membrane, but it does have Rev’It!’s proprietary “hydratex” waterproof/breathable layer that’s about as close as we’ve seen performance-wise. For your money you’ll also get CE-rated Knox Flexiform armor in the shoulders and elbows, a tough 600D polyester outer fabric, and the option to add in a Seesoft CE-level 2 back protector for extra protection.
Just like our winter motorcycle jacket above, a good pair of cold-weather
Rev’It! Varenne Pants
The Rev’It! Varenne pants strike a solid middle ground of performance and price that will get you safely through the winter months without breaking the bank. On the weatherproofing side, these winter riding pants feature the same hydratex liner as the jacket above, so they’re both waterproof and breathable, and also offer their own removable thermal liner, so they’ll double as solid rain gear fall through spring. Safety-wise you’re getting CE-level 1 protection at the knees and hips and a 600D polyester outer fabric for solid abrasion resistance. Our favorite feature of the Rev’It! Varenne pants by far however involves the full-length zippers that run down each leg, so you can get in and out of them without taking off your riding boots.
The best winter motorcycle gloves are insulated, windproof, and waterproof while also offering a solid degree of protection. We recommend shopping for a full gauntlet-style glove to form the best seal possible against the cold outside air, and if you can afford a glove with an added waterproof/breathable membrane as well it’s well worth the extra money.
Alpinestars Apex V2 Drystar Gloves
You can spend a fortune on winter motorcycle gloves to get the warmest, driest, most bulletproof mittens available, but it’s always kind of painful to spend all that money on a glove you’ll only wear a few months out of the year. That’s why we’re big fans of Alpinestars and their budget-friendly Apex V2 Drystar winter gloves. The Apex V2 feature Alpinestar’s proprietary “Drystar” membrane, which doesn’t breathe quite as well as Gore-Tex, but has gotten us through several winters without complaint. This is a fantastic price point for a cold-weather glove, especially considering Alpinestars included some of their race-bred safety tech like their patented finger-bridge reinforcements and hard sliders on each palm. 120 grams of Thinsulate insulation is included on the top of the hand to keep you warm without restricting feel at the handlebars, which also works great with the heated grips down below.
If you’re typically a warm-weather rider, chances are your go-to motorcycle footwear isn’t ideal for winter conditions. That’s because most two/three-season boots focus heavily on allowing airflow into the boot, which is exactly what we want to avoid when the temperatures really start dropping. All other things being equal, we want two main features in a good winter motorcycle boot: Non-perforated leather construction, and a quality waterproof membrane.
Buying boots without perforation (or any breathable mesh panels) is important for keeping body heat inside the boot where it belongs. We prefer full-grain leather to synthetic materials for its abrasion resistance (important if you want to keep the skin on your feet), and for its overall quality and durability. Just make sure there are no perforations (those little holes you see cut into summer riding boots), and that the boot is high enough to fully shield your lower body from wind and rain.
Speaking of rain, here’s where the waterproof liner comes into play. Pound for pound, there’s just no better waterproof/breathable liner our there than Gore-Tex. Some boots use a proprietary waterproof membrane to cut costs, but Gore-Tex is the gold standard for a reason. The only thing worse than cold feet is cold and wet feet, so we recommend spending the extra money for the real deal here.
Sidi Armada Gore-Tex Boots
Sidi makes some of the best motorcycle boots money can buy including everything from touring models like the Armadas shown here to their bulletproof off-road boots like the Crossfire 3. We like the Armada because it checks all our boxes for winter boots with its full-grain leather construction, generous peak height, and full-length Gore-Tex liner. The Armada Gore-Tex is also an attractive option because it features oodles of high-quality crash protection like a burly exterior heel cup and internal toe guard, as well a removable exterior ankle and shin protector that give it some off-road versatility to boot. Pair these with a full-length over-the-calf winter sock like thefor a match made in heaven.
Piling on the layers is a tried and true method for winter riding, but if you really want to bask in the warmth of luxury, adding heated gear to your collection is a total game-changer.
Truth be told, if you’re willing to spend the money, someone will sell you heated versions of damn near everything, from heated helmets to heated insoles for your boots. More power to you if your motorcycle’s electrical system can handle it, but we recommend sticking to two main staples to get the most of your heated gear.
Heated Motorcycle Vests
Believe it or not, a heated motorcycle vest does wonders for keeping every part of your body warm from your fingers to your toes. That’s because by keeping your core temperature up, your body is able to consistently pump warm blood to your extremities, so there’s no better way to stay toasty than with a simple heated vest.
Heated motorcycle vests come in two main varieties: Battery powered and plug-in. Battery-powered vests use their own rechargeable battery packs for power, while plug-in vests connect to your
Hotwired 12V Heated Inner Vest Evo
The Hotwired heated vest is hands-down our favorite choice. Where other brands require you to purchase an additional controller and accessories, Hotwire keeps things simple with a plug-and-play vest that comes with everything you need to ride including the battery harness, fuse, and controller. It’s got heat panels on both sides of the chest and down the back, as well as dual panels inside the zip-up collar to keep your neck warm and cozy.
Heated Motorcycle Handgrips
Rather than fumbling with heated gloves or wearing heated liners with an existing pair, adding heated grips to your motorcycle is a simple and affordable way to keep the feeling in your fingers without losing feel and feedback at the controls. Paired with the right winter
Oxford Heaterz Evo Adventure Grips
There are a couple of different brands available for aftermarket heated grips nowadays, but Oxford is without a doubt the most well-established. They’ve been developing heated motorcycle grips forever, and their latest offering, the “Evo” series, is their best yet. These heated grips come with everything you need including waterproof cables, connectors, and switches, and can be installed in about an hour. What makes the Evo line special is that they include an integrated controller that measures and adjusts the heat at each grip to keep them at your selected temperature. As an added bonus, the controller also detects whether your bike is on or off, so you don’t have to worry about coming back to a dead battery if you forget to turn them off in between rides.
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