Staying Warm on a Motorcycle

Staying Warm on a Motorcycle

Staying warm on a motorcycle is a popular topic at this time of year. The advice typically divides into two main groups: those who increase the layers they wear and those that turn on the heated clothing.

For me, there is no debate. If you want to stay warm on a motorcycle through winter you need to add heat and no amount of extra layers or thermal base layers will do this. They can’t manufacture heat, all they can do is slow the rate of cooling.

Despite using heated gloves for the first time this year, Carle disagrees – layers are all you need. Roger turned on his heated jacket and smiled. Billy just got on with riding. Let the debate rage.

The Science Bit

It may well be four-degrees centigrade outside, but as I move the bike about in the garage I’m cooking, thanks to the insulation in my Weise Outlast Frontier jacket.

Yet, plus four degrees centigrade (4°c) ambient temperature will feel like minus three centigrade (Yes -3°c) when riding at 30mph. The energy I was using to move the bike about, which was also generating body heat, has gone and now I’m sitting in a -3°c wind.

Wind Chill Table
20 mph40 mph60 mph80 mph

Wind chill figures are often quoted and look very dramatic. They are correct but require a little extra interpretation.

On a day with no wind, the ambient air temperature is the temperature that you feel on your skin. When the wind blows, it transfers heat away from your body. This process – known as convection – is why you feel cooler in a breeze.

The faster the wind the greater the convection effect, and the greater the “wind chill”.

A quoted wind chill temperature is not the actual temperature. Rather it is how cold the wind will feel against your skin. As we are wrapped up in motorcycle clothing, the effect of wind chill is reduced, but the convection effect is still present.

The better the insulation your jacket and trousers provide, the longer it will take for the wind chill to reach you. But one thing is absolutely certain – without an energy source to create heat, even the very best motorcycle clothing can only slow the rate at which you will become cold.

You are going to get cold, it is just a question of how long it takes.

The Basics

It might sound obvious, but to stay warm the cold air has to be kept out, which means having some decent motorcycle clothing. It doesn’t have to be the latest six hundred pound plus touring suit, just something that seals up to keep the drafts out and has a thermal liner – fix or removable, it doesn’t matter.

A pair of denim jeans are not going to keep the cold out, even with thermal leggings. You are going to need something designed for the job.

A quick search of the SportsBikeShop Clearance section for Textile Jackets offers quite a selection to choose from, including some big brand names, all for under £125. A similar search for Textile Jeans gave me 30 different options to consider.

Grips and Handguards

The perfect way to avoid cold hands is the Keis G701 heated gloves we tested earlier, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the simplest ways of slowing down the rate at which your hands get cold is to use handguards. Not the hard plastic-type, but handlebar grip covers.

Staying Warm on a motorcycle - Oxford Handlebar Muffs

These are a great example of function over form. They may not be the height of elegance, but they can be effective.

The option that most motorcyclists go for, and certainly very convenient, is a pair of Oxford heated grips. Oxford is the defacto standard when it comes to heated grips. They are simple to wire up and will automatically turn themselves off when you stop the bike.

The downside of heated grips is that they only heat the palms of your hands. I find that when using heated grips with standard winter gloves that the ends of my fingers freeze. Turning up the heat on the grips doesn’t improve matters. The palms of my hands get roasted while my fingertips remain cold.

Heated grips and handlebar grip covers are workable solutions for my hands staying warm on a motorcycle, just as long as the ride isn’t too long.

Heated Clothing

Trying to find a pair of boots that would keep my feet warm through winter is how I “discovered” heated clothing.

I’d tried all kinds of different boots looking for the pair that was going to make a difference. It didn’t matter how expensive the boots were or how impressive the review, none of them made my feet warmer when I wore them.

It was at this point that I was offered some clarity …

“Boots cannot make your feet warmer, they can only slow the rate at which they will become cold. With your feet hanging out in a 60mph blast of freezing cold air, your feet are going to get cold. The only answer to your feet staying warm on a motorcycle is to add heat.”

After that, I bought a pair of Keis heated insoles, and I’ve had warm feet ever since. Being thoroughly impressed with the insoles, the heated jacket (body warmer) came next, and what a revelation it was.

One night, having got lost in the Spanish hills, the group stopped to work out where we were. One of the group notice that I was standing close to my bike and that there was a power lead running between me and the bike.

After that, I receive no end of friendly abuse for being the only one of the group that was warm and happy, while the rest of them complained about how cold it was.

There is lots of data available on reaction speeds slowing and concentration lapsing when you are cold. It is all good and useful information, but the bottom line is that being cold sucks, so why put yourself through it, when staying warm on a motorcycle isn’t difficult?

Deals and Discounts

Technology moves ever onwards, and Keis has recently changed how the heating panels in their clothing works. They have gone from the traditional “heated wires” approach to micro carbon heated panels and released an updated range.

Keis Heated Gloves

Just recently we completed a real-world review of the Keis G701 heated gloves, comparing them back-to-back with the G601 gloves I used last winter. The G701 gloves are excellent, not that Keis G601 gloves were in any way deficient – far from it. It’s simply that with the G701 gloves, you can appreciate how the micro carbon heating panels have further improved heated clothing.

With Keis updating their heated clothing range, the clothing with the traditional heating elements, which has kept me toasty and warm for the past 3 years, is now very keenly priced.

Keis Heated Clothing ControllerThe only thing I’ve noticed is that not all of the traditional heated clothing has a temperature control unit included as standard. Strictly speaking, you don’t need one. However, so effective is the Keis heated clothing that you can get too hot if you can’t turn the heat down when needed.

Staying warm on a motorcycle is about efficiently adding heat, which neatly leads me on to sizing.

The objective of the Keis or any other heated clothing is that it is there to heat you, not the air around you. With insoles, this isn’t an issue, because you are standing on them. The same is true for the Keis G102 heated inner gloves, they are pressed on to your hands.

With jackets, vests and bodywarmers though you want a snug, close fit. This way, all of the heat ensures you are staying warm on a motorcycle, rather than being wasted, heating the air around you.

Keis Heated Motorcycle Clothing

Once I discovered that riding through cold weather was as easy as plugging my heated jacket in, I did wonder why I had ever put up with being cold.

And finally … when working on your bike in a cold garage this winter, put the heated jacket on. It is absolute bliss.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Michlo2004 at 5:23 pm

    Dont have the joy of having a heated jacket, but i have heated grips and i have bought Oxford Muffs, i’m impressed with not having cold fingers first time.
    I do have a couple of different jackets that can be used all weather , i have to admit i do add a windproof under jacket and it does keep me sufficiently warm.

  2. Billy Spencer-kidd at 9:13 pm

    I enjoyed that read. I still only have the heated grips but find if you move your hands around they all stay warm.
    I also find that wearing the rain seal jacket keeps the wind out and let’s people see me so fingers crossed I stay warm for the 40 trip to work

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