The Elements

Cold weather riding

I pulled over to take this thinking I would never ride in the snow again... How wrong I was.

My Grandfather was a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service… In Illinois. I think this is where I got my desire to be a year-round motorcycle rider. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this rider from the swift completion of his commute.” At this point, I should probably offer a disclaimer. I live in Northern California. Yes our winters our usually mild and often summer-like in comparison to places like Wisconsin. This does not mean that we don’t have days of miserable weather, sometimes strung together.  I also have had some interesting luck with the timing of my vacation rides. Three years ago on a tour of northern California I was caught in a snowstorm going over one of the mountain passes. Last year, I hit up the southern part of the state. It rained every day except for the one that it snowed.

My dad in the snow on the first trip

I was not prepared for the weather on the first trip. I had only been riding for a couple months, and my only riding gear was a two-piece perforated leather suit; less than ideal for rain or snow. I layered a long sleeved t-shirt under the armored jacket, and a slightly over-sized winter coat on top. I looked and moved like the little brother from “A Christmas Story”, and I was still cold in the mountains. I did not have waterproof boots so I had cold wet feet. My gloves were waterproof, but it didn’t matter since I did not tuck the gauntlets into my jacket. They filled up with cold mountain rain water about 15 minutes before the snow started. In hindsight, this was my favorite part of the trip, but while I was experiencing it live, I would have traded all of my possessions for a hot tub.

The second trip was another story. I had done my research and knew better than to go out with the wrong gear. I had a waterproof textile jacket that zipped into my waterproof textile pants. There was no need for the extra outer layer from the first trip as I also had a heated jacket liner, and I was smart enough to tuck my heated gloves into my jacket. For the first couple of days I tried to out smart mother nature and head the opposite direction that the weather man predicted the rain would go. That plan failed miserably, and I again found myself on a snowy mountain road this time not shouting obscenities at my inferior gear. I was dry, warm, and able to focus on my riding.

A little snow never hurt anyone.

The heated gear worked great for me, but there are other options. Freeze-out makes a full line of thin, lightweight, and most importantly warm gear designed to be worn under your normal riding clothes, and there are a wide variety of moto-specific Gore-Tex jackets, pants, boots and gloves.

I think the point is, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.

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