Winter doesn't mean you have to stop getting out on two-wheels. We've put together a guide to the best winter riding gear so you can stay out on the roads no matter how cold it gets.
We all know that for many journeys a two-wheeled commute is the quickest, cheapest and most reliable way to get to work and back but we also know that for the next 3 months we’re also likely to wish we’d picked some ‘normal’ transport instead. Or at least we will if we’re not prepared for the cold...
It’s not only your outer layers that are important, wearing full-length thermal under clothes is a highly recommended place to start when dressing for a ride out in the cold.
On top of this, add as many layers as you can while still feeling comfortable, and remember that you’ve got to be able to move while riding (the Michelin-man look will do you no favours!). So work your layers out for a compromise between warmth, comfort and safety.
The same theory applies to gloves; a single thin pair of silk-type gloves will give you an extra layer without too much bulk.
Likewise with your head, from which a lot of your body heat can escape. Get yourself a thin balaclava and wear that beneath your crash helmet. For your neck, we recommend a tube that extends below the collar of your jacket to make sure there are no gaps.
Heated jackets and waistcoats
Heated clothing is a great option for those who ride enough during winter months to justify the extra cost. Imagine going out on a freezing winter’s morning and actually looking forward to the ride because you know you’ll be lovely and warm… That’s what you get with a heated motorcycle jacket. It not only keeps your torso warm but also pumps warm blood around your body to stop your extremities suffering.
Most heated jackets and waistcoats can either be powered by your bike’s battery. Or if you’re riding a classic scooter or motorcycle model, without a 12V battery, you can purchase an accessory battery pack to keep in your pocket and recharge from the mains overnight. In general these packs will run for around six to eight hours.
"This is my own personal favourite item of winter riding kit. I recommend the Oxford Inox/Keis and Alpinestars vests and jackets. The Oxford one is my favourite of those three, simply because it works really well, is thin enough to be worn as an extra layer and can be chucked easily in a bag or put under your seat. Buy one… £145 very well spent."
- Ian Grainger
Not only heated jackets and waistcoats, there are also heated gloves and even insoles for your boots, so you can stay toasty from head to toe.
"Both myself and my missus are impressed by Keis heated waistcoats, and she also has heated gloves by them for regular commuting throughout the winter months. Check out the ranges of heated kit available too, as it includes things such as insoles for your boots as well!"
- Andy Gillard
Choosing the right boots for your winter commute is essential for preventing ice cold toes while you’re riding. We recommend opting for a comfortable, waterproof pair. Although some boots may be designed for winter only wear, there are plenty of options that will take you straight from summer into winter.
"I usually ride scooters and prefer a short boot with a bit of protection; my TCX X-Cube boots have covered some serious miles in all kinds of weather. They are comfortable on and off the scooter, look good, are 100% waterproof, and keep my feet warm and dry in winter but are still cool enough in summer. They have been updated since I got mine and are now called the X-Cube Evo Waterproof, they cost £119.99."
- Ian Grainger
How many times do you see a young rider not wearing any gloves at all, or wearing cheap woollen gloves? A good pair of winter bike gloves are an essential piece of equipment. They’ll keep your hands dry, and to an extent warm. Put them on your Christmas list if you can’t afford a pair!
"I usually wear Spada Elite, these have been used by me for the last six years and still work as well today. They have proved 100% waterproof - not many gloves that make that claim actually are. I have recently replaced them with a pair of Spada Enforcer WP’s. The Enforcer has similar styling and includes a handy visor wipe on the index finger, they come with a two-year warranty and cost £64.95."
- Ian Grainger
When it comes to keeping yourself warm in the saddle during winter, one golden rule to remember is layers, layers and more layers. In a similar way to how double-glazed windows work, multiple layers of clothing trap air and warm you up and so are better than wearing one thick layer.
We can’t overemphasize just how important layers are. A good thermal base layer will trap in warm air. Add a windproof mid layer and a decent jacket and you can easily survive the commute. Layers don’t have to cost a fortune either, Aldi often have them in, or nip to Decathlon. If your budget allows, decent bike specific named brands are more expensive but look good and are designed to do the job properly.
"I am proud to say my all-time favourite windproof layers are made by British company, Knox. Their Cold Killers also look stylish so you will get your moneys worth by wearing them off the bike too. I use their neck tube and Sports Top all year round. They are lightweight, easy to stuff under your seat or in a rucksack, and really do work. My neck tube has probably covered 50,000 miles and still looks as good as the day it was bought."
- Ian Grainger
While we’re talking about layering up, you’ll want to make sure your top layer is waterproof! If your final layer of clothing is not waterproof, then make sure you carry a set of waterproofs with you.
If it rains, sleets or snows, they will keep you dry. And if the wind starts to bite through you, then they can act as an extra layer to keep it out. Remember also to carry a spare pair of gloves with you, in case one set gets wet. There is nothing worse than starting a return journey by putting your warm hands into a freezing, wet, soggy glove!
As for keeping your gloves dry while riding, you can either buy waterproof over gloves, or a pair of handlebar muffs fitted to your scooter or bike. These aren’t for everybody, but if your street cred can handle them it’s money well spent. Muffs are one of the best ways to keep your hands warm in winter, I’ve never heard anybody who uses them say it was money wasted.
"I’ve used Tucano Urbano items for years on many scooters. They are often model-specific, fit well and are robust too. Andy Gillard"
- Andy Gillard
If you go to any major city you’re hard pressed to see a scooter without one. They not only keep your legs and the bottom half of your body warm and dry but they also protect your smart work wear so you can arrive at work dry, warm and ready for the day ahead.
Fit a screen
Even a small screen will help to deflect some of the wind and rain away from you, it’s surprising just how cold it feels if you’re used to having one and you ride without it.
These are often the first item many riders will opt for and they are effective up to a point. If you suffer with cold hands then it’s going to cost you less than £100 to buy a pair of heated grips and have them fitted, even less if you fit them yourself. Although they work for the fingers they don’t help the rest of your body.
"For the grips, I use Oxford wrap-around heated grips on my old Vespa so they are easy to remove for the summer. These are powered from the scooter’s 12v battery."
- Andy Gillard
We hope you’ve found our winter riding gear tips helpful, and are going to brave the chill this winter. Let us know how you’re keeping warm in the comments below!
If you’re still not convinced winter riding is for you, check out our tips on how to store your motorcycle or scooter over winter.
*Please be aware that the prices specified were correct at the time of writing.