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.
With this in mind, wearing full-length thermal under clothes is a highly recommended place to start when dressing for a ride out into the cold. Add to this as many layers as you can while still feeling comfortable, and remembering that you’ve got to be able to move while riding, including turning to look over your shoulder – the Michelin-Bibendum-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, I recommend a tube that extends below the collar of your jacket to make sure there are no gaps.
Heated clothing is a definite option for those who ride enough during winter months to justify the extra cost. I should point out that in my experience such items are best described at keep the cold at bay for longer rather than warming you up. As such, you are better wearing them before you need them, and if you don’t switch them on immediately when you set off then make sure you do so before the cold really starts to bite. While they will relieve the pain a little, they are much more effective at prevention rather than cure.
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. The Keis range can also be powered either directly from your scooter or bike’s battery, or for an extra cost you can purchase an accessory battery pack to keep in your pocket and recharge from the mains overnight, which of course is far more suited to those riding classic scooters or bikes without a 12v battery. In general these packs will last about six to eight hours of use. Check out the ranges of heated kit available too, as it includes things such as insoles for your boots as well!
Muffs and Covers
Another thing to consider is that wet clothes are colder than dry ones. 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 get 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 my preferred method are a pair of handlebar muffs fitted to your scooter/ bike. Granted not everyone gets on with them, but if you do then they’ll keep both wind and rain at bay while riding, and if protected when you park up (or removed) negate the need to carry spare gloves too. Not only that, but if you have heated handlebar grips fitted, they’ll keep the warmth of those in.
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.
Regarding the muffs, I’ve used Tucano Urbano items for years on many scooters. They are often model specific, fit well and robust too.
Speaking of Tucano, another product I recommend for scooterists (and a few who have suitable machines) are the Termoscud lap covers from the Italian firm.
If you’ve been to Milano or Paris for example, you will have seen these on a majority of machines during inter months. Again they are model specific, attaching around the front legshields of the scooter and covering the lower half of the rider’s body. Again not only warmth, but protection from rain and wind too.
Granted they are not exactly considered a fashion accessory here in the UK, but once you’ve commuted in the snow with one fitted you’ll never go back. I rode across Europe to the German border in the ice and snow one year with a Termoscud and handlebar muffs on my Vespa and was one of the warmest in our group as a result!
Finally, staying warm on your scooter or bike is not only more comfortable but safer too, but sub-zero temperatures can often distract riders when you need to be at your wits looking out for car drivers with snow laden windscreens driving too fast in icy conditions.
Remember though, don’t be like those fools and make sure you can see where you’re going. If your gloves don’t have a handy rubber visor wipe built in to them, consider investing just a couple of pounds on a clip on wiper blade by Bob Heath that attaches to your forefinger and keeps your visor clear without soaking your gloves in the process.
Wrap up warm, take care, ride safe and keep shiny side up.
- Andy Gillard (editor – ScooterNova magazine)