Top 10: Must-haves for winter riding
There is a huge selection of winter kit out there for motorcyclists to choose from. Whether you’re just after a pair of gloves or protection from the full Arctic-blast, we have the top 10 items that will keep you cosy, safe and focused while riding in winter - plus a recommendation of some of the best we’ve tried.
The first part of your body to suffer in the cold on a motorcycle is almost always your hands. Sat in the breeze, even riding in moderate temperatures can have your hands feeling like blocks of ice due to the wind chill, which is why good winter gloves are essential. Don’t just choose the thickest ones thinking they are the best, look at the materials used and find a pair that are both thermal and waterproof.
We’ve tried plenty of winter gloves over the years and also insist they offer as much crash protection as racier summer gloves. This is why the Dane Nordkap Gore-Tex glove is among our favourites. Made from goatskin, it offers plenty of abrasion resistance, while the Thinsulate liner keeps the cold at bay. Gore-Tex repels water and the two-finger design might make you salute like Mr Spock but it also keeps your digits warmer. From around £90 and available in a wide range of sizes, it’s a great buy. The Oxford Calgary gloves (pictured) are also a great option.
Cold feet and toes are just miserable when riding, and they can prove to be a serious distraction when your attention should be on the road ahead. The best winter boots seal out the rain and cold by using a waterproof outer mixed with thermal inner layers. They still need to provide all of the crash protection you need, but remember to try them on with thicker winter socks too.
Many riders opt for motocross-style boots in the winter and they are very effective. However, we prefer something with more flexibility and Alpinestars’ Web Gore-Tex boots work a treat. Slightly shorter on the calf than most boots, this is easily countered with good trousers over the top. These boots keep the chills out and their touring bias makes them super comfy all day long.
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Vision is vital yet winter creates the ideal conditions to leave your visor looking like a sauna room window. Help is at hand from a wide variety of anti-fog lotions, potions and additions. More expensive helmets may already have an anti-fog element applied or you could use a smear of washing-up liquid as a get-you-home fix.
However, we like Muc-Off’s Anti-Fog Treatment that comes in a 32ml bottle. A quick spray and polish and it will last for up to five days. Okay, so it needs to be reapplied, but you should be cleaning your visor regularly anyway. You can also use this £8 treatment on the outside to promote better beading of rain to give better vision.
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They ain’t sleek and they ain’t stylish, but a good rain suit should be part of every winter rider’s armoury. The best do a great job of keeping the wind and rain out and making you a bit warmer. Check sizes carefully as the rain suit will have to fit over bulky winter kit and look for one with easily adjusted collar and cuffs to make it snug-fitting.
One of the best value rain suits we’ve come across is the Richa Typhoon Overall. It’s light enough to keep in a top box or backpack, fits well and isn’t fiddly to put on thanks to the full-length front zips and Velcro fasteners. From around £45, this is one bit of winter kit every rider should have to hand.
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Many of the same requirements can be applied to a winter jacket as to a summer one. You need plenty of protection for your back, shoulders and elbows, plus a tailored fit so it doesn’t flap in the breeze. For winter riding, the jacket needs to offer much better wind and rain protection, so look for one with zip-in liners for waterproofing and thermal options.
We’re fans of the Alpinestars Andes Drystar jacket because of the quality of materials and construction. It can cope with heavy rain and still keep you dry, while the fitted armour is very comfortable and there are pockets to add more optional protection for your back and chest. It’s not as warm in extreme conditions as some rivals, but there’s enough room to allow for layering up and from around £145 it’s good value. We also like that you can order it in high visibility colours for added safety.
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You can try to layer up underneath summer trousers to stay war, but they soon become too bulky and uncomfortable. This is where purpose-made winter trousers are worth their weight in waterproof gold. Look for trousers with a removable thermal liner so it can be washed or taken out on warmer days. We’d also recommend finding trousers with reflective piping or panels and in-built armour around the knees and hips.
Leather has its advantages, even in winter, but we recommend the Frank Thomas Raptor fabric trouser because it offers excellent protection from the elements and in a crash. The outer is breathable to keep you from sweating too much, while the thermal and waterproof liners can be removed. Plenty of reflective piping helps in low light conditions, making these trousers good value at £130.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about base layers and core clothing, but it all amounts to the same thing: good old-fashioned thermals. Old fashioned, maybe, but still very effective at trapping warm air next to your skin to keep the cold out while also wicking away sweat. Combine thermal trousers and top with some added socks and you have an excellent starting point for any winter kit.
There’s a huge variety of thermals on the market and you can spend considerable sums, but we’ve found simple options such as those from Decathlon work just as well. For around £8, you can have top and bottoms that fit snugly but offer plenty of stretch to stay comfortable. At this sort of price, you can have a few pairs so you don’t have to worry about chucking them in the wash basket at the end of the day.
Glamourous? No. Make you look like a budding London taxi driver? Yes. Handlebar muffs are one of those bits of kit that divide opinion like few others, but once you’ve tried them there’s no denying their effectiveness. By blocking out wind blast, they create a barrier between your hands and the elements, keeping them warm and dry.
Look for handlebar muffs with added water- and wind-proofing that have lots of adjustment to fit over your bike’s bars without interfering with the controls. Oxford’s Super Muffs have all of this and are shaped to fit over most motorcycle bars easily. They also have reflective piping around the edges so they are picked out by car headlights more readily. Worth £40 any ride of the week in winter.
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If you’re after the ultimate in winter kit, a heated jacket liner is for you. Some come with their own power source, while others are attached to an external source on the bike. Either way, you will enjoy a warm glow that makes you feel like you’ve had a bowl of certain breakfast cereal. Find one that is made from thin fleece material for a good fit and check the cables don’t interfere with your movement.
Prices for heated liners vary and the Gerbing Heated Premium Jacket Liner is one of the pricier ones at £199, but you really get what you pay for with this one. It is superbly made, very toasty and comes with a lifetime warranty. You can also add an optional temperature controller to regulate how warm the jacket is.
Forget about buffs with skulls and pirate designs, what we’re talking about here is something that seals out the cold. Look for buffs or a balaclava made from fleece materials and doesn’t have seams that begin to itch and irritate. Something elasticated is ideal for a close fit and make sure it can be thrown in the washing machine as it will get mucky when riding.
The Dainese D-Core Balaclava is more expensive than most buffs at £28, but it covers your whole head and has a breathable front panel so you don’t end up with moisture build-up in the fabric. This balaclava is also hypoallergenic and anti-odour so it won’t smell of last week’s socks after a few rides.
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