All summer every time you stopped at a stoplight you felt like you were literally melting under the fierce Texas sun. Now the switch has flipped. At stoplights you sort of draw in toward your bike, trying to soak up as much of the heat coming off your engine and exhaust as you can. When it gets cold in Texas, it’s frikkin’ cold.
Cold weather riding doesn’t have to suck. Here are seven tips for staying warm even when there’s ice on the trees and the wind makes it feel like it’s below zero.
Layer Cold Weather Gear
Heated gear is the best. If you’re engaged in cold weather riding near Dallas, heated gloves, a heated vest or jacket, and heated pants can make you impervious to the cold. Pick them up at your local Harley shop and you’ll be riding happily all winter long.
If that’s not in your budget, use what you have to create insulating layers. The temperature on the thermometer isn’t your enemy; it’s the wind that’s going to get you. If you can create a barrier you’ll be better off. Start with a long-john like an insulator close to your skin. Then add fleece or wool. Over that put your riding leather or other wind-resistant riding jackets. If you have chaps, they’ll block the wind on your legs.
Use a neck warmer and/or baklava to keep your face and neck warm. A full-face helmet will completely block the wind, but that’s not the only reason you’ll be glad you’re wearing it. There’s something about cold weather riding that wreaks havoc on your sinuses. Take a 20-minute ride in the cold and you’ll feel like you shoved icy toothpicks up your nose and banged them in repeatedly if you don’t protect yourself. A helmet doesn’t just block the wind, it regulates humidity inside.
Gloves are perhaps the most important piece of cold weather riding gear. Get some that are insulated and waterproof and keep them with you all winter.
Prep Your Bike
If your bike came with a windshield and you removed it for looks, put it back on. If your bike is water-cooled, add antifreeze as necessary.
Cold weather affects tire rubber. The outer material contracts and becomes more brittle, and the air inside condenses. Make sure you have enough tread and replace your tires if they’re getting old. Then check your tire pressure when your bike is cold, before you’ve started your ride. Inflate as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
As you ride, friction will heat them back up somewhat, but the pavement is still cold, so that amount isn’t the same as in warmer weather.
Add Heated Accessories for Harley
This month take advantage of our special and get 10 percent off heated grips and heated seats. We’ve got your buyer’s guide here.
Watch Out for Cold Weather Road Hazards
Numb fingers and stiff knees aren’t the only things you have to worry about when you’re cold-weather riding near Dallas. Those things make you uncomfortable, but forgetting about road hazards can land you in the hospital. Watch for patches of snow or frozen pavement.
Black ice is deadly. It’s a thin layer of ice on the roadway that makes it just look wet. It can be present in shady areas even when the temperature is above freezing. What makes it so insidious is how difficult it is to see, especially when you’re moving fast. It’s most common on bridges and overpasses. In areas of heavy traffic, vehicle exhaust provides a steady stream of water vapor and cars shade the roadways. If you ride to places with higher elevation and more snowfall, you’ll find it there too.
Stay on the lookout if you ride in the cold. If it looks like black ice, steer clear.
Another road hazard riders don’t think about is areas of treated pavement. Salt is like sand or gravel. It decreases traction, so use caution on salted roads too.
Increase Your Safety Bubble
You have less traction and maneuverability in challenging conditions. That’s even truer of people in bigger, heavier vehicles. Plus, your skill and confidence level may be off the charts, but the person in the lane next to you could be a new driver or someone more interested in their cell phone than safe driving. Give yourself a bigger safety buffer. Increase following distance, especially at higher speeds.
Know When It’s Too Cold
Sometimes the cold is just unpleasant, but there are days when you should stick to four-wheeling. That has more to do with the road conditions and your frame of mind than the reading on the thermometer.
If the roads are snowy or icy, be honest with yourself about your riding skills. If you’ve got years of experience riding on challenging terrain, you might be okay. If you’re not comfortable riding on that type of pavement in a car, you definitely shouldn’t tackle it on two wheels.
Recognize also that if you’re tired, stressed or you don’t have the right riding gear, your reflexes are going to be affected. As with any other time of the year, don’t ride when you’ve been drinking.