Motorcycle winter riding tips

Just a few pointers for those contemplating winter riding.

WINTER RIDING
What I mean by winter riding is sub zero (celsius) temperatures, snow, ice and all that stuff. If your winter is just a chilly weather with no ice or snow, the below may not apply.

THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES


COLD
Getting cold is the number one issue. The longer you ride the harder it is to stay warm. By riding I mean actually travelling from A to B. If you are messing around in a field or nearby woods, the chances are that you will have no issues with getting cold. On the contrary, you will get too hot wrestling with the bike in winter gear.

In general you need to dress up like you would for any cold weather scenario. Use layers and do not forget that you need all the usual protective gear as well. Snow only looks soft. Chest protection is a good idea because it adds a solid non penetrable area around your chest where the wind usually hits you the hardest. Some creativity is usually needed to combine the required amount of warm layers and protective gear while still retaining some mobility.

Good boots are a must too. For some reason, I’ve had relatively little issues of my toes and feet getting cold eventhough I have only been using summertime ATV boots (W2) with good merino wool socks for my winter rides. Prefer adventure style boots over MX ones and also avoid boots that fit too tightly. Some wiggle room for your toes is much better.

I also have a battery operated heated vest, but I rarely use it.

And lastly, I’m not THAT hardcore that I would go out on days when it’s -20C. Try to pick a riding day when the weather is somehow bearable. After all, this is supposed to be fun.

FINGERS

Freezing your fingers is the #1 enjoyment killer in winter riding for me. The combination of wind and cold will kill your fingers no matter how thick your gloves are. Luckily there are solutions.

#1 HEATED GLOVES

This has been my go to solution. Mainly because I’m a chronic bike changer and I’ve found it easier just to have a pair of heated gloves ready instead of installing heated grips on the ever changing bikes. Heated gloves will keep your fingers warm when off the bike too, when taking those necessary breaks during the ride. The downside with heated gloves is that the batteries will die eventually, but a pair of spare batteries will most likely hold you over long enough that you need to take a longer break anyway.

#2 HANDLEBAR GAUNTLETS

These work well up to a point and even allow the use of regular gloves up to a point on extended riding. They also provide added comfort when using the heated gloves. A well fitting pair will not be a nuisance even though they look cumbersome. Relatively inexpensive and fool proof too. It is somewhat challenging to find a good pair that fit properly over large hand guards and keep their “mouths” open. Mine and Powermadds, but there are better ones out there.

#3 GRIP HEATERS

Obviously grip heaters help a lot, but depending on the conditions, they may not be enough. Your hands may be warm on the grip side, but freezing on the top side. The safest bet would be to have both grip heaters AND heated gloves with gauntlets. Unlike with battery operated gloves, you will naturally always have the grip heaters available and they will never run out of juice.

VISOR & VISIBILITY

Handlebar gauntlets on the background

The warmest way is to use a full face helmet. The big problem is the visor freezing up and blocking visibility. I’ve used my full face helmet both with the pin lock and without it and either way it froze up on me, effectively making using a regular full face helmet not feasible. There are two ways around this.

#1 MOTOCROSS STYLE HELMET & GOGGLES

This works really well and this is how I ride during the winter. Just about any helmet will do, but avoid the ones that have and excessive amount of venting holes. You don’t need any extra ventilation. My current one is an old SHOEI Hornet with the factory visor removed.

For goggles the ones intended for snowmobile use work very well. Just make sure they fit inside your chosen helmet. My goggles are Fox Main. Look for dual pane ones.

What you also must have is a really heavy duty balaclava. Mine is a Klim Arctic Balaclava.

#2 HEATED VISOR

These are used common in the snowmobile world and with any luck, you may be able to find one that fits to your existing helmet. I have no personal experience with these, but a full face helmet with a a heated visor should be the warmest solution one can come up with.

TIRES

My front

In my opinion, you need proper studded winter tires for anything else than just messing around somewhere near by. What your options are, depends on local legislation and such. There are options ranging from speedway spikes to something resembling studded car tires.

The speedway spikes obviously are not a viable option for riding on the road and the car studs don’t provide enough traction either. Full on enduro spikes are also too much for road use.

These are a bit much for several reasons
These kind of studs wont do

What I use, are so called “mid weather spikes”. I don’t know what the proper english translation is.
More on the winter tires can be found on a separate post HERE.

Studs will get ruined if riding on asphalt for extended periods of time, especially if you are going fast. Plan on taking the small less maintained and used roads (as usual)

If you are up for it, you can buy the studs and make your own winter tires. Not that difficult, but good quality studs are rather expensive compared to ready made tires. (https://www.best-grip.com/en/)

THE BIKE

What needs to be taken into consideration regarding the bike, depends of course lot on the kind of bike you are riding. Naturally, you don’t want to have any fluids on the bike that could potentially freeze, but that usually is not a problem.

If going on a longer trip, try really hard to get the bike somewhere warm during the night. Getting the bike going from under a pile of snow in freezing conditions will be something you don’t want to do.

If this is not an option, tougher guys than me, use a bike cover and a car heater to get the bike warmed up. You put the bike under a large enough cover (preferably one that reaches the ground) and place the car heater under the cover an hour or two before heading out. Naturally you need electricity for that and keep a car heater and cable with you.

As for the CRF 300, you will most likely run into issues if you are trying to hook up all the beforementioned heated gear to the bike. The little CRF doesn’t have a whole lot of power output compared to bigger bikes.

Plan on going down. Winter conditions are treacherous. Sometimes there are things under the snow you don’t expect and icy ruts just sometimes catch you by surprise. Have good sturdy hand guards installed. This is not the time to have a broken lever.

If you didn’t manage to stay off salted roads, rinse the bike with warm water once you get home,

SOME AMAZON PRODUCT LINKS
(Affialite links, just so you now)

509 heavyweight balaclava
❱❱LINK
HJC heated visor
❱❱LINK
FXR heated recon gloves
❱❱ LINK
Oakley O-Frame 2.0 PRO
XM Snow Goggle
❱❱ LINK
Heated Gerbing vest
❱❱ LINK
Powermadd gauntlets
❱❱ LINK
Merino wool socks
❱❱ LINK
Alpinestars Honda Andes V2 jacket
❱❱ LINK
Alpinestars Corozal Adventure boots
❱❱ LINK

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