For those of us who are lucky enough to live in an area of the country with a year round riding climate, we are preparing to enter into the winter riding season. Here in Northern California and similar areas, there are some definite preparations to be made to make the experience a pleasant one. Yes, riding in the winter, even in the rain, CAN be a pleasant experience if you are properly prepared!
One of the first things to check is the tires on your bike. You will want a decent road tire, something that is designed for handling various road conditions. The Pilot Road series have a lot of winter popularity, but there are plenty of others out there that will provide good handling in the rain along with decent grip in dry conditions. After tires, there’s not a lot of special maintenance to prepare your bike. They generally handle the rain fairly well.
Once your bike is ready, it’s time to take a look at what is going to make YOU comfortable. If money isn’t an issue, you can invest in something like an Aerostitch, which will keep you warm and dry through most conditions. Other, less expensive waterproof gear tends to lack a bit if things really start to get wet (keep in mind, road spray increases the amount of water you are dealing with significantly). If you have less expensive gear, spending a few bucks on something like Cycle Gear’s Bilt oversuit is a great way to keep yourself dry and comfy even in the wettest conditions (I have tested this one for a couple winters now). It may not last forever, but it’s inexpensive and definitely keeps you dry.
After the main gear pieces, you are down to gloves and boots. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is one area where you really can’t get away with going cheap. If you’re on a budget, this is where you will want to spend your money. Good, waterproof, warm gloves and boots can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and a miserable one. I’ve personally had good luck with the Alpinestars Apex Drystar gloves, and a pair of their adventure boots. There are many others out there that will serve you well, find ones with the features that work for you.
Finally there is the matter of staying warm. If your bike’s electrical system and your budget can handle it, electrically heated gear turn you into a mobile climate controlled rider. For those who aren’t set up for it, layers are the rule. Thin, windproof under layers are huge in making you comfortable even in the chilliest weather. A glove liner and neck warmer or balaclava are the final pieces to an enjoyable experience.
Properly geared and prepared can make winter riding an enjoyable experience. Of course, there are a whole host of conditions one needs to be prepared for, but that will be covered in another topic. Enjoy the ride!