When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't work normally. Even at the very early stages, just being cold becomes a distraction. We spend time thinking about how cold we are and how much longer we will be riding, rather than focusing on our riding and what is going on around us.
Motorcyclists understand this better than most as we experience lower temperatures due to wind chill.
Riding, even of a dry day, will feel between 4°C and 12°C colder, depending on the initial temperature and your speed. For example, riding at 70 mph on the motorway when it's 0°C will feel like -9°C. Add moisture into this equation, and the temperature drop is magnified.
As the moisture held by your jacket “dries” (changes from liquid to a gas), it draws energy from its surroundings and reduces your temperature further.
Any motorcyclist who rides all year round will have a range of clothing and equipment to help keep the cold out. Yet, no matter how effective our clothing, our body temperature will reduce as we ride.
Keeping our core warm is the primary goal. If our core is warm, then the benefits are felt in all other parts of our body. That said, as we get cold, it will be our extremities that feel the effects first.
Heated grips are a popular motorcycle accessory and do an excellent job of providing heat to the palms of our hands. Our feet are the other extremity to quickly feel the cold and can provide an early warning that our core temperature may be dropping. Good quality boots and extra socks will contribute to keeping out the cold weather, although eventually, I decided the only answer to keeping my feet warm was going to be “heated grips” for my feet.
It was at this point that I started investigating heated clothing. Having tried several different pairs of boots, the fact that my feet where exposed to the elements meant that they were going to get cold. Having reached the limit to the number of pairs of socks I could wear, while still being able to change gear and brake effectively, I invested in a pair of heated insoles and have been a firm convert to heated clothing ever since.
Impressed by the effectiveness of the heated insoles, I bought a Keis heated body warmer. The manufacturer's guidance is to buy a size that fits snugly around you as the objective is to heat your body, not the air in your jacket. Typically, I wear a thermal top, my Keis body warmer and then put a jumper over the top. Plus, of course, a suitable motorcycle jacket.
With the rest of me warm, I had hoped that my heated grips would be all that I needed. When my hands were still feeling the cold, it was handguards got me through last winter by keeping my hands out of the direct airflow. This year, I’ve decided to address the issue of cold hands before they become a problem and invest in heated gloves.
Ever mindful of the cost, my first thought was to use heated inner gloves under my normal riding gloves. This way, I kept all of the advantages of my existing gloves and just added heat. The heated inner gloves are quite thin and usually work best when worn under a pair of waterproof outer gloves that are a size, or half a size, larger than your hands. If your outer motorcycle gloves are a little roomy, then you should have no problem wearing a pair of heated gloves underneath them.
Whereas this solution works well it does remove a little dexterity. As the switchgear on motorcycles becomes ever more complex, being unable to pinpoint the right button without looking, or overlapping with another control is a problem best avoided. That said, heated inner gloves are a great solution to cold hands.
Finally, I opted for Keis G601 heated touring gloves which also feature knuckle protection, are waterproof, as long as I remember to treat them with a “reproofer” occasionally and also meet the required EU PPE certifications for personal safety equipment. Just being CE approved is no longer sufficient, but that is a different story.
Heated clothing may only be needed, in the UK, for a few months each year. Nonetheless, I have found it to be an essential addition to remaining alert and focused while riding. There are several different manufacturers to choose from; I selected Keis for the insoles and continued with them as the clothing connects together, thereby keeping cables to a minimum. In choosing your preferred manufacturer, take a look at their complete range, even if buying just one item. If you are anything like me, once you discover the delights of being warm in winter you will be back for more.
However, the bottom line remains the same. If you are thinking about how cold you are, then you need to give serious consideration to stopping for long enough to raise your core temperature. Hypothermia is just a three-degree reduction in your body temperature, and due to wind chill, you are most likely riding in sub-zero temperatures.