A simple tweaking of your kit can extend the riding season well into the chilly months of late fall. If that sort of thing grabs you, that is.
That you are reading this means you’re not riding your motorcycle at this moment. Which likely also means you’re not cold, looking in windows as you ride by, fantasizing about things like fire, toast, or hot cups of tea. Let’s just assume you’re comfortable. That is such a great place to be.
Let me confess to you here and now that I am a fairweather rider. I love riding when it’s so warm that at 60 kmh—or even at 100 kmh—I’m still comfortable regardless of my clothing choices. This is what it’s all about: sunny days and warm nights, when just a light leather jacket and pants will do.
But, try as I might, I can’t be just a fairweather rider—like most Canadians, I live in a four-season geographic zone. Winter seems so long. But there are ways to extend the riding season, now that we have this great new invention, a little thing called electricity.
I’ve relied on heated hand grips since 1987. At first, people scoffed when I talked about heated grips, but such luxuries are commonplace now, and have made a world of difference to me—even in August, when there’s a sudden chill. I feel no shame in reaching for the switch. The only question is, will it be high, or low? Unlike other cold-weather solutions, I don’t have to remember to pack my heated grips; they are always on my bike. There are other electrical options though—some of which you will have to remember to bring with you.
The heated vest is one. There’s no denying the pleasure that comes from concentrating on a core made warm by an electric vest. These days there are many options: heated jacket, gloves, chaps, pants or insoles. The vest alone allows me to ride in weather a full 10 degrees below my comfort zone.
I’ve been hooked up since around 1990, when I paid what seemed an exorbitant amount of money for my first electric vest. But the Eclipse product lasted 15 years. So, that worked out to what? A few dollars a year? That was so worth it!
For many years now my best friend Cheryl Stewart has sworn by Gerbing Heated Clothing. (www.gerbing.com) One of the hardest riders I know, Cheryl has had to send her gloves back to Gerbing for repair. Not a problem. Gerbing guarantees its line of electric clothing for life—but not if the dog chews the fingers off.
Recently, I switched to Gerbing. My new heated vest is incredibly well-made (in the US) by this small company that also supplies both Harley-Davidson and the American military. It has a windproof shell, Thinsulate lining and little pockets in all the right places, plus one to tuck wires into when they’re not connected to the bike. The heated vest is extremely high quality, attractive and thin. Whether it’s the women’s design, which is shorter in the body and allows for hips, or the men’s version, the necks are the same. The high collar keeps the wind out and the heat flowing. Wonderful! Gerbing uses something called MicroWire patented technology that features micro-sized stainless steel fibres intertwined and encased in a waterproof coating, and then woven into fabric. From their connectors to their collars, everything is very high quality, and designed to be worn one layer away from skin, over T-shirts, or over Under Armour (another great product line). Gerbing garments connect directly to your bike’s battery, or electrical system. Just plug in and you will immediately feel the warmth.
ANOTHER SEASON-EXTENDING product I could recommend are Hippo Hands. Daniel Klestorny needed “motorcycle muffs” for his R100GS but couldn’t find any. So he made a set himself, and now runs Hippo Hands as a small home-based business in St. Catharines. (www.hippohands.com)
Those of us who have been riding a while might wonder if this isn’t a trademarked name that we’ve heard before. Well, yes it is. At one time, before bikes came fully dressed, Vetter was ‘the’ name in fairings. Craig Vetter made his own version of Hippo Hands, but abandoned the trademark years after making his fortune. The company website lists many different bikes that are fitted with some of the 600 pairs of Hippo Hands that now leave the shop annually.
I hand-made my first pair with leather, and my second with cordura nylon, lined with fake leopard fur. I’m always afraid someone will steal them off my bike but, so far, they remain. I encountered Hippo Hands this past spring, and will say that if anything happened to my homemade handlebar muffs I’d skip the effort of making another set and simply buy Hippo Hands. The design is brilliant, functional and durable. If you already have a full fairing, like many large cruisers do, then your hands are truly covered. If the bike you ride leaves your hands exposed, which is the case for most of us, then you may at last get to enjoy wind protection on very cold days. I ride in summer-like conditions all year now, thanks to this combo of heated grips and motorcycle muffs.
There are other ways of extending the riding season. Going south is certainly one of them. But what goes down, must come up. Flying to a place like Costa Rica and renting a bike there for a full-on adventure is an excellent way to extend the season. I’m already fantasizing for next winter. But I will say that the simple combination of an electric vest, plugged in when it’s cold, heated grips and well-designed muffs allow me to enjoy cold weather riding.
Well, as much as it can be enjoyed. With spring coming on, now is a good time to consider gearing up for fall. And then let me know what you think. Did you get in an extra month of riding? You know that I did.