These two blokes know a lot about winter riding. One is a bike journalist who’s ridden every day through every one of the last 25 winters and the other is a courier who does more miles in a week than the average UK rider does in a year.
Both have a system for making winter enjoyable. That’s right. This isn’t one of those miserable ‘surviving winter’ features. These days we’re old enough and mostly well-off enough that it’s the bike that’s the luxury. So if we’re gonna ride, then there has to be a point. For courier Dave Austin, it’s simple. Riding a bike gets the job done quicker and more jobs means more money. But for Steve Rose, with his posh company car sitting unused on the drive at home, there’s more to it than that.
“Riding a bike is all about control. Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it warms up my mental processes on the way to work.But mostly it’s the simple knowledge that a 50 minute journeywill take 50minutes. I’min control, it’s my journey and I don’t have to be part of anyone else’s journey, stuck as the eighth car in a queue behind a lorry doing 40mph in a 60mph limit.
‘For me bikes are safer because I have clear road ahead and set my own pace. Riding, not driving saves me 40 minutes a day. That’s over three hours a week, 156 hours a year. Which totals six extra days a year. In the 27 years I’ve been riding that’s almost half a year of extra time to do what I want to just through riding a bike.”
And bikers don’t have to be cold and wet. Modern bike kit is superb. As a bike journalist for the last 15 years Steve has been lucky enough to try pretty much everything out there. For free. In his world money is no object because he gets most things for free. Which means after all this time, if he still wears something, chances are it works. Interestingly enough most of Steve’s kit is old and battered – he finds something he likes and sticks with it.
SteveRose–25 consecutive winters
I’ve tried them all but I choose Arai or Shoei. For two reasons. Firstly they fit me so well that I can ride hours at a time and barely notice that they’re there. And secondly because I trust them to protect me. This Viper GT is a high-spec helmet with a soft, comfy lining that fits me like it was made to measure. I don’t care about the ventilation, don’t care about the paintscheme – all I want is to feel comfortable and be able to see out of it. The Viper is quiet enough for short trips without earplugs. Anything over 10 minutes and I always wear them anyway. Fog City Hyper Optiks anti-misting visor insert. All visors mist and these days most come with a Pinlock or similar insert that cure it. Gone, forever. I prefer Fog City because they give a broader field of view and have this light-reactive version that goes dark in bright light and lightens in poor visibility. Which is essential for winter commuting. Bright, low sun going to work, pitch black going home. With this fitted I don’t have to change visors twice a day, don’t have to worry about misting and always have the right tint for any given conditions.
It used to be rubbish but the latest stuff is much better. This Biketek kit is brilliant. If you want to be too warm in the middle of winter, buy some. There are three heat settings and even number two is warmer than my house. Jacket (£130), gloves (£130) and trousers (£150) all link together and can be bought separately. If money’s tight we’d buy the jacket first, then the gloves. The gloves need a wide opening on your jacket cuffs to get them under the cuffs – check before you buy if possible – but the extra comfort is worth it.
Keeps you warm, more so with heated kit because it presses on the panels in your heated jacket.
I’ve used these Hein Gericke Pathan two finger gloves for 10 years now. These are my third pair and I’ve yet to find anything warmer. Waterproof enough for a full day’s riding and the suede visor wipe is much better than the plastic windscreen wipers on some gloves. There’s no armour and so not much crash protection which is a worry. But for warm hands, I’ll risk it.
The simpler the better. All I need is a tube between jacket and helmet. If it’s really cold I wear two tubes. My favourites are Buff and EDZ – cheap and efficient – but I’m not too fussy as long as they work.
Had this so long I can’t remember the model. But the principles are more important than a specific jacket. My favourite winter jackets are simple with good quality armour , plenty of outside pockets, at least a couple of waterproof inside pockets and robust fasteners at the collar and cuffs. The less gimmicks the better and fit is everything. Big enough to get a few layers underneath, but not so baggy it acts as a sail. This one is a Hein Gericke Gore-Tex number which is lightweight, short enough for sports bikes and works well with my heated kit.
Bib and braces are best. Worn over jeans and a thin thermal base layer. The bib keeps the water out and adds extra warmth, the braces add comedy value and extra comfort. These are Harley-Davidson items which I prefer to most of the others I’ve had because the zip on the lower legs opens further which makes getting them over boots much easier.
Race style Gore-Tex boots work all year round and are comfy enough for sports bikes, robust enough for winter. Gore-Tex boots also tend to be real leather which I prefer to the synthetic stuff. Less sweaty and more protective.
DaveAustin started riding bikes aged 16, some 33 years ago. In that period, he’s clocked up more miles on twowheels than most people would see in two lifetimes.Dave runs his own motorcycle courier company and operates all-year-round,whatever theweather.He’saman that knows what works when it comes to keepingwarmon a bike through the winter.
I wear Frank Thomas Gore-Tex boots. They are perfect for my line of work, offering comfort, protection from the elements and very impressive durability; I’ve owned them for nine years now and have never felt the need to replace them.
I used to wear leather garments, but I found them uncomfortable, restrictive and penetrable by wind and rain, so I switched to textile. I wear a Hein Gericke Gore-Tex jacket that I bought nearly four years ago now. It’s been the perfect tool for the job, offering me protection in all conditions, in comfort, with plenty of pockets and zippers to hand. The jacket wasn’t the cheapest on the market, but it has more than paid it’s way and I couldn’t really ask for much more. It also features a removable inner lining and can be zipped onto my trousers to stop the wind from creeping in. As an added bonus, the garment is full of reflective piping and strips, so visibility is of a premium on dark winter nights.
In my experience, surviving winter on a motorcycle is down to the layers you wear; they are as important as foundations are to a house. I’ve opted for a top and bottom combination suit, made from silk, which I’ve found to work really well. They are a huge asset for keeping you warm in the winter, but also help to wick sweat away from your body; keeping you comfortable. In really extreme conditions, I also wear a T-shirt on top of the silk.
A good neck warmer is an essential. Setting off without one in cold conditions would be nothing short of silly, especially considering how cheap they are to buy. They’re the perfect seal between your jacket and helmet, protecting you from the wind and rain. I also have a storm collar that zips onto my jacket for more extreme conditions.
I bought these Hein Gericke textile trousers because of their waterproof and windproof qualities. Needless to say, they’ve never let me down in all the years I’ve owned them and I’ve even tested them against the asphalt in an accident I had on the M6 last year. They held up amazingly well to abrasion, leaving only one small penetrated area, which I simply had a patch sewn over. They’re more than up to the job and I can see them lasting another five years or so.
Gloves are potentially the most important piece of clothing to any motorcyclist. Unlike other garments, they are completely unprotected by fairings and screens, which means they are that bit more susceptible to the cold. I choose my gloves for the conditions I’m riding in, but always opt for Gore-Tex gloves. If it’s particularly cold, I sometimes wear a pair of undergloves to keep the chill away. You can’t afford to let your digits get cold.
Helmets are very personable things, but I’ve always found Schuberths to be great. I used to have a C2 model, which got damaged in a crash, so I replaced it with a new C3 model. It’s flip front, comfortable and accommodates my intercom system nicely. It’s best feature has to be the Pinlock anti-fog visor insert, which works perfectly in cold conditions.
Dave’s top tips to keep you warm through the winter
Keeping the wind out is the biggest challenge. Getting the seal right at the collar, cuffs, waist and ankles makes all the difference.When the bloke in the garage asks you to remove your helmet, politely explain that he’ll be responsible for you losing your head through frostbite if he persists.
Several thin layers under your riding kit are better than one thick one. Buy the thinnest thermals you can find and use them as a base layer. Add a T-shirt, followed by a long sleeved T-shirt. Trapping air between layers is what keeps you warm (that and the heat from your electric jacket, obviously)
You can buy heated insoles but they’re expensive and fiddly to use. A pair of thin socks under another pair of thicker walking socks, football socks or even special motorcycle touring socks (mine are made by Revitt) makes all the difference. As does keeping your feet dry.
Make each stop count
Most bikes need fuel every 150 miles. Most riders need a pee every 100 miles. Stop when you get cold.
Don’t risk it. Cold riders are even less skilled than drunken ones. So stop regularly, eat plenty, (but avoid too much drink) and get warm.
If you’re riding through the rain and have to stop for some reason and take your gloves off, chances are they’re going to get wet on the inside. Nothing’s worse when riding in the cold, so make sure you carry a spare pair of gloves with you at all times.
This isn’t so much a tip for being tight-fisted, but more to keep you going when you’re travelling on routes you may not know. Make sure you carry a flask of sweet tea or coffee around with you on long journeys, so you can keep hydrated and your energy levels up.