Baby, it's cold outside.
Oh wait, that song is now illegal in some states. #enoughalready. But not riding in cold weather. Though when it is cold outside who in their right mind wants to ride?
Certainly not in the typical summer get-up of thin pants and jersey with airflow gloves. Eventually, when getting up to speed you might find some warmth but that great divide between just starting and working a sweat probably feels more like the difference between your skills and Eli Tomac's.
When gearing up for riding dirt bikes or ATVs in chilly weather don't forget your perspective of cold might differ from the next rider and 50 degrees doesn't hold a candle to a frigid 10 degrees. So dress appropriate to the conditions and your tolerance level. Admittedly, most riders probably choose to stay inside when the thermometer drops below freezing but just in case, you need to bundle up and we can help.
Even in the coldest of cold, riding eventually gets you warm so keep that in mind during preparation. Base layers worn underneath typical riding gear provide warmth, air circulation and moisture management. Much of the problem when riding in colder weather actually comes once you get warm because you sweat. Expect to cool off real fast. But if you have a base layer that wicks away sweat you won't feel the effects of the cold air on your drenched body.
Dress with enough base layers to cover you from head to foot or stick with the basics to keep you comfortable like a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Check out our collection of base layers and decide based on your resilience to cold and overheating. You can actually overdo the layering and get too warm:
The biggest challenge when riding in cold weather comes not from the actual temperature but the wind-chill factor. The faster you ride the colder it feels. Riding at 50 degrees gives you shivers, now imagine riding at 30 degrees. Your hands get the worst of it taking the wind head-on therefore regular gloves don't cut it. Grab windproof gloves like the Fly Racing Windproof Lite gloves or the 100% Hydromatic Waterproof gloves.
If you only wear one thing to counter the cold, make it the gloves. Your body might warm up but your hands never will and eventually the pain forces you to stop.
Unlike the base layers, jackets come off easily once you get hot. Riding jackets work best in milder, colder weather so you can remove or put back on accordingly but don't rule one when out when riding in extreme weather as they can serve as a warm-up then allow the base layer to take over once removed. Some jackets repel water which keep you dry and warm in wet weather.
Just Gear Up
You have the basics: Helmet, googles, and boots along with the appropriate riding gear. Try adding a chest protector, knee braces or support, kidney belt and elbow and wrist guards. All this gear serves not only as protection but a layer of warmth. If you have toyed with wearing extra gear but the hot summer months or even the bulky feel turns you off, use the off-months to get used to the added layer of protection and get ready for some bar-banging racing next summer.
Grab What You Have
If you spend just one or two days during the winter months riding, and sometimes not even that, the cheap route might encourage you to get out more. Wear an extra t-shirt or two, sweatpants probably fit under your riding pants same with a sweatshirt under your jersey and/or a flannel jacket or long sleeve shirt works on the outside. The gloves, though, you gotta get the gloves.
Just leave the scarf at home.
Lastly, when riding in cold weather don't forget to stay hydrated. You still sweat and lose water and other vital electrolytes when temperatures dip so take all the same pre-ride precautions as you do during the summer months.
Written By: AndrewT