Lots of riders retire their dirt bike or ATV to the garage when temperatures drop below a certain point, but for some, winter weather simply represents another challenge to overcome while taking to the track or trails.
Riding a dirt bike or ATV in cold weather requires some prep work. You can't just throw a leg over wearing the usual gear. The colder it is, the colder it feels ripping along a trail. Add in some moisture and you won't last long. The worst part is the beginning of the ride - you're cold, maybe a bit stiff and then that icy breeze hits once you get moving.
Yes, the physical work involved in riding eventually warms you up, perhaps allowing you to shed some gear, but riding cold is uncomfortable, reduces your reaction time and diverts your attention to what's in front. Additionally, never underestimate how quickly hypothermia sets in. It's quite possible to never get warm during a ride which is dangerous if confusion sets in or you lose coordination.
Like mom always said, wear a jacket. And when it comes to riding in the cold do a bit more than that. Don't worry, cold weather riding gear doesn't fit like a long wool coat. Initially it might feel a bit constrictive but once you get riding you'll soon forget it's on. But before you get dressed, it helps to start with some proper defense.
Block the Wind
Full coverage hand guards help A LOT. Directing cold air away from your hands keeps you riding longer than buffeting the wind directly off your hands for several hours. Eventually, the cold air works its way through your gloves and permeates your skin. You can work the throttle and levers with cold hands for a while but eventually pain or a slower response to the controls ends your day.
If you already have hand guards whether for Motocross or off-road, no need to buy a new set for the cold weather. Easily strap on Bushwacker Hand Guards to your existing pair and increase your protection against the elements while deflecting the cold wind.
Handlebar Guantlets offer an alternative or even additional protection for those wet and rainy riding days. These work with your existing riding gloves. Attach them to your handlebars then simply slip your hands inside for a long, cozy ride.
Cold Weather Gloves
If you prefer the minimalist route or want additional protection from what handguards fail to redirect, let cold weather gloves handle it. A number of companies make riding gloves for winter excursions on the track or trails that keep your hands nice and toasty without inhibiting your ability to safely use the controls.
That airy and thin jersey is no match for frigid weather. Riding jackets keep you warm, even offer a decent layer of protection in the event of a fall, some repel water and others offer several configurations allowing you flexibility depending on weather severity. You can still wear a chest protector underneath but the biggest value is blocking the wind.
Protective pants or more accurately, underwear, fit underneath your regular riding pants and offer a base layer of defense against the cold. You might think this base layer unnecessary as boots keep your lower extremities warm and the engine does the rest but don't forget the wind chill factor. Also, if the cold affects you a bit more than others or you just want additional defense against falls, protective pants or shorts keep you warm and help guard against bruises and scratches without inhibiting your movement.
We all wear riding socks typically designed to wick moisture and keep you cooler when the sun beats down. But as the temperature drops summer is only a dream and a thin riding sock feels good in August but not so much in January. A thicker sock gives you extra padding and a warmer contour but retains the moisture wicking properties to keep your feet dry preventing the cold bite from taking over.
A helmet does keep your head warm but enough air flows through you might find the chill a bit unbearable at times. Additionally, a helmet absorbs the heat in the summer therefore it also absorbs the cold in winter. Add in sweat it can feel like riding with an ice bucket on your head. Your neck is the most vulnerable area since it's the most exposed. A neck warmer or balaclava, which fits underneath the helmet covering your head, keeps the cold off your neck and prevent the updraft into your helmet.
Remember to stay hydrated which also helps prevent hypothermia. It's common to think if it's cold you don't sweat but that's far from the truth. It's no different than running in frigid weather - eventually you warm up, sweat but without adequate clothing you're cold, wet and uncomfortable.
Written By: AndrewT