Guest Author - Nancy Brotherton
The key to cold weather motorcycle riding is to become a weather forecast addict, wear the proper riding clothing and gear, and keep alert for dangerous physical and environmental conditions. Keeping yourself tuned into the local weather forecast is important because you can predict what gear to wear and take with you. For example, in the Fall, you can leave for a ride at 11:00 a.m., 70 Degrees F but by 6:00 p.m., the sun is setting, rain is drizzling and the temperature has dropped to 50 degrees F. If you didnít take a rain suit and only had a medium weight jacket, you are setting yourself up for hypothermia.
Riding a motorcycle at 50 degrees F in the rain at 70 mph with the wind chill can feel like 38 degrees F and it cools your body temperature so that your core body temperature of 98.6 degrees F can fall rapidly. Hypothermia results when your core body temperature falls below 95 degrees F or less. Your weight and health also affects how quickly hypothermia can set in. For example, people with thyroid problems or diabetes have a lower tolerance to colder temperatures and can develop symptoms quicker than a person with no health issues.
Hypothermia is caused by extended exposure to cold temperatures or a damp environment. Hypothermia is extremely dangerous when motorcycle riding because the symptoms arenít always noticed until a lethal mistake is made. Symptoms of mild hypothermia are: stumbling, mumbling, changes in motor coordination, having to think about control placement, missing gears, being wobbly at stops, hands may start feeling stiff and tight, and you may experience a slight shivering. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop immediately and warm up. If you are wet, try to dry off as best you can. Drink plenty of warm liquids and stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, as they constrict blood flow. Stay in a warm environment until you can ride without any of the above symptoms.
Proper gear can help prevent hypothermia. Wear layers of light clothing and consider investing in heated gear, such as a heated vest liner or jacket. Always ensure that your head is covered, as most body heat escapes through the head. Waterproof boots and insulated gloves are a must. Carry a rain suit so that if it should drizzle, you have protection to keep you dry. A rain suit is also good insulation from the wind when worn over other clothing. Remember that low lying areas, heavily wooded areas, and areas by the water are usually colder than flatlands, so dress appropriately for the areas you will be riding in.
Be aware of Fall and Winter hazardous motorcycle road conditions such as slippery wet leaves on the roadway, heavy fog reducing visibility, and light patches of black ice. Understanding your motorcycle, your body, and the environment will greatly increase your chances of a great ride in any weather. Dressing for success is not just for jobs, but for a successful ride as well.
Until next week, ride safe and warm.