Like many riders in the northeast, I used to hang up the helmet from mid-December until February or March. I assumed riding in anything below 40 degrees was always painful and never worth the finger numbness if a car or bus or train were available.
The reality is, if you invest in the right equipment, then you can keep riding all year, and even be comfortable. Here's how to get kitted up for the cold.
The same qualities that make this balaclava so great under a hardhat also work for a motorcycle helmet. The mouth covering lets you breathe, and the top section is thin enough to not create any hot spots on a snug, correctly fitted helmet. The neck doesn't go down as low as we'd like, however, so pack a scarf.
Cold, numb hands are painful and potentially lethal—proper braking depends on your dexterity. These heated gloves will give you up to three hours of warmth at three temperature settings. Unlike other gloves that have to plug into a battery in your jacket or directly to your bike's battery, the Kit-Kat-size seven-volt power sources are small enough to slip underneath the wrist gauntlet.
I spent years layering my torso, but only covered my legs with one layer of armored motorcycle pants. Now, whenever the temperature dips below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I wear this Icebreaker base layer, even when I'm not riding. No matter how good your motorcycle pants are, an extra layer of insulation will keep you significantly warmer.
Throwing riding pants like this over your jeans (and base layer leggings) is another huge step in comfort while riding. Waterproof, but ventilated enough to keep your lower half from feeling like a sauna. Rev'It, like Alpinestars, is one of the best names in motorcycle gear, and these pants are especially easy to recommend. They also come with knee and hip armor included.
Yes, you could ride with a cool wax cotton jacket. But a dedicated motorcycle jacket will be warmer and more comfortable because it's tailored for the riding position. Alpinestars makes some of our favorite riding gear, with almost everything to its name (especially boots) being top-quality. The Gunnar jacket is waterproof and breathable, with an insulating lining that you can remove after the spring thaw. Most importantly, it comes with elbow and shoulder armor, and has slots for chest and back protection.
Install the hooks underneath the rear section of your seat, and you've got a waterproof storage bag. For longer trips, I use this to stash unused layers, a tire repair kit, and anything I don't want cluttering my jacket pockets. Cheaper than installing a hard case, and just as useful.
All the protection of a Power Ranger–looking waterproof motorcycle boot, but a design that makes you look like you just finished welding your own frame. TCX boots are certified to European standards for impact protection, plus a side zipper for easy entry and exit. They're also waterproof, and have a lug sole for grip when you're at a stop light in the snow or rain. Wear them over high-quality wool socks.