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If you’re going to ride year-round, there are a few things that you can do to augment your pleasure. (Or, if you know a year-round or extended-season rider and don’t know what to get them for Christmas this year, here are a few shopping suggestions.)

The first body parts affected by the cold are your extremities: your fingers, toes and nose. By protecting them, you can really stretch out your riding season.

Make sure you have waterproofed your boots and gloves. When you add a wind-chill factor to five degrees Celsius at highway speeds, it will feel more like -3. Add moisture to the mix, and it won’t take long before you start getting frostbite. Further, cold hands reduce your reaction time, something most motorcyclists can’t afford.

Heated grips are probably one of the finest accessories for this time of year. And once you’ve ridden with them, you’ll probably never ride without again.

The least expensive are external heating pads that wrap around your existing grips. Next up are heated elements that wrap around the handle bars and go underneath the grip. These are challenging, but not impossible, to install. The third option is to get new grips that actually have the heating element built in. And consider getting a heated element that has a heat-range controller. This way, you can adjust the heat output for both the weather and your glove type.

Next up is the electric vest, which in my books is an absolute must. You’ll feel like you’re riding in the sun, even when the rain is whipping around you. And if money is not an object, why stop there? You can pretty well get heated anything these days, from gloves to vests to jackets to pants. But the vest is the basic add-on. If your core is warm, it will go a long way to keeping the rest of you warm.

If you do invest in heated clothes, take that extra measure and buy something that has temperature adjustment.

I have a very basic heated vest that plugs in (on) and out (off). If I go from highway riding to city (or from Sooke to Langford), I often have to pull over to unplug the cord.

Get gear where the controls are accessible in a way that won’t take your attention off the road. Or, do as I do, pull over to adjust.

Electric gear connects to your battery, so take extra care when placing the wires. I’ve learned the hard way, and melted my wires against the engine.

Benefit from my experience and save yourself some replacement costs.

You can get portable temperature controllers or permanent ones, and single controllers or duals. These will add to your expenses, but will exponentially return their value through an extended (and comfortable) riding season.

The two most important things to look for in boots: Are they insulated and, are they waterproof? As good as leather is, it can never be 100 per cent waterproof. Gortex is a good alternative. If you want to add to the insulation, you can now get electric “comfort socks.” Stay away from anything that’s steel-toed though, especially in the winter. Metal holds the cold, and invites frostbite.

If you’re going to be wired to your bike, get into the habit of unplugging yourself every time you dismount. Ricocheting back to your bike at a gas station diminishes your degree of cool somewhat. Alternatively, you might brush up on excuses (“the darn trip release mechanism must be faulty”) or practice your sheepish grin.

Last up is the helmet. Unless you’re totally committed to cool (and foolish), for heaven’s sakes wear a full-faced helmet for winter riding. My father hit below zero temperatures one fall in Newfoundland, and left behind parts of his ears (frostbite) even though he was wearing a full-face. Anything less, and I’m sure he would have surrendered parts of his chin and cheeks as well.

These days, you can get full-faced helmets that are constructed with lightweight shells, so the old “It’s-too-heavy” argument just doesn’t cut it anymore. If a lightweight helmet is too heavy for you, perhaps you need to actually tone your neck muscles a tad.

You’ll also want something where you can close the vents. But keep in mind that your own breath is moisture- ridden, so you’ll also want to get an anti-fog shield or shield insert, which is applied on the inside of your helmet visor. If you can’t see, you can’t ride.

And if you really want to cheap out (which is what I did in my student years and as a young professional rider), silk gloves and socks can go a long way when it comes to retaining heat underneath your thick leather gear.

Britt Santowski

Britt Santowski is a former chief instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she trained instructors and taught riders for almost a decade. Santowski is also a workshop facilitator, speaker, consultant and author.

britt[at]imallowed[dot]com

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