Saturday, November 2, 2013

Twelve Ways to Keep Your Hands Warm Riding a Motorcycle

Like everyone else, my hands are usually the first things to get cold while riding a motorcycle.  But I don't consider it to be a problem any more.  It's been about 40 years since I moved to Sept-Iles, Quebec and started riding a motorcycle in cold weather (Even July was pretty cold when I lived there).  I have since moved as far south as I can get in Canada, but I still sometimes ride in cold weather, using what I learned up north.  Actually, today there are even more ways to keep your hands warm, as technology has come to the rescue for people who freeze easily.

The first thing you should know is that there are many ways to prevent cold hands on a motorcycle.  But it is useful to know something about why your hands get cold, and that will help you understand why sometimes these tricks work, but sometimes they don't.  For example, there are some people whose hands just get cold very easily.  One condition is called Raynaud's disease.  Also, hypothyroidism can cause cold hands.  I am not a doctor, so I'm just warning you that some of these tips may not work for you if you have a medical condition.

It is a normal human reaction, that when your body temperature goes down just a little bit, the body will begin to shut off blood circulation to the hands.  This is a natural survival response to keep your main body toasty warm, and sacrifice your hands, which you don't really need anyway.  What I hear all the time is "My hands got freezing cold, but my body was toasty warm.  So I don't need a better jacket, and pants, I just need really warm gloves."  Well, my friend, that is because you just got fooled by your body into thinking you were toasty warm on top.  But if you really warmed up your body with, say, an electric vest, and then found out your hands also started to warm up, would you be surprised?  Well don't be, because this survival response is well known to people who study the cold, and to people who live in places where there is danger of frostbite.  French doctors began studying frostbite in earnest after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia in 1812, and lost much of his army to the cold.  The French also lost the war, and Napoleon lost his crown due to ignorance of the cold.

So how to keep your hands warm while riding on a motorcycle? I am going to skip the disclaimer about "Watch out for ice and snow on the road". These tips are just to get you started, I don't have the time or the inclination to argue with you about whether or not these tips offend your fashion sense, or whether they are as effective in a crash as racing armour. Also I have no time for people living in warm climes who say that wearing cold weather gear is "wussy". Or whether you are able to control a motorcycle when you are wearing mitts instead of gloves.  I got over those concerns a long time ago, and now I'm just going to list, without tact or further disclaimers or  political correctness, the ways to keep your hands warm when riding a motorcycle in cold/freezing weather.

1. Use mitts, not gloves.  Good mitts, of course, not the woolen mitts your grandmother knitted you for Christmas.  Leather index finger mitts for snowmobiles are  pretty good, as are "lobster claw" type mitts.
2. Use an electric vest. (reasons given above, go back and review if you missed it)
3. Use electrically heated glove liners. But I recommend starting with the electric vest, which is what the mitts usually plug into anyway.  The vest is simpler and overall more effective.
4. Use a chemical heat pack in the mitts (or gloves)
5. A windshield or fairing for the motorcycle
6. Heated handgrips
7. Hand guards on the handlebars to deflect the wind blast
8. "Hippo" hands, or handlebar muffs to protect your hands from the wind
9. Stop the bike and go for a 10 minute run to build up body heat.  You make 10 times as much heat when moving than when sitting still.
10. Warm up your hands (wearing the gloves) on the engine, assuming it is hot.  Careful you don't burn your hands or gloves.  Safest to do this off the bike.  I mean with the bike parked.
11. Check the air temperature before going for a ride, to avoid surprises.  Also watch out when you are climbing a mountain, temperatures can drop drastically
12. Stop at Tim Hortons for a hot coffee or chocolate.  If you don't live in Canada tough luck. Or then again maybe you don't need to worry about the cold.

Here are a couple of interesting webpages for further reading on general cold weather dressing

Photo: From this blog


  1. It's also a good idea to wear a decent helmet.

    Although the 'You lose 45% of your body heat through your head' myth has now been debunked, riding in a half helmet, or even a full face without neck protection, is just tossing body heat away, quickly sucking warm blood from your fingers and toes.

    Scientists debunk the myth that you lose most heat through your head

    1. I use a full face helmet when it gets cold. I will do a blog about how to prevent it fogging up when I get it figured out. Or should I say if, as I have not figured it out completely yet.

  2. Awesome! No words. You always go one step beyond.

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