Now, as we bring our series of Winter Buyer’s Guides to a close, we move in to the nebulous realm of Winter Accessories. Whereas all the other categories were pretty well-defined, winter accessories need only fit one requirement: they need to enable longer, safer rides when Mother Nature is literally trying to suck the life out of your body. What makes a good winter accessory? Typically it specifically addresses one of the two primary issues faced by cold weather riders: wind chill and heat loss (without wind chill).
Within this list, you’ll see products from familiar moto-gear manufacturers and some one-trick ponies. While we haven’t personally tested all of these products (we have the good sense to live in SoCal where the temperatures fall within the safe-to-ride zone and air can be easily seen – so that we know it’s safe to breathe), many of these items have been around for years.
Size Range: One size
A quick search will reveal tons of balaclavas available out there on the net. However, most suffer from one flaw: a seam down the center of the forehead. Those with very oval shaped heads know that can lead to the dreaded forehead hot spot. The Alpinestars Touring Winter Balaclava has no such issues. Additionally, a waterproof and windproof neck skirt keeps drafts and rain at bay. The full-face design with breathing holes, keeps your face warm while the stretchable fabric retains heat and wicks moisture away.
Alpinestars has 10 winter related accessories that can be found at Alpinestars.com.
Price: $16–20 per lb.
Size Range: 12 oz., 16 oz., 5 lb.
We’re letting a staff favorite coffee roaster, Batdorf & Bronson, stand in for all the regional coffee companies that neither begin with the letter S nor have a synonym for money in their name. Even with the best winter riding gear, you need to take a break from the road and warm up periodically. While they offer a motorcyclist’s favorite elixir (OK, OK, on a cold day), warmth, and WiFi, these establishments also deliver the experience of handcrafted, sustainably grown, Fair Trade Certified coffees that will make you swear off the mass-produced, fast-food of coffee found on just about every other corner.
Those who don’t live near Batdorf & Bronson in either Atlanta, Georgia or Olympia, Washington can always seek out their local artisanal coffee vendor, instead. You’ll be glad you did as you prepare to get back on the road.
Size Range: NA
If you can’t keep the cold from sucking the heat away from your hands, why not try to put some back in through a set of Inferno Heated Grips? With sizes and styles to fit most motorcycles, Inferno grips get their name from the claimed 170° of heat they put out – which should be more than enough to combat the effect the wind-chill of highway riding has on your paws. With five preset temperatures on an easy-to-operate, one button control, you should be able to adjust settings with the thickest of gloves. A clever battery saver mode shuts down the grips if the battery voltage falls below 12.5 volts.
Big Bike Parts offers 11 different winter accessories on its web site.
Price: $65 Shirt, $65 Pants
Size Range: S–2XL
Colors: Hyper blue, black, graphite (Shirt), Black (pants)
These aren’t the waffle patterned white cotton (AKA Death Fabric) thermals of yore. Base layers have gone high tech, and the Columbia Men’s Baselayer Heavyweight Long Sleeve Top is a prime example. Constructed of a moisture-wicking stretch jersey lined with body heat retaining thermal reflective waffle fabric, the baselayer is form-fitting yet still allows for a full range of motion. Thank its winter sports origin for this flexibility. The fabric also features anti-microbial qualities to prevent the dreaded, lingering thermal BO funk.
Columbia’s web site features nine base layer options for both men and women.
Size Range: S–4XL, M-2XL Tall
Fleece and winter go together like kids and hot chocolate. First Gear’s TPG Tech Jacket features a windproof external shell backed by mid-weight poly-fleece. The jacket is still highly breathable while maintaining its windproofness. Articulated sleeves provide a comfortable fit while in a riding position. The interior has cargo pockets and a cell phone pocket. Exterior, zippered hand warmer pockets round out the TPG’s storage. Because the TPG is separate from your armored riding jacket, you can wear it off the bike in chilly weather.
First Gear sells 17 winter riding accessory garments at its web site.
Size Range: XS–3XL with Regular and Long options
How good is Gerbing’s electric riding gear? Many manufacturers rebrand their products from Gerbing stock. (For example, see our recent H-D Dual-Source Heated Jacket Liner Review.) The heated vest and jacket liners have long been used to keep a rider’s core temperature up, thus keeping it from restricting warming blood flow to the extremities. In less extreme climates, a vest will do, but if your riding environment features serious cold, you’ll want to pop for the full-on jacket and pants – and their power connectors for gloves and socks. Lest you believe these are the same electric clothing offered 10 years ago, think again. Wire and battery technology have advanced to the point that Gerbing even offers a battery powered heating options – including a head warming balaclava.
Gerbing offers 43 heated clothing and accessory items on its web site.
Size Range: NA
You’ve read Tender Tush Editor, Tom Roderick’s monographs on the benefits of heated seats for so long you probably want to gouge your eyes out. Well, it’s time to give in to the call of warm buttocks on cold days. Heat Demon Carbon Fiber Seat Warmers allow you to transform your stock seat into a visit to the spa. With a seat or panel mounted High/Low switch, the control is at your fingertips. Heat Demon thoughtfully provides a 10-amp power port for the heated vest or jacket you read about in the previous entry.
The thin, carbon fiber mesh heating pad slips under the seats stock cover for universal applications. Ride with the knowledge that a thermal cutoff switch will prevent burnt buns. A low voltage shut-off keeps the battery from being killed by charging problems
Heat Demon offers single and double heating element kits as well as grip heaters on its web site.
Size Range: NA
It’s time to get old-school with our heat generation. Rather than resorting to your bike’s electrical system, Heat Factory Air-Activated Footwarmer Insoles use a good old-fashioned chemical reaction to keep your toes warm. Using a mixture of salt, iron and charcoal, an exothermic chemical reaction takes place when the packets are exposed to air. When the reaction is done, throw the packets away. Heat Factory’s flat footbed liner can be cut to size to fit a variety of boot sizes and leaves a space for the company’s specially shaped toe warmer packet. Since the packet requires air to produce heat, specially designed air channels on the bottom of the footbed increase airflow to the packet to help keep your tootsies warm.
Heat Factory’s line of five other heat generating packets can be viewed on the company’s web site.
Size Range: One size
What could be better than mittens for your winter riding gloves? The Oxford BoneDry Muffs fit over your handlebar and levers effectively cocooning your gloved hands to the motorcycle controls. Oxford’s muffs are pre-formed to ease access to levers while still giving 100% waterproof and windproof comfort. Thermacel insulation is used throughout for warmth. Since days are shorter in winter, the BoneDry Muffs feature 3M reflective piping for increased visibility. An interior pouch allows for Oxford Hot Hands accessory hand warmers.
Check out the Oxford web site for the seven winter accessories that the company offers for riders.
Size Range: Helmet specific
Colors: Clear, yellow, light smoke, dark smoke, ProtecTint
While this has nothing to do with warmth, being able to see is vital to safe riding, and at no time is your visor more in danger of fogging than when you’re exhaling your warm, moist breath inside a helmet in a cold ambient temperature. Pinlock EVO visors are so effective at preventing fog that many premium helmet manufacturers are shipping them with new helmets. A combination of an air-tight double shield insulating the visor interior surface from the cold outside and the plastic’s water absorption properties keep the shield fog-free – even during the heavy breathing associated with a winter track day. These easy-to-install and clean visor liners pass the ECE-standards mist-retardant test by a factor 6.
Visit the Pinlock web site to find the correct fitment for your helmet.