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postheadericon Winter Riding for Desert Rats

I admire my scootering friends who live in the mid-west or further north and are still riding, even in cold temps. This blog post is NOT for you. The definition of cold is a bit different for those of us who live in southern Arizona and I am writing this specifically for those who grab jackets or coats when the temperatures drop into the 60’s or below.

Temperatures in Arizona are not always warm and balmy. Just this week we have had low temps in the high 20’s. That, my friends, is cold, no matter who you are. The big difference here is that most of us not only don’t own cold weather riding gear, it is very difficult to find in stores here because there isn’t much of a demand.

TORSO

So, what is a determined scooterist to do if he/she doesn’t: a) have the money to buy cold weather gear, or b) doesn’t want to spend the money on something that they will get relatively little use out of? Well, I’m going to give some suggestions. I have been riding year round for 3 and half years now, in all kinds of weather. I am cheap by nature and haven’t wanted to spend big bucks on cold weather gear. If you are on a budget and want to ride this winter, I hope to give you some suggestions that will help.

Cool in summer. It has reflective piping and removable pads.

One thing I didn’t skimp on was a riding jacket. When I bought the scooter, I bought a helmet and a textile riding jacket. I am not going to preach to you about how important it is to wear to wear the proper safety gear. That is a personal decision. My recommendation though, is to go out and get you an actual riding jacket. Leather or textile, expensive or bargain, stylish or not, just get something that will protect you if, God forbid, you end up on the pavement when you’re riding. The jacket, however, is the foundation for my cold weather ensemble.

It’s thin but effective for mild temps.

I wear this jacket year round. Because it has all of the “holes” in it, it breathes great and is great for summer. I really like the fact that it has reflective piping for better visibility. I wear just the jacket until temps dip to the low 70’s. At this point, I put in the liner that came with the jacket. I don’t know if you can tell from the pic, but it isn’t very thick. It zips in and keeps me comfortable to the mid-60’s.

Because the jacket breathes so well, I needed something to keep the colder air out of the jacket. Once temps are in the 50’s, I need more than just the liner. I went to one of my favorite places, a thrift store, and found this:

Extremely effective. This allowed me to comfortably ride in temps down to about 40 degrees.

It is a lined wind breaker. I think it cost me $7 or $8. It, unfortunately, does not have reflective tape or piping on it. I went to Harbor Freight and bought this reflective, hi-vz vest for $2.99. Please note that this jacket has a high collar. It is important to keep as much cold air out as possible This combination has gotten me through all but a handful or rides. I have found that it works for me until temps are in the 30’s.

It is most important to keep your core, i.e. you upper body, warm. If you can keep your torso from getting cold, you will be fine. Cold legs, arms and/or feet are a nuisance, but they won’t stop your ride. Cold hands are different, but I’m getting to that.

When temperatures fall into the 30’s, I add one more layer:

The hood won’t fit under a helmet, but the sweatshirt lets me ride in temps into the high 20’s.

Sweatshirts of all shapes sizes, colors and designs can be found in any thrift store for prices as low as $.99. I have ridden in temps down to the mid 20’s with this combo and had no ill effects.

LEGS

Everyone knows that layering is the key to staying warm. This is the way I do it. I have found that the scooter provides enough protection that my feet have never gotten cold. My legs do, however, get uncomfortable at colder temps.

Purchased at a thrift store, these ski pants even have reflective tape.

By colder, I mean that I don’t generally worry about additional leg protection until temps are in the 30’s. Even then, I don’t worry about it unless I am plan on being out more than 45 minutes or so. Thrift store to the rescue again! I bought these “ski pants” for $8-10. Thrift stores around Tucson always seem to have plenty or these in stock. They are nice because they are lined and have zippered bottom so that they are easy to get off once it warms up or when you get to your destination.

HANDS

Probably the hardest body part to keep warm is your hands. Most of here ride smaller scooters. Therefor, we don’t have the luxury of electric hand-grip or powered riding suits. Our scooters just don’t generate enough extra power. We have to do it the old fashioned way.

The first 3 winters, I used the gloves I was issued when I was in the Army:

The shell and wool insert combo worked pretty darned well.

These are frequently available at Surplus stores like Millers. They have a leather “shell” with wool inserts. Wool is a great insulator. These are pretty inexpensive. I don’t know how much the shells are, but I recently paid $3.99 for a new pair of inserts.

I got these nice, Tour Master “Cold-Tex”gauntlets when a friend sold his motorcycle:

Cold weather protection plus additional armor on the tops of your hands.

I have been been wearing them this year and they are very nice. A quick Google search reveals that gloves like this will set you back $35 to $60 depending on store, sales and which model you buy. I recommend them if you’ve got the dough to get them.


Another thing that works well is keep the wind off of your hands in the first place. I don’t use them but one common item used by riders in colder climes is called “Hippo Hands.

These can frequently be seen on snowmobiles, er, in places other than southern AZ.

I seriously doubt that anyone in Tucson carries them, but they can be purchased on-line easily enough. I’ve heard that you can wear thin, summer weight gloves in the coldest temperatures with these muffs attached to your bike. If you have craft skills, I’ve seen patterns on-line, to make them out of insulated lunch bags. As you can see by the pic, they aren’t just for scooters.

Scoot Over carries, or has carried, hand guards that will fit the Genuine Buddy.

These come in a variety of colors as well. Simple, yet effective.

Hand guards block a lot of the wind from hitting your hands in the first place, thus helping you keep your hands warmer, longer. I don’t remember how much they were at Scoot Over, but somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 plus more if you need them to install them. I don’t have these, but have considered them.

NECK

Keeping your neck warm is important too. Your carotid arteries run very close to the surface and if your neck get too cold, it can cause your core temperature to drop quite a bit. My lined windbreaker gives me quite a bit of protection but sometimes I need a bit more. If inexpensive is what you need try a scarf:

Cheap, not stylish, but Chicken Dance Elmo approves.

Like ski pants, they can be picked up at most any thrift store for pocket change. They work great at protecting the old carotids.

I lost it, but another thing that has worked well for me was a neck gaiter:

Effective and multipurpose. I want another one.

There are a lot of variations to neck gaiters. One of the most versatile pieces of neck ware is called the BUFF. They range in cost from about $10 to about $40. Most not only protect your neck, they can be pulled up around your ears, nose and mouth as well. This is especially handy if you don’t use a full face helmet.

MISC

There are a lot of other items that you can use to increase your comfort during cold weather. I don’t have any of these, but I do know of people who have used them:

Lap Aprons. Kind of goofy looking IMO, but extremely effective

The Lap Apron or “scooter skirt.” These are not cheap. They are, however, very good at keeping you warm. Corazzo, a well known maker of scooter and cycling accessories makes some complete with reflective piping and pockets.

Starting under $10. These come in hundreds of designs.

Then there’s the neoprene face mask. I got one of these once (although mine wasn’t nearly so stylish as the one above) but couldn’t wear it because my head is too big. These are another item that is especially useful is you don’t have a FF helmet. They simplyact as a windbreak for your face.

This entry is not intended as a complete source for cold weather riding gear. It is simply a list of some things that have worked for me. Again, I know that people who live in colder areas really require serious gear or risk serious injury. Please, ride safely and gear up. Spend as little time as possible exposed to cold temps.

Howard

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3 Responses to “Winter Riding for Desert Rats”

  • Well, I still have all my gear for riding in -20 weather in Topeka, KS. But I found wearing my long-johns to work was too uncomfortable for all day wear, and I don’t want to try to change in the bathroom. So I just got an extra-large pair of sweats, pull them on over my pants, then pull my rain-pants over those to block the wind. My legs never know they left the living room.

    For gloves, I can’t recommend Harley Davidson leather gloves highly enough. They are great. Very warm and still flexible enough to put on or take off my helmet strap. I have two pair, one of regular wrist length and weight for the fall and spring, and one with gauntlets that cover the sleeves of my parka to keep the wind out. My fingers do get a little chilly but not to terribly so.

    As to the parka. I just wear this ugly old thing my dad gave me over 15 years ago when he moved to Florida. But you could probably find something at a thrift store for not too much. I recommend the Humane Society thrift store at Speedway and Beverly in Tucson for very high quality stuff.

  • Thanks for the response. I truly admire anyone who rides in Chicago. Between weather and traffic, that is some serious riding. You sound like you’re doing all the right things to stay warm.

    Howard

  • I’m riding in Chicago right now in 30-degree weather with a leather jacket over a hoodie, silk long johns (can’t recommend these enough, especially the ones from Eddie Bauer – $50 a pair but worth it if you spend any time outside in cold weather) and regular pants. (Jeans, khakis, cords, etc.)

    I wear UGG work boots that cover my calves, for my feet and lower legs, and a good pair of cold-weather gloves for my hands. I got a pair of serious gloves a long time ago for like $30, but they’re rated for hiking on Everest or something.

    Inside the sleeves of my coat, I wear a pair of knitted sleeves (I made them myself, but they’re basically sweater sleeves that go from mid hand to below the elbow) over the hoodie, to add extra insulation and wind-protection. Over the hoodie, I wear a knitted cowl (also made myself) but it’s basically a tube that scrunches around my neck like a scarf wrapped around 3 or 4 times, and the chinstrap of the helmet holds the top of the hoodie neckline shut, so that helps a bit.

    I tried wearing a fleece and a stocking cap, but this is a better pairing.

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