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BACK TO BASICS - COLD WEATHER RIDING

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

Finally, winter is upon us and the Hurricane Season is over. While it's true that winter in Florida is more like early Fall to Northerners, if you've lived here for a number of years, 45 degrees seems quite cold, especially when riding a motorcycle. The wind chill factor is off the charts. At 60mph and 45 degrees, it can feel more like temperatures in the teens and that's cold in anyone's book.

Hypothermia can happen very quickly if you're not dressed properly. What happens is your body senses the core temperature drop and begins cutting off blood supply to your hands, feet and your head. When the blood flow to your brain slows down, your decision making abilities start to slow down as well. Just like an intoxicated person has problems performing two tasks at the same time, as in clutching and braking, so does a person with the beginnings of hypothermia. You would usually first notice your hand getting numb then your feet and last but not least, your forehead, which can even make you feel like you've eaten too much ice cream too fast. If you've got all these symptoms, I guarantee your judgment has become impaired. If you prepare for a cold weather ride, you should never have to worry about or suffer from hypothermia.

First, start with a good pair of insulated gloves. Cold numb fingers can make for a miserable ride. I've got 3 pairs of gloves, lightweight, un-insulated medium leather with Thinsulate and a somewhat bulky leather pair with heavy insulation. If using the bulky type gloves hurts your throttle clutch and braking abilities, get yourself some heated grips. Heated grips work wonders and here in Florida, may be enough with just a pair of light leather gloves. The warmest thing you can put on your hands are electric gloves but they can be a little bulky.

For your feet, the best boots I've found are Cruiserworks. These boots have a special waterproof insulation which not only keeps your feet warm in the winter, but they'll keep you cool and dry in the summer and they're extremely comfortable.

To keep your face and head warm, a Balaclava or ski mask will do the trick especially when combined with a full face helmet, a 3/4 or at least ear wraps zippered on to a half helmet.

To keep the wind from getting inside your jacket, there are many types of neck wraps available from fabric to leather, even a bandanna helps. Your main concern is the jacket. When your chest is warm it's much easier to keep all your extremities warm. A thick leather jacket or one made of Cadora which is also waterproof along with a couple of layers underneath, is the way to go. An electric vest will keep you warm as toast in even the coldest weather and eliminates the layers you'll otherwise need.

If you're ever caught without all the necessary gear and find yourself shivering, pick up a newspaper and a plastic bag. Shove the paper down your jacket and wrap your neck with the plastic bag and grab a hot cup of coffee. That should make the ride home at least bearable.

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More articles by MOTORMAN:
Back to Basics Series:   About Jerry Palladino:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division. Prior to
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25 years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says, "When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to ride a motorcycle."
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