Brrrrr…  feelin’ frosty

Humidity 85%, 38o C in the shade, storms, hail, sweaty, soggy, socks and hair, every available jacket vent open; aahhhhh the joys of riding through a south-east Queensland summer. Without warning, the Riding Gods flick the switch and suddenly it’s 13o C and downright nippily.

Okay, for those of you who ride where winter means snow, black ice lurking on shady bends, sleet slicing through leathers and freezing rain is considered a good day, 13o is downright sub-tropical, but not so, for south-east Queenslanders. The coldest day last winter was 12o C, bleak, foggy and spoken of in compassionate, hushed tones for those that rode.

Most motorcyclists have warmer riding gear for winter… thermals, jackets, leathers, jeans, boots, helmets and gloves, but are you aware how those additional winter layers will alter your riding style, mainly the ability to move freely?

Winter wardrobe… no hang on, that’s just for today!

Just last week you were seeking a breeze, wearing a singlet, vest or lightest jacket, lightweight Kevlar and boots, maybe an open-faced helmet. Your head turned without restriction, your limbs moving freely. This week, you’re frantically digging through your riding wardrobe for multiple layers.

The wise woman rider starts layer one with a padded bra; that padding ain’t for perkiness, it’s for extra warmth. It’s not called the Nippily Season for nothing. Knickers, do you have thicker ones? Socks, the first pair slide on, marino… thin and warm.

Ahhh. love that marino…

Layer two is a singlet, tucked into thermal leggings, which pulls up and under your boobs. Yes, they keep your back warm, but there’s a downside, which you’ll discover later. Add another pair of long socks over those leggings.

Layer three begins, but stop, damn it, off to the loo first. Then add that long sleeved thermal top, climb into thick leathers or Kevlar pants, those long socks thankfully holding the thermals firm.

Layer four, throw on a long sleeve shirt or jumper and boots. Chaps are an optional layer; commonly leather, they’re historically designed for male horse riders to access their male bits, without removing their pants. Mmmmmm… They’re also used by some motorcyclists for additional warmth and protection from road elements.

Importantly, before considering chaps, imagine those claustrophobic toilet cubicles that seem twice as small when you’re in your bike gear. You’ve got another belt to undo, before your pants belt, button and fly… and remember those thermals tucked way up high under your boobs? Well, they’re there somewhere too, under three layers of tops, plus jacket. If you finally find the top of them, they’ll need to go down and not forgetting the knickers. Try keeping all that off the floor of that insy-winsy cubicle.

If you believe the extra warmth of chaps is worth un-layering and re-layering, especially in those restricted spaces, there’s one major failure with chaps worth mentioning… rain! Pant legs stay dry but that uncovered crotch area, yeah… nup!

Removing wet chaps to sit down with friends for lunch with a wet crotch triangle; yeah, always a great conversation starter.

Layer five! Jacket! Some are lined for extra warmth, most have elbow, arm and back armour, so the arms become less bendy. Patience, perseverance and a healthy dose of profanity is required, to thread all those layers of sleeves into the jacket. Urban myth tells of one rider from outer Mongolia perishing, discovered with sleeves stuck halfway in the armholes of her jacket, never able to phone for help…


WARNING: Never make the mistake of trying to put your boots on, after your jacket, as any part lower than your navel, disappears from view. Now, breathless, heat stroke threatening, as you’ve not yet left your warm house, zip up your jacket. Finally, you are ready to ride so plod on out to your bike.

Layer four and a half… or six? Wise riders put the neck-sock on before their jacket, but a regularly forgotten step. Discovering your arms don’t bend so much by now, getting it on becomes a major mission. Ever so elegantly try lowering your head in the direction of your neck-sock, pushing head through hole and tuck sock under your jacket collar, with stretched out fingertips. Helmet, then sunnies, which usually fit behind one ear and squish the other.

Winter neck-socks being thicker than the summer variety, often bunch around your nose and mouth so when you’re stationary, your glasses and visor fog up. To prevent this, just don’t breathe, at all, when stopped; if this is not an option open your visor to breathe normally, as opposed to passing out.

Finally layer 7. You’re on your bike ready to roll… but wait… gloves! They’ve disappeared! Tip head upside down, one’s on the seat, the other’s fallen to the ground. Slowly, slide one leg straight and far backwards as possible, scooping up the wayward glove in an undignified, ballet-like movement… ta-daaa! This effort has fogged up your glasses and visor, hence new words of profanity are discovered. Using a vague recollection of the location of each finger, glove up. Eight fingers in the holes are enough, aren’t they?

It sure is a mission layering up sometimes; if you have a set system then you most likely put your helmet on prior to the restricted arm movement layers… this is the ideal scenario, but hey… who ever remembers to do that?

Wherever you ride this winter, seriously, consider how layering up alters your riding style:

  • Arm and seating positions will be wider, from upper body layering
  • Change in peripheral vision from using different helmet or a balaclava
  • Neck-socks and scarves compromise head movement; ensure you alter your methods to check those blind spots
  • Legs need to move freely
  • Know how to quickly counteract possible fogging of vision
  • Gloves need to be warm enough to prevent fingers becoming numb
  • Gloves are thicker, so ensure your fingers and hands move freely to access clutch and brake
  • You need to stay warm; being chilled to the bone is not only uncomfortable, but dangerous.

Riding in winter is invigorating, exciting and gives you a different feeling of being alive to that of summer riding. No matter how many layers you wear, somehow the wind will find that one little gap and let you know it’s winter, which just adds to the joy of being a moto woman.


By Cathy McGillivray, our Kiwi-Queenslander journalist


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