Yup, it's that time of the year again, Winter Riding. Fall has settled in, the leaves are dropping, and you can smell the beginnings of winter in the air. More rain is falling and the daily temperature is starting to drop. Now, not later is when you should begin preparing for the winter if you plan on riding.
My Thoughts on Winter Riding
Personally I hate riding in the cold. I don't like the tingling sensations on my cheeks, nose, lips, fingers, and toes. When it gets really cold I don't like my thighs being numb and lack of feeling in my extremities. I used to suffer through it and parrot what other riders would say "That's part of riding!" Bah, no more. It doesn't give me the self perception of being a hard core rider to say I froze my ass off and nearly acquired frostbite. I just refuse to do it anymore. That's what I have a vehicle for. I know some riders wear heated gear, it works. If I need heated gear though it's just as easy to hop in the automobile instead. I don't need to ride that badly. But for those of you that do ride in the cold there is some information you should know.
Wind Chill Factor on a Motorcycle
Wind chill is a very real an extremely dangerous factor when riding in the cold. It must be taken seriously and into consideration before heading out on your bike. If you have never considered wind chill the chart above will be of tremendous help. As a quick example, let's say your riding at 70 mph and its 45 degrees outside. The wind chill on your body will be 31 degrees. Keep in mind that cold damage to the body can occur above freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Signs of Cold Temperature Exposure
"Frostnip" usually affects skin on the face, ears, or fingertips. Frostnip may cause numbness or blue-white skin color for a short time, but normal feeling and color return quickly when you get warm. No permanent tissue damage occurs.
Frostbite is freezing of the skin and the tissues under the skin because of temperatures below freezing. Frostbitten skin looks pale or blue and feels cold, numb, and stiff or rubbery to the touch.
Cold injuries, such as trench foot or chilblains, may cause pale and blistered skin like frostbite after the skin has warmed. These injuries occur from spending too much time in cold, but not freezing, temperatures. The skin does not actually freeze.
Eye pain or vision changes caused by cold exposure most often occur in individuals who try to force their eyes open in high winds, cold weather, or during activities such as snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.
Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When your riding and the wind chill is low enough to bring your body temperature below 95 degrees (F) you now risk Hypothermia. Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F. Keep in mind as you continue to ride in the cold your body will have no way of warming itself back to normal body temperature.
Effects of Hypothermia
Low body temperature can cause your heart, nervous system, and other organs to enter a state of shock, putting a person at risk of a heart attack, respiratory system failure and possibly death. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, slow breathing, lack of coordination and confusion. At this point I would like to mention that Margaret and I were at the point of hypothermia one year while riding. We were heading to Amarillo, TX when an unexpected cold front blew in. The temperature plummeted to 27 degrees as we tried to get back home. Wind chill according to the chart above put us at around 2 degrees. We made a lot of stops along the way home both at gas stations and rest areas where we could warm our hands under the hand dryers. It was a painful experience and one neither of us will ever forget.
Take Riding in the Cold Serious
Again, riding in the cold can have lasting harmful effects on your body. I know some riders gawk at those of us that won't ride in the cold, and that's fine. I want to continue riding long into my old age and still enjoy doing so. For those of you that still ride in the cold or maybe have to ride in the cold for whatever reason, take precautions to keep your body warm. Layer up, wear appropriate gear developed for riding in the cold. If you think you MUST ride in the cold consider heated gear and possibly heated grips.
This post is quite long so I will continue next week with an article on first aid for cold exposure. I also want to thank the Patriot Guard Riders for making public their wind chill chart. It's a great information tool for riders.