TECH: COLD-WEATHER RIDING TIPS

Head off-road and chill By Jerrod Kelley

You can go to crazy lengths committing to riding off-road all winter. High-end rigs run tracks, windshields, and heated seats and controls. They go almost anywhere.

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COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

We know you. If you’re like us, riding is part of your character. Some people have this hybridized off-road human DNA, while others don’t. One simple way to know if you have it is whether or not you continue to ride off-road even when the temperature drops drastically and the snowfalls. Thus, we have come out with a set of cold-weather riding tips.

If you’re one who would rather blanket up and binge-watch “Hawaii Five-0” while thinking warm thoughts, well, let’s just say you’re missing the special gene we’re speaking about, Danno! For those of you who love to ride and ride to live, we’ve compiled some cold-weather riding tips. These should keep you entertained outside this winter while others are stuck at home distancing from others. It’s always better to ride than hibernate—duh!

These youth riders are doing it right: insulated clothing layered up, hand protection, and helmets with shields of goggles that resist fogging. It all makes a difference. Photo Stephen Tripp

 

YOUR RIDE

For both ATVs and UTVs, windshields (sometimes called fairings) can make a huge difference in comfort and can often prolong your riding time in the winter. They prevent the frigid air from reaching your face, extremities (hands), and body, keeping you much warmer than going without. Look for an ATV windshield that offers a wide area of coverage, but anything that’s a quick-attach in design is our favorite because you can instantly install/uninstall based upon the weather each day.

The aftermarket, whether through the company that built your machine or not, has lots of full-cab options that will keep inclement weather out.

Windshields for UTVs should be glass or hard-coated plastic for more scratch resistance, especially if you live in the northern climes and need to scrape away ice and snow prior to riding. We’re also big fans of windshields that have motor-driven wipers because you can stay warm inside the cab and let the windshield keep your sight lines clear. Most manufacturers and many aftermarket companies offer windshield kits.

A few companies have quads that are specially equipped for winter use. Is it any wonder that the company from Canada, a country with plenty of cold, has the most options?

COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

HANDGUARDS

Handguards quite simply keep cold air from constantly chilling your hands and fingers. Remember, extremities like fingers, toes, nose and ears are some of the first to show signs of frostbite, so handguards not only protect your hands from the windchill, but also trail debris, water and mud roost. Choose between independent mount and full wrap-around-style handguards Both will do the job as an extra layer of protection from the elements.

HEATED HANDS

One way to ensure your hands and fingers don’t quit on you during a winter riding day is to install heated grips or a heated steering wheel. Heated grips are a simple electrical add-on that allows you to deliver warmth to your hands, which are vital for hanging on and controlling the ATV and levers. Some heated grips offer different heat settings to allow you to customize the level of warmth for the day. We highly recommend this setup for those who ride when the temperatures drop below freezing (32 degrees)!

Kimpex makes an affordable UTV heated steering-wheel cover. The $129 kit uses a 12-volt DC plug, on/off switch and temperature. It fits most RZR and Maverick UTVs.

COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

Heated thumb throttles, like heated grips, are ideal for super-cold riding situations, as it keeps your throttle thumb toasty warm. Why does this matter? Your thumb controls your ATV’s throttle, so precision control is a must if you’re riding hard.

UTV heaters must be very popular. There are a huge number of options. Some are temporary 12-volt electric, while others plumb into the engine cooling system. Many offer defrost.

There’s nothing like a heated steering wheel in the winter months. Even if you opt for a windshield, it’s nice to add a heated steering wheel, because it offers a two-fold approach to adding comfort. First, it’s another level of warmth, in addition to a fully enclosed cab or windshield. Second, if you have to work in the snow, ice and bone-chilling environment, you can always take a break from the chores to warm your hands while you sip some hot coffee.

MORE HEAT

With your kiester firmly planted in the seat of your side-by-side vehicle, it’s probably one of the warmest body parts in the winter, but to get even more comfort, we’d suggest adding a heated seat insert or spring for authentic performance seat covers with an integrated heater setup.

Grip and thumb-throttle heaters are a real game-changer in the cold. Some riders claim the heated grips will even help dry out wet or damp gloves. They are usually reasonable in price.

COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

YOUR BODY

The number-one rule for all cold-weather riding is to dress in layers. But, before you start over-dressing with your favorite flannel shirts, it makes sense to understand how to layer properly. Undergarments are the base layer in a multiple-layer setup. These fabrics should be snug and have the ability to wick moisture from your skin to the fabric while also remaining breathable. Think athletic materials, not cotton. The next layer is for warmth. Less restrictive than the base layers, this material layer insulates, wicks moisture and is typically something like a micro-fleece top or perhaps a thinly lined wind jacket. Think of the final outer layers as your yak fur. The ability to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, even when it’s brutal outside, is priceless. Waterproof jackets with some sort of authentic down-filled or artificial inner material will achieve this. Remember, you also dress in layers so you can remove outer items in calmer weather or if you’re overheating.

Grip and thumb-throttle heaters are a real game-changer in the cold. Some riders claim the heated grips will even help dry out wet or damp gloves. They are usually reasonable in price.

COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

Helmets are mandatory when we ride, but they can be especially handy in the cold months. Our tip is to choose a helmet that works best for you. Snowmobile helmets are ideal, as they are designed for extremely cold temperatures and purpose-built for the white-out months. Sled lids from Ski-Doo, Yamaha and Polaris are amazing for their warmth, large sight window, proven design, anti-fog abilities and stylish finish. MX helmets are fine, too, but you may need to pair them with a balaclava and snow goggles to keep your face warm and dry.

BRAD MOULTON Fleece-lined mitts like these that fasten to the handlebar are a great feature. When combined with heated grips, they allow you to wear normal riding gloves in cold conditions.

You need to buy dual-lens snow goggles. There is a scratch-resistant outer lens that has a second, usually anti-fog, inner lens. There is an air-space between the two lenses to keep the cold out of the outer lens from the inner lens. Many brands offer this type of design. Look for dual-pane lenses that address three key features all cold-weather goggles need. They offer dual lenses with the ability to adapt to changing light conditions and fogging while also providing a wide field of vision.

Consider your traction options. Adding chains or switching to aggressive mud tires with large tread blocks will help when you are in snow or mud.

COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

LIKE A GLOVE

Seek a pair of gloves that work best for you and your hand size. We prefer thinner cold-weather riding gloves combined with heated grips, handguards, or handlebar gauntlets because they work together to provide warmth and safety from water and ice. We typically avoid big bulky gloves/mittens, which can hamper throttle, brake, clutch, and steering wheel control. Wool socks work in a pinch and are warm but can be itchy. Look for socks with technical materials that are warm, thick, and designed to wick moisture away from your feet. Most are made from a blend of wool, acrylic, Lycra, and polyamide, and they also offer a high thermal-retention value to hold heat in. Combine them with Gore-Tex boots and your feet will applaud you.

Even a partial windshield makes a huge difference, so does a half door without openings. If you do hit the water, make sure you don’t douse yourself. Cold and wet is harder than just cold.

Choose a boot that’s made to withstand cold weather. Look for design elements that include insulation, waterproofing materials, and an off-road sole. We prefer a boot that fits over the ankle for both UTVs and 4×4 ATVs. Don’t buy a boot that is overly large or extremely bulky, as it will hamper throttle and braking control. 

Polaris and Can-Am are the most prolific, but other companies build UTVs that come stock with full cabs, heat, defrost, air conditioning, windshield wipers, and power windows.

COLD WEATHER RIDING TIPS

You can go as hardcore as you want for winter riding, but these essentials for man and machine will help at the start. You can get crazy by adding high-end track kits, full cab enclosures, and even wear heated clothing. However, cold-weather riding varies by state and region (Northwest versus the mountains versus the Deep South), so you need to do your homework, some basic meteorology, and use some common sense to stay warm, dry, and comfortable wherever you ride. Social distancing is trending to become the norm these days, so dress both you and your off-road vehicle in the proper attire this winter, and leave the others behind to hibernate with their masks on.

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