3 min read

In the British Isles and northern Europe in general the weather can vary a great deal from one day to the next, while for most months of the year, even on a given day things can start off quite chilly, warm up a lot in the middle of the day particularly if riding hard on the more technical roads, then cool down in the evening as you ride home on faster roads. It’s important for your concentration to be as comfortable as possible, neither too hot nor too cold and certainly not too wet. The answer is to layer, trapping warm air between your clothing and, despite potential the indignity of a roadside strip-tease, allowing you to control your body temperature by removing or replacing your mid-layer. A number of thin layers will keep you warmer than one thick one and the right materials will ensure that you’re not cooled down by damp fabric next to your skin.

Basic formula for most of the year

Outer layer

Never was the adage ‘buy cheap and buy twice’ more apt than with your main outer riding gear. You can check the Motolegends website for the full pros and cons of Drop Liner vs. Laminate construction but in summary make sure you get kit that offers weather protection and adjustable ventilation as well as protection from injury. Well-designed gear will allow perspiration to evaporate, avoiding the ‘boil in the bag’ syndrome caused by cheap waterproofs. It’s essential that your outer layer is specifically designed for motorcycle riding and meets the appropriate European standards. Comfortable fit is also important so bear this in mind when buying new gear – particularly if you’re not able to try it on first.

Mid-layer

A long-sleeve merino wool or technical fibre top is ideal. These fabrics will wick moisture away from your body. Some riders find that a wind-blocker is helpful, particularly if riding a bike that has no fairing or screen. A second pair of socks can be useful in the cold. 

Base layer

Technical fabric t-shirt and leggings. It’s important to avoid cotton underwear or socks as these tend to hold on to moisture leading to a cold, clammy feeling.

When it’s hot

Leave off the mid-layer, but if wearing a leather or ventilated fabric outer layer you will need to carry rainwear if you want to be sure of avoiding a drenching. Northern France is notorious for sudden intense downpours which catch out the unwary rider heading to or from southern Europe.

When it’s cold

Add a second mid-layer, or a quilted inner liner. Electrically heated gear is also available and has its advocates. 

For mid and base layers

There is no particular advantage to using motorcycle branded products: Spidi underwear will not improve your cornering. Retailers such as Marks and Spencer offer long and short sleeve ‘activewear’; Rohan sell technical fabric t-shirts in various weights which has the advantage of drying overnight, and good quality merino wool underwear can be bought at Mountain Warehouse. For the real penny-pinchers check out the middle isles of Aldi and Lidl in autumn and early spring – you might find a bargain, though ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’.

To reiterate

Good strong protective and waterproof outer layer; removable mid-layer(s); breathable base-layer and NO COTTON.

Thanks to Norton for suggesting this subject and forwarding information.

John McNally

 


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