Protection comes in many forms: clothing to ward off the elements, or training to prepare you for the unexpected. I've played around with both.
Go For Training. This is the simplest way to put it. It will pay off in minutes. I did both a basic training course and, about a year later, an intermediate course. For my sins I have yet to partake of an advanced course.
I also did training from the other side of the handlebars, I was a trainer. This is an experience that I will be slow to forget. I got to see the effort required by the instructors in understanding the skills that needed to be taught, and then the effort and patience required to pass those skills onto the students. To think that a person might be killed as a result of a wrong lesson was a sobering thought.
How cold have you ever been? Well, ride on a fine British winters day, with the temperature hanging just above freezing and the humidity up over 100%, do 3 or 4 hours at speeds over 80mph, this will teach you that hypothermia is not to be messed with. You have to be dressed for this kind of bodily abuse.
I tried many ways to keep warm. I discovered two things:
I tried plastic bags, zillions of layers of cloths, duct taping seams... almost anything to keep out the cold and failed until I found the big romper suit style rain gear. This is generally a heavy nylon weave, with sealed seams and internal lining. It works to keep the water out and the heat in. With the addition of electrically heated gloves I was toastie on all but the most extremely cold days (one -20° day with 200 mile ride did prove to be too much).
Boots are essential. In summer leather boots allow you to crash and not rip up your ankles, in winter motorcycle style "Derri" boots work amazingly well (these are fur lined, rubber Wellington boots).
Gloves. Always wear gloves, even on warm or hot days. I like the unlined variety, often called racers gloves, these give maximum feel, while affording excellent protection. In winter I have worn multiple layers of gloves: silk liners, fleece lined gloves and outer mitts. Eventually, using electrically heated gloves, I did with the unlined racer gloves and mitts. The mitts reduce heat loss and reduce the surface area for water to get in.
Helmets are your life saver. I have destroyed about 5 helmets. Destroyed them. If I had not been wearing them the consequences are unimaginable. I wear full face helmets. I spend as much as I can, or think is worth while, often over $300. Make sure the helmet is Snell95 rated, and then ACU or AMA qualified. Check for fit. Always replaced scratched visors - they are cheap and a scratched visor at night is a terrible thing.
Note that it is also worth wearing a balaclava (ski mask) in winter, under your helmet, this will reduce the heat you are going to loose through the top of your head (1/3 of all heat lose).
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