Need to know how to ride a dirt bike in cold weather? Whether you’re new to dirt biking or just trying to stay warm and comfortable riding this winter, you’ve found the right article!
I’m going to show you how to stay warm, why you need to set your bike up differently, and practical tips for riding when the ground is cold or full of snow.
How to stay warm riding in the cold as a rider
Riding in the cold isn’t necessarily harder, but if your body gets chilled to the bone, it’s hard to properly function. This is not only uncomfortable, but also dangerous because you can’t properly handle the bike.
When your hands and feet are top numb to feel what the bike is doing and use the controls, you’re kind of just there for the ride, hoping the bike won’t go somewhere you don’t want it to. That’s why I put together a simple list to easily and affordably keep your most important body parts warm so that riding in the cold is more enjoyable and safer.
Head & Face
Riding with a cold face and head is one of the quickest ways to quit riding in the winter, but thankfully there are things to keep you warm for cheap.
Wind chill is typically the hardest part about dirt biking in cold weather, so you need to block the wind. A simple balaclava (Amazon) and/or mouth shield will make a huge difference for very little money.
The problem with covering your face is that your breath tends to fog up your goggles or visor if you’re using a full-face helmet (snowmobile). This happens when your mouth and nose are covered up and your warm breath has nowhere to go but up – where your eyes and goggles are!
So, you have a few options. You can simply uncover your balaclava or mask from your nose and this will help a lot. You can buy an anti-fog pair of goggles, or you can buy a better face mask that covers your nose but allows your exhausted breath to go down and out of your helmet better.
If you can’t feel your fingers, it’s really hard to use the brake and clutch levers, but you don’t want to use big winter ski gloves, so what do you do to keep your digits warm?
You can look for some thicker dirt bike riding gloves, but that will only help so much. The real problem is the wind – especially if you’re riding fast (remember “wind chill”).
So, a dirt cheap trick is to use a pair of disposable nitrile or latex gloves underneath your regular riding gloves. This gives you a little bit of warmth, but it really cuts down on a lot of the wind biting your hand and fingers, plus you still have almost 100% mobility as you did without them!
But, what if it’s really cold outside? Nitrile gloves as a liner aren’t going to keep your hands warm. It’s time to invest in some accessories for your bike, but I will cover that in a section below under “Setting up your dirt bike”.
Keeping your feet warm isn’t as hard as your hands if you’re already using the right equipment. When you wear proper dirt biking boots, they’re pretty well insulated to keep you warm, especially when you’re riding and moving around – this creates heat and you’ll eventually sweat.
With that said, you can still help prevent getting cold, and most importantly, wet! Once you get wet, it’s almost impossible to keep your skin warm – this is why it’s so important to wear clothing that will keep you dry!
Cotton socks are the worst when it comes to staying warm and dry, so stay away from cotton material. I much prefer wool socks in the winter, whether I’m dirt biking or downhill skiing, but I don’t just pick any pair of wool socks.
I like the “Smart Wool” (Amazon) brand socks (extra thick for cold weather!) because they’re super comfortable, not itchy like cheap wool socks, they wick away moisture to keep you dry much longer, and they barely smell after using them – this is like magic because my normal riding socks reek after riding!
Your extremities are super important (head/hands/feet), but if you don’t keep your core warm, it’s hard to function and stay excited for riding. You can often strip layers after “warming up” from riding, but getting on the bike is cold at first.
It’s important to wear a moisture-wicking base layer to keep you dry. Next, I like to wear a thin, but insulating mid-layer. Wool or fleece works well.
Last, but certainly not least, is a windproof/weatherproof outer shell jacket. One that has vents and pockets is nice for trail riding all day.
Bonus: To keep the wind from going down your jacket, I sometimes throw on a neck warmer and tuck it into my jacket. It’s amazing how a little bit of wind sneaking past the cracks will make you cold!
Setting your dirt bike up for cold weather riding
Keeping yourself warm is just the first put. If you don’t properly set up or adjust your dirt bike for riding in the cold, it’s going to run worse and make you wonder why you got all geared up to go in the first place! Whether it’s tuning for performance and reliability or keeping you extra warm, these steps are very important.
Jetting for easier starting in cold weather
If your dirt bike starts and runs well when it’s warm in the summer, it’s not going to be hard to start when it’s cold outside (under 40F). When the temperature changes, the air-fuel ratio changes, making your dirt bike run differently, whether it’s a 2 stroke or 4 stroke.
Having a fuel-injected dirt bike has major benefits because you probably won’t need to adjust anything in colder weather if everything else stays the same.
On the flip side, your dirt bike with a carburetor needs to be tuned to get back to that proper air-fuel mixture. This generally requires going richer on the jetting all around.
For 2-stroke dirt bikes, you’ll want to go richer on the air screw, and 4-stroke dirt bikes will have a fuel screw. If that adjustment isn’t enough, then you’ll have to replace the pilot jet with a bigger size.
There are a few things you can do the the bars and levers to keep your precious hands and fingers warm. The first is very cheap and easy.
You can wrap some teflon tape around the clutch and brake levers where your fingers pull on them. The aluminum leverage stay cold, causing them to transfer that cold to your fingers. By covering up the aluminum with tape, you get less cold transfer to your fingers.
If you don’t mind looking a bit odd and adding a little ‘bulk’ to your handlebars, adding some Hippo hands or muffs (Amazon) is an easy way to keep your hands warm all day. They’re like having a windproof sleeping bag on your hands.
Installing some grip warmers is another way to keep your hands and fingers warm, but not all bikes can power them. It takes a little extra wiring, and you have to see if the stator on your bike can handle the extra watts that it takes to hear them up. They go under your grips, so not the quickest mod, but they work well when you need them in the cold.
How you set up your dirt bike tires greatly depends on the surface you’re riding. For example, you want hard terrain tires that are soft if you’re riding on cold, hard ground so that you get good traction and don’t slide out.
Lower your tire pressure will increase traction if you feel that they’re too hard and sliding around. When your tires aren’t getting traction, you lose confidence and have to ride much slower.
Depending on the terrain and speed you’re riding, you may have to make your dirt bike suspension softer. When you ride in the cold, you’re more likely to ride slower on the harder ground.
This will cause your normally tuned suspension to be stiff and harsh. Doing little things like adjusting the clickers will help make riding more comfortable.
Can You Ride A Dirt Bike In Snow?
Yes, you can ride in the snow, but it depends on the type of snow you’re riding in and what your dirt bike is set up for. The difficulty changes as it gets deeper and softer (powder), at least with a stock dirt bike.
How to set your dirt bike up for snow riding
Most dirt bikes can handle up to 3-4″ deep snow, even with stock tires and everything. Once it starts getting deeper than 6″ or it’s icy and slippery, you’re going to have to make some modifications or upgrades.
It’s either going to require studded tires, or a complete snow bike kit if you want to ride your dirt bike in deep powder.
How to ride a dirt bike in the snow
Riding a dirt bike in snow is a little bit like riding in sand. It requires good clutch and throttle control to get traction, as well as proper body position to stay balanced.
A simple tip is to use the clutch as little as possible and let the torque of the engine accelerate you. Having smooth throttle inputs will give you traction, keeping you in control because the rear tire isn’t sliding out or digging a hole in the snow.