Riding my Guzzi California in cold weather

January 19th, 20110 Comments »

If you are like me, it is a little agonizing to not to be able to ride your motorcycle (hopefully a California) during the bad parts of the winter. I keep my Vintage in a garage on the center stand and plugged into my Battery Tender Junior ready to go.  I don’t bother covering it because the weather here in the Carolinas is not bad for long, so I’m usually able get out on it every few weeks during the winter.  One or two weeks between short rides seems like forever sometimes.

As you know by now, I have a Moto Guzzi California Vintage. It does not come with any heated features except for the heat from the engine. I may be crazy, but I like it this way. The cylinder layout actually works well for warming the hands and legs at stop lights. This is one of the convenient benefits of the Moto Guzzi engine design.

Anyway, the minimalistic 350 Watt alternator could have a hard time keeping up with some heated riding gear especially if riding two-up with heated gear on. This is not the bike for someone that needs all the modern luxuries of a high end BMW or Honda GoldWing, but it certainly can handle cold weather ridding and is plenty fun without all the gadgets.

The Vintage has splash guards on the highway bars that help deflect some of the air away from your lower legs and feet. I don’t experience any problems with cold air affecting that part of me while riding with thin pants on. On cold morning commutes, the part of me that freezes the worst is my knee caps.

I don’t own a pair of proper riding pants yet, so I wear jeans or work-appropriate pants when I commute. When it is at or below freezing outside, my knee caps feel like two hockey pucks that were taken from a deep freezer and glued to my legs. I’m not kidding.  It takes a while before I can feel them again.

From my experience, the California Vintage windshield does a sufficient job blocking air up to about 55 mph or so. Beyond that, you’ll get some buffeting.  Perhaps a slightly taller aftermarket windshield would help, but since  I don’t spend much time riding on highways at high speed, the stock windshield suits me just fine.

Adding some lower air deflectors at the lower sides of the windshield or near the upper fork tubes might help. Something like the type of lowers that National Rifle offers or maybe the adjustable Baker Built Wings. I have not found anyone that promises these to fit a Moto Guzzi California, or California Vintage.  Not surprising.  It’s not easy to be special :).

Like everything else, all it takes is time and money to make a set of deflectors. I don’t have enough of either to do this experiment even though I would like to try to make something or adapt something. I have seen a few others attempt it, but the results reported were not as good as they hoped for. If you know of anything, aside from adding a completely different fairing, please let me and other Cali owners know by leaving your suggestion below this article in the comments.

When I ride in the cold, I wear my full-face helmet with a fleece neck warmer. If you don’t have a fleece neck warmer yet, you are really missing out. This is the best working, most comfortable, and least expensive piece of practical riding gear you can possibly own. Don’t waste money on fancy ones, just a decent quality fleece neck tube is all you need.

To keep my face shield from fogging up, I do use Plas-Tec plastic cleaner. I tested this stuff about a year or so ago as a favor, and I found that it really works well. I have been using it ever since on my helmet and face shield. You can get this through me at a reasonable price with shipping included (sorry, USA customers only).

Cycle Gear store in Matthews North CarolinaI tend to go the cheap route with most things I need for riding since I have a family. I discovered that the warmest and most comfortable cold weather riding jacket for me consists of two thin jackets layered. I wear an insulated nylon jacket (I actually got it for free several years ago when I bought a bunch of Owens-Corning insulation for my old house in upstate New York).

Over that, I wear a black Motoboss rain jacket that I bought from Arnold at the Cycle Gear store in Matthews, NC for about $29 two years ago. These are available at Cycle Gear online also. Arnold’s store is just a few miles up 74 from Carl at Union Cycle, my local Moto Guzzi dealer.

Combined, these two thin jackets do an awesome job of keeping me completely warm, even in sub-freezing temperatures, and they are extremely comfortable because they weigh almost nothing and they don’t restrict my movement in any way. The Motoboss jacket has reflective stripes, so I also feel a bit safer when commuting home in the dark during winter months.

For cold weather motorcycle gloves, I wear a pair of Olympia 6000 gauntlet gloves.  These are nylon, but have leather reinforced palms.  I bought them online at Motorcycle Superstore a few years ago for less than $20.  I described these in an article on Motorcycle Information web site back when I bought them.  I continue to wear these and they have held up perfectly.  These same gloves kept my hands dry in pouring rain late this summer when I rode home 4 plus hours from the coast after volunteering as a motorcycle marshal for the Breakaway to the Beach 2010 charity event to fight MS.

As I mentioned above, I don’t have proper motorcycle pants yet. I actually want to get a pair of over-pants that zip up the entire leg length for easy on and off for work, but these usually cost more than $150. My wife kindly bought me a pair of inexpensive knee warmers to wear under my jeans on cold days.  They’re a little embarrassing, but they do help.

She ordered the warmers from the Vermont Country Store, one of our favorite places to visit in New England. Their Westin store is located on the scenic and curvy Route 100 in Vermont. I dream to ride my Moto Guzzi California on that road some summer day.  Unfortunately, it is about a 15 hour ride from where I live.  Winters there a all about the skiing and the fine dining at bed and breakfasts – I highly recommend visiting that area on a winter vacation, it’s a lot of fun.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotoGuzziCalifornia.Com. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding and maintaining his Moto Guzzi California Vintage. John participates in local charity rides and also served as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for one of the largest annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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