How To Calculate Wind Chill On A Motorcycle & Understanding Its Effects

Riding in the summer is nothing short of sublime for bikers. You have the open road in front of you with knees in the breeze. These are the experiences that lay the foundation for some awesome memories. However, when the temperatures take a nosedive, it’s anything but fun anymore. You may find yourself asking how to calculate wind chill on a motorcycle because it feels so darn cold.

What Is Wind Chill?

The term describes what it feels like to you, taking into account the ambient temperature and wind speed. The National Weather Service actually has a scientific formula for determining what it is. If you like math, here’s what you need to calculate:

Wind chill = 35.74 + (0.6215 × T) − (35.75 × Windsfc  0.16  )  + (0.4275 × T × Windsfc  0.16  )

Windsfc  equals the wind speed and T, the temperature. Fortunately, you’ll find online calculators to do the heavy lifting for you. You’re probably scratching your head at this point, wondering how it can possibly describe why your teeth are chattering? It is a subjective figure. Many other factors can affect how you perceive it, including:

  • Clothing and outerwear
  • Humidity
  • Perspiration
  • Precipitation

Other things can also play a role. For example, if you’re taking a beta-blocker for high blood pressure, you likely feel cold before anyone else because of its slowing effects on circulation to your extremities. That doesn’t mean that it’s a useless calculation. Instead, you need to take it for what it is—a standardized means of figuring out how the elements will may affect you.

When the temp is getting below freezing, a degree or two difference in what you think it is versus what the wind chill says isn’t going to make a lot of difference. Heed the warning if there is a risk of frostbite or worse. However, when you’re on your bike, it’s another story.

True Versus Apparent Wind

The fact that you’re riding brings another player on the field. That’s where you need to consider both true and apparent wind. The first term describes what you feel standing still or waiting at the stoplight. It’s the breeze blowing past you. The second one considers what you perceive when the wind is rushing past you as you move forward.

Taking into account your speed, that ups the ante. When going back to the equation, you need to add that bit to determine wind chill or what you feel as you ride down the road. Say you’re out for a ride on a day with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees. Standing still, it feels about 47 degrees with an 8 mph breeze. You can see where the subjective part comes into play.

Now, suppose you’re biking at 25 mph. The wind chill then dips down to 43 degrees. You’ll likely notice that temperature difference more than just the effects of the true wind. That means you’re at a higher risk of frostbite or worse because your body is in motion. If you’re cruising at 55 mph on the highway, that figure drops to 40 degrees. Then, you’re starting to approach the danger zone.

Take the warning and pay attention. Experienced riders get it. There’s no shame in taking the extra steps to keep yourself warm and, in turn, protect you and others on the road. It’s essential to remember that comfort is the primary concern since it can affect your control over your bike and your safety.

How to Protect Yourself Against the Elements

The first conclusion that you can now draw is that wind chill is a thing. There is some wiggle room where the figure lands. However, the effect is real. There is also an inverse relationship between speed and wind chill. When the former goes up, the latter goes down in stride. The effects increase the faster you go because of its impact on the apparent wind. It is the fulcrum regarding what you feel.

Even if you’re anti-helmet, they serve a purpose on cold rides. They keep your noggin warm. Besides, get real. They provide a lot more protection and warmth than a stocking cap. However, contrary to popular belief, you don’t lose an excessive amount of heat through your head. That’s doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put something on your head. You’re also protecting your ears which are vulnerable to frostbite.

Don’t Make Yourself Colder

You can also keep yourself comfortable by staying dry. The moisture acts as a lightning bolt to bringing the cold of the ambient air to your core. There are right and wrong ways to go about keeping you dry. Take a clue from hikers and opt for fabrics that breathe. They will disperse the perspiration away from your skin.

Don’t forget your extremities. Your hands and feet need protection too. Remember that they are responsible for steering and stopping your motorcycle. Therefore, they deserve high-priority attention. You might consider upgrading your bike to keep you toasty with foot warmers or extra protection over the grips.

Consider your stance on the bike too. By reducing your profile when crouching over your ride, you reduce the surface area in direct contact with the wind. You’ll also trap your ambient body heat close to you to keep you warmer than if you sit straight in the saddle. That’s easy in a 3 wheel motorcycle where you have some more leverage with balance.

Motorcycle manufacturers understand the needs of their customers. One thing they’d like is for you to get the most enjoyment out of your bike. That’s why you’ll see modifications in modern-day cycles to address some of the glaring downsides of owning a motorcycle. After all, the industry has seen a slight decline in sales in recent years.

When You Need to Act

The onus rests with you and your biking companions to look out for each other. Bikers take care of bikers. It’s imperative to recognize the signs of frostbite and hypothermia before than can impact your ride. Both can have disastrous consequences for everyone in your group. The risks don’t mean that you have to forgo late season cycling. You just have to play it smart.

Early symptoms of frostbite include numbness in your extremities, which can lead to difficulty in handling. You may find it uncomfortable or even painful to deal with the vibrations from the road. If it gets worse, you’ll notice blisters developing or a change in skin color. Don’t wait. Get off the road and find a place to warm up even if it’s just a rest stop or wayside.

Hypothermia is even a greater health and safety risk because it affects your judgment. Motorcycling is dangerous enough without adding the added risk of an impaired rider. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a bike or driving a car, you need to have your full attention on the road. Anything that interferes with it is a cause for concern for anyone driving.

It’s evident that the term wind chill is a subjective one. What feels cold to you may be unnoticeable to someone else. The wind chill sets the bar to help you gauge how it impacts your experience. The best way to use it is to use it to set your parameters. That will help you plan better for rides when the temperature is dropping to a point where it can affect the experience.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on one of the many used motorcycles on the road or in the wind with a high-end Ducati. Safe driving during the colder months takes preparation and a healthy dose of common sense. Getting into the wind with a cycle is an experience to savor and enjoy. Make the most out of it by ensuring that you’re comfortable no matter what the weather throws your way.