Beat the Heat by Dressing for Success
Given the option, we’re fairly certain that most riders wouldn’t make the choice to go for a long, long ride in the oppressive summer heat. However, sometimes the Point B to your Point A is on the other side of a long stretch of highway that goes straight through the desert. The uneducated rider could be tempted to shed layers in order to combat the scorching heat, compromising their safety in the process. Let us submit to you that there is a better way, and with a little research and ponying up some cash, you can have appropriate riding attire that will keep you both safe and cool for the long haul.
Get the Right Gear
Unless your riding jacket is purely ornamental, most modern riding jackets come with zippered vents in the front and the back to facilitate airflow. With this simple feature, the combined elements of your forward momentum and the ventilation of your jacket can do wonders when it comes to keeping cool, or at least not becoming a sweaty mess.
To achieve maximum cool, most riders recommend wearing a mesh jacket. Many mesh riding jackets feature large areas where airflow can whip right through, keeping you cool. You should be careful though — too much mesh creates a mighty mess in the event of a wreck. You don’t want mesh material to be on a part of your body that may come into contact with the road in the event of a crash because it’s basically like wearing nothing.
You may also find that there are some options for riding pants that feature vents and mesh material as well. The same rule applies, however — mesh is great for airflow, but be careful not to go nuts with it, because your protection could be compromised.
Another great piece of riding gear that you should keep stowed away for a sunny day is a “cool vest.” Contrary to how it sounds, this is not a vest that makes you look super cool. It’s a cool vest in the most literal sense of the word. These vests are designed to be soaked in and absorb water, wrung out to get rid of excess moisture, and then worn under a vented jacket. The moisture that is trapped inside the vest evaporates over time, resulting in a natural cooling effect. It’s the same reason that your body sweats — evaporating moisture causing cooling, and these vests keep this going for hours at a time.
Most helmets nowadays are designed to admit some level of ventilation. Check with the manufacturer of your helmet to see how they accounted for ventilation before committing to a particular design. Some helmets let in so much air that it’s like riding into a leaf blower, while others are so stifling that it’s like riding in a fishbowl. Many times, the size of your head and the placement of the helmet can affect the level of ventilation you’re able to achieve, so consider that when helmet shopping as well.
Choose the Right Ride
The windscreen on your bike can make or break your experience when you’re riding in the heat. If you live in a locale where it’s regularly very hot, having a big ol’ windscreen can really put a damper on the effectiveness of your ventilated riding gear. Sure, the added protection from the wind can be great when you’re in a temperate or cool environment, but when you’re riding straight into the Devil’s breath, that windscreen will bypass any hope of cooling airflow.
Obviously it’s not practical to have a “summer bike” and a “winter bike” for most riders, so it’s helpful to really consider your climate when you’re making a bike purchase. Choose a motorcycle that isn’t going to be a constant hindrance to your health and comfort when you ride it.
Hydrate or Die
Excessive heat makes you sweat, and the more profusely you sweat, the faster you’re losing precious moisture. Perhaps the most vital defense you can have for yourself, even more than fancy ventilated jackets, is to stay hydrated.
When you’re dehydrated, you can start experiencing negative symptoms that range from minor to severe and can be catastrophic while riding a motorcycle. You know you’re dehydrated when you have a dry mouth, a headache, or start experiencing high levels of fatigue or dizziness. It’s safe to say that you don’t want to be in a position where you’re sleepy and dizzy while careening down the highway — that’s a recipe for disaster.
Pushing yourself to your limit and then chugging a gallon of water isn’t the best solution for this problem either. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, and you’ve waited too long to get a drink. Many riders recommend that, for extended rides through hot areas, you should invest in a wearable water bladder or backpack that you can wear over your jacket with a handy tube that stays clipped in place. This allows you to regularly sip as you ride, counteracting becoming dehydrated and avoiding the literal headache.
It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway — caffeine drinks like soda and coffee, while they may help with staying alert, do very little to actually keep you hydrated. Water is the most important thing that you should be consuming to stay healthy and alert while riding.
Make Sure Your Bike is Good to Go with Ruhnke’s
In the end, you really should be riding in the summer heat with a load of common sense. If you know it’s going to be hotter than the sun during a particular ride, get an early start and maybe find a nice place to stop for a bit during the hottest part of the day. Before you head out, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend that you ensure all of the components of your bike are in proper working order. If you need a fix or a part replaced, your team at Ruhnke’s Xtreme Cycles has you covered. Contact us before your summer ride!