18 TIPS TO STAY COOL ON HOT MOTORCYCLE RIDES
Riding on a hot summer day is as good as it gets. The sun on your face, the fresh breeze of wind and those long, open roads just waiting to be explored. It's a feeling of freedom strictly reserved for those daring enough to jump on a motorcycle.
Bikers have long struggled with the challenges of riding in hot weather. The extreme heat can take its toll on even the hardest of bodies, but with the right planning and knowledge, you can be two steps ahead of the sun's rays.
These tips should help keep sweating to a minimum so you can forget the heat and enjoy the ride.
A QUICK REFRESHER ON KEEPING COOL WHILE MOTORCYCLING
Staying hydrated and cool on the road is a case where prevention is better than intervention. Once your body temperature rises it can be a bitch to bring back down again, so make sure you've got a game plan well before you ride and not 20 minutes beforehand.
It's always a good idea to check the weather and know exactly what you'll be dealing with. With the weight of most motorcycle gear, even a quick summer ride can seriously fry you and zap your energy.
It's easy to forget on hot days that the gear is there to protect you. No matter how unforgiving the weather gets you should never forego the right clothing. This will be tough to swallow at times, but just ask yourself: do you want to sweat, or do you want to bleed?
18 WAYS TO STAY COOL WHILE RIDING IN HOT WEATHER
TIP #1: ALWAYS STAY HYDRATED
Hydration is the key to summer riding. It's your number one priority and the difference between a smooth ride or a long day of suffering.
Small, frequent sips are the best way to keep yourself topped up. You never want to go too long between drinks, because once the effects of dehydration hit you it can be incredibly hard to reverse the effects.
Stuffing water bottles under your seat is a good way to have easy access to fluids. If you don't have the space, you can grab a Camelbak or water bladder which lets you sip on water while you ride.
You should always carry water regardless of where you're going. Even if you plan on picking something up at the shops it still doesn't hurt to pack an emergency bottle just in case.
TIP #2: KNOW THE BEST ACCESSORIES FOR RIDING ON A HOT DAY
You wouldn't drive on a bright day without a pair of sunglasses, and the same goes for your bike. A tinted visor will be your best friend in sunny weather and can be swapped out quite easily with your current one.
A motorcycle helmet should have vent holes on the front or top, so open them up for some air flow. Likewise, a good pair of Adventure Gloves with mesh knuckles will increase breathability on your hands and reduce sweat, whenever you’re riding off road on a hot day.
TIP #3: MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE OF RIDING GEAR
There's a huge range of summer motorcycle gear made to fight the heat. Cooling vests can be worn under your riding jacket to absorb excess sweat. That sweat evaporates over time and draws heat away from your body.
An alternative to a cooling vest is an MX Top made from polyester mesh to keep you cool on or off the bike. Some riders also wear Base Layers, which have been proven to enable sweat to evaporate quickly and regulate body temperature.
Mesh jackets are strictly made for warm weather and designed to maximise air flow. The payoff of this increased breathability is a major decrease in protection. Mesh generally doesn't stand up to protective gear made from Dyneema and leather.
Check out our guide on Choosing the Right Motorcycle Jacket for more specific info.
Riding pants also come in a few different materials. Like jackets, they also come in mesh, but with the same decrease in protection as stated above. Motorcycle Jeans made from strong, lightweight material like Dyneema are a fashionable alternative that won't skimp on protection.
Feel free to take a more in-depth look at our Guide on Motorcycle Pants.
TIP #4: SLAP ON SOME SUNSCREEN
Good old sunscreen is still the best way to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Make sure to grab something with a high SPF factor, apply anywhere your skin isn't covered by clothing and don't forget the neck.
If your skin isn't very sensitive or darker it can still be affected by the sun. For extra-long rides don't forget to reapply.
TIP #5: AVOID ALCOHOL, ADDED SUGARS, AND CAFFEINE
Aside from the obvious drink/driving implications, alcohol is known to accelerate dehydration. Even drinking after a ride can rob you of hydration and contribute to a hangover the next day.
Caffeine's relationship with hydration is still a matter of debate but try to avoid it if possible. What's not debatable is that sugary drinks inhibit the body from absorbing water. So no matter how much you feel like smashing a can of coke, the effect is temporary and will hurt you in the long run.
TIP#6: KEEP YOURSELF HYDRATED WITH A SPORTS DRINK
Sports drinks, while sugary, contain electrolytes and carbohydrates that help you stay hydrated. Just don't go overboard. Any more than one bottle is probably overkill because the build-up of sugar will prevent your body from properly absorbing water.
TIP #7: ALWAYS CARRY EXTRA WATER
You'll never regret packing extra water on a hot day. Sooner or later we all get caught out by underestimating our required fluid intake, and a petrol station won't always be close by.
Small, frequent sips are the key to staying hydrated. When we drink water in big chugs it passes right through our system and ultimately achieves nothing.
TIP #8: MAKE GOOD FOOD CHOICES
If you're planning a ride in hot weather, it's better to go for a light breakfast. You might be the kind of person who loves to load up in the morning, but meals packed with protein and carbs need much more water to break down in your stomach.
This one's pretty obvious but stay away from salty snacks as well. Ditch that bag of peanuts for a watery fruit like an apple or pear to avoid that dreaded feeling of dry mouth.
TIP #9: MAKE FREQUENT STOPS
As a rule, try to take a break every hour. The rest will help reduce your body heat and fight fatigue from hitting you later in the day. This is a great chance to grab a cold drink and collect your bearings.
Try to find a resting place in the shade to let your body cool and prevent the onset of heat stress. Keep the breaks to about 10-15 minutes and you should feel a whole lot better.
If you don't feel like you need a rest after an hour of riding that's absolutely fine. Ride your own ride. But once you hit two hours then it's highly recommended that you stop and cool off.
TIP #10: AVOID RIDING DURING THE HOTTEST PART OF THE DAY
You won't always have the luxury of choice but, if possible, try to avoid riding between midday and 5 p.m. This is the hottest time of the day and where the dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are at their highest.
If you're a weekend rider, this could mean riding out somewhere for lunch and then spending the afternoon sightseeing or taking a cool dip. Waiting out the extremely hot afternoon hours also means you can ride home in the early evening and experience the magic of riding home at dusk while the sun sets.
TIP #11: STAY AWAY FROM AIR CONDITIONING
This might seem counterproductive, but sudden swings in your core temperature are going to cause some problems. It can lead to a cold and make you feel about 5x hotter once you leave the safety of the air con to face the sun again.
When your body feels that hit of cold air it will start burning energy to stay warm. This process takes some time, so your body will have started heating itself by the time you've gotten back on the bike. It's going to take some willpower but avoid the temptation of hanging inside that supermarket or petrol station for too long.
TIP #12: WATCH THE ROAD AHEAD
The hot, dry summer months can create unique hazards for riders. Road grime like grease, oil, and tyre rubber are normally washed away with rain, but if it hasn't rained for a while then the sudden exposure to eventual rainfall can create a slippery surface.
Always keep a lookout for fresh asphalt or black moisture on the road and don't take any chances. You'll want to be on high alert in the days after a fresh shower.
TIP #13: PLAN YOUR RIDING ROUTE AHEAD OF TIME
Know the weather forecast and your general route well in advance. Finding out the exact temperature you'll be riding in and how often you'll be able to restock at shops will make your packing decisions a whole lot easier.
TIP #14: PARK IN THE SHADE
Sitting in a car seat on a summer day can feel like putting your ass right on a hot grill, and bikes are no different. Park in the shade whenever possible, even for a short stop, or that black seat will burn up in no time.
For that same reason, you should avoid leaving your helmet on the seat. It can get surprisingly hot when left out for too long.
TIP #15: WATCH YOUR MOTORCYCLE OIL
A motorcycle's oil is at risk of overheating in extreme heat. It's important to check the state of your engine and know if action needs to be taken well before the situation reaches a crisis point.
Some motorcycles may benefit from having a fan-assisted cooler installed. Harleys are especially at risk from overheating, so it may be best to have one installed as a precaution.
If you're unsure about whether you need a cooler, get in touch with your dealer and see what they have to say.
TIP #16: DON'T TAKE OFF YOUR MOTORCYCLE GEAR
As the day heats up the temptation to ditch some gear will increase. It won't necessarily be something big like your helmet or jacket, but something small like your gloves because your hands are getting too sweaty.
Every piece of riding gear is there for a reason. If you make contact with the ground your natural instinct will be to stick your hands out. That's bad news if you took your gloves off 40 minutes ago.
TIP #17: KEEP YOUR SKIN COVERED
As much as you'd like to feel the fresh air, exposed skin will dehydrate you faster. Your body sweats as a way to cool you off, but this won't work if the sweat is evaporating off of you.
Sunscreen is great but it doesn't work like a magic shield. A full day of exposure can still leave you with 2nd degree burns regardless of how much you apply.
TIP #18: USE COMMON SENSE
If you start to feel light-headed or get a headache, there's a decent chance your body is overheating. Don't try to be a hero and ride it out. Follow the advice for treating heat exposure (listed below) and let yourself cool off.
Likewise, if the weather is extremely hot then you might want to consider riding another day. If you follow the correct advice then you'll probably pull through but might find yourself so exhausted afterward that it wasn't worth it.
Rider fatigue is an issue that only increases with heat. If you're already feeling tired or you've been riding in the heat for the last few days, jumping on a bike in full gear might not be a good idea.
Heat-induced drowsiness can make you less sharp on the road. If you're a seasoned rider it can be easy to become complacent and zone out under the intense heat. Sometimes a short break can help battle fatigue and get you going again.
MOTORCYCLE TRIP ESSENTIAL LIST
- Pack plenty of fluids
- Know what to wear when riding a motorcycle in hot weather
- Don't forget sunscreen
- Keep your skin covered
- Plan ahead
WATCH OUT FOR SIGNS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION OR HEAT STROKE
Any rider should be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, and eventually heat stroke. These can include heavy sweating, fatigue, feeling light-headed, shallow breathing, and a headache.
If you feel these symptoms coming on, listen to your body and get somewhere cool. Take off your gear and have some water to get your body cooled down. Splash some cold water on your face if possible.
If heat exhaustion persists and your body temperature rises to above 40.5 degrees Celsius then you've got heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency. If this happens it's critical to lower your body heat as soon as possible.
Heat stroke usually comes with feeling a sudden rise in your temperature, a rapid pulse, intense thirst, dizziness, and red, hot dry skin. Sweating will actually stop at this stage.
AFTER YOUR RIDE
When your riding is over for the day then it's time to relax. Seek out some air conditioning, have a cold drink or an ice cream, and cool yourself off.
If you've spent a fair amount of time riding in the heat, it's advisable to take the next day off. Multiple days of sunny weather will eventually take a toll and leave you feeling worn down and exhausted.
WHAT SHOULD YOU NOT WEAR WHEN RIDING A MOTORCYCLE?
You shouldn’t wear regular clothing while riding a motorcycle, because it will quickly get torn to shreds if things go random on the road.
It's tempting to throw on shorts and t-shirts when things heat up, but you'll need to wear proper gear to protect yourself.
Try to stick to light coloured clothing if possible. This is a tricky one because most motorcycle gear comes in black so just do what you can. Light colours have been proven to deflect far more heat than darker materials.
IS IT SAFE TO RIDE A MOTORCYCLE IN OVER 35 DEGREE WEATHER?
It can be safe to ride a motorcycle in over 35 degree weather, but you need to ride smart and follow the above tips for riding in the heat. Just keep hydration a priority and don't try to be a hero.
Plenty of riders brave the heat no matter what. Things might get uncomfortable but when there's a will there's a way.
WHAT TEMPERATURE IS TOO HOT FOR A MOTORCYCLE?
A temperature of 45 degrees or over could be too hot for a motorcycle and it’s likely time to call it quits. You could be acclimated to these kinds of temperatures and have no problem riding in full gear, so it comes down to the individual.
You might live in a part of the world that just gets absurdly hot. Most high temperatures can be ridden in with the right approach but there has to be a breaking point, right?
The final call here is up to you. If things are getting too hot for comfort and riding could be genuinely dangerous then it's not worth the risk. Don't ask your body for more than it's willing to give.
DO BIKERS WEAR LEATHER IN HOT WEATHER?
Yes, a lot of bikers wear black leather jackets in hot weather. While leather is tighter and heavier than textiles, it absorbs and releases perspiration to allow the jacket to breathe.
Some leather jackets come with strategically placed perforation panels to increase airflow. Alternatively, you can find leather gear with ventilation zippers that can be adjusted depending on the weather.
Leather is still a warm material regardless of any extra features it might include. If you're married to that old-school look and can't see yourself riding in anything else then you can make it work. Plenty of riders do.
If you're open to alternatives or you just live in a really hot area, you might want to consider a textile alternative. If you don't mind spending the cash, you could always grab a summer jacket and save your leather for the other three quarters of the year