However tempting it is, please do not go riding without protective gear. Shorts and a t-shirt may look tempting in the heat, but it isn’t worth the risk to your skin, and believe it or not, it’s actually worse for cooling than wearing proper gear. Read on for our top tips to riding in the heat…
Avoid the hottest time of the day
One obvious way to avoid the severity of the sun’s rays is to avoid the hottest periods of the day for your motorcycle ride or trip which is usually between 12:00 noon to 15:00 (3:00 p.m.). There’s plenty of daylight in the summer months, so heading out early or later in the day can still mean you are riding in great conditions.
Riding in the morning or late afternoon/early evening can have its own benefits – quieter roads, and less traffic. Unless circumstances force you to ride through the middle of the day in the summer, try to ride in the mornings or the late afternoons / early evenings when the sun is less intense.
Keep your gear on and skin covered
Of course, on a motorcycle you need to wear abrasion and impact resistant gear, which can be hot. So, it’s often not surprising how many riders remove gear and opt for shorts and t-shirts when the temperatures rise. But exposed areas of skin are much harder to cool. Your sweat evaporates from the air/wind rushing over it at speed. This in fact causes you to dehydrate faster. It may seem counterintuitive to cover yourself with clothes in the heat, but you need to.
Performance undergarments for base layers are great. With a huge array of technical clothing now available, there are many lightweight materials with moisture-wicking properties that’ll help you cool off and prevent the uncomfortable build-up of sweat underneath your gear.
When motorcycling – riding along – the wind moving across even the smallest open part of your body can remove the heat produced. This is convective heat lost, and is related directly to wind speed.
Sweating is important to help regulate body temperature. As sweat evaporates, heat is removed from your body. Wearing your protective clothing will help the sweating and heat dissipation process work better. And then consider when humidity is present this cooling mechanism becomes even more challenging, since air is already saturated with water and sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily.
While sweating is necessary to help cool the body, the production of sweat comes at the expense of your body fluids. The loss of as little as 2 to 3 percent of your body weight due to dehydration can impair performance.
To help maintain adequate hydration and prevent heat illness while riding in the heat, it is vital that you acclimatize and that you replace fluids lost through sweating.
One of the biggest obstacles in hot weather is maintaining adequate hydration. You will sweat more as your body naturally tries to cool itself down. However, and as mentioned above, that sweat will evaporate quickly, making it hard for you to gauge exactly how much fluid you are losing.
Drink little and often when riding, and make sure that you have plenty with you. Use drinks with electrolytes which work to replace those lost by sweating.
Also, and if possible, during the days leading up to your motorcycle ride, increase your consumption of watery fruits and vegetables (watermelons and grapes). This building of sodium helps your body hold on to the fluid you’re drinking. Equally good is sipping on an electrolyte beverage during your ride and at roadside stops. Aim to drink at a rate of 10 to 12 millilitres per kilogram of body weight. This is about a 20-ounce bottle every hour for a 150 pound / 68 kilogram rider.
Wear a camelback! You can also consider wearing a camelback which are easily found in most motorcycle retail shops. This will allow for constant hydration while you’re riding!
Make frequent stops
One of the best ways to revitalise yourself is to get out of the heat into a cooler setting. A quick stop can get you through another tank of fuel even in the worst, the heat. If you can, plan your ride along roads that have fuel stations, towns, or scenic rivers and shady parks which are not too far from each other. This can also be pre-planned into your sat nav or smartphone route planners.
A sunburn does more than fry your skin, it contributes to your fatigue and even escalates your metabolism. When your metabolism speeds up this will mean increased fluid needs which can be a problem when you’re already struggling to stay hydrated.
Wear sunscreen on the exposed parts of your body and in particular your face and back of your neck which is unknowingly exposed on the bike. Use a quality sweat and water-resistant sunblock with an SPF of at least 30. Look for sunblock with lasting protection and be sure to follow the instructions on when to apply them. With heavy sweating you’ll need to reapply often.
Do everything you can to prevent sunburn and don’t forget a hat for those road-side stops when you remove your helmet.
Protect your eyes
If you’ve not got a visor on your helmet wear eye protection – sunglasses or goggles. And if you have a clear visor, wear eyewear too! Eyewear protection not only safeguards your eyes from damaging UV rays but also prevents dust, grit and flying insects from getting into your eyes. With a strain on seeing the road ahead, this will only be another factor adding to fatigue. Together, these will all distract you from the road and hinder your ability to manage risks.
Long hours in the sun expose unprotected eyes to dangerous UVA and UVB rays and can actually cause sunburned eyes. If your eyes are watering, itchy, sensitive to light, or dry and gritty, it’s likely you have sunburned eyes. And not just irritating, repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and near-UV light can contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration. It’s easy to prevent sunburned eyes by wearing eye protection all the time. Be sure your eye wear protects you with 100% UVA and UVB protection and HEV, near-UV or blue-light filtering. Think about frame size too—larger wider frames help prevent harmful rays from sneaking in at the sides or top of your glasses.
When you arrive home
Pay particular attention to fluid intake when you get home and be sure that first cool drink is something healthy and non-alcoholic. A recovery drink will refresh you! Next enjoy a cool (not hot) bath or shower. This will help you cool down and wash off the accumulated grime from the day. And how about a dish of ice-cream to finish off an amazing motorcycle ride?