Hot Tips for Riding Your Motorcycle in Warm Weather
If you’re thinking about taking up motorcycling, you probably have a good handle on the gear you’ll need — helmet, jacket and pair of riding pants (or one-piece motorcycle suit), gloves, boots, and possibly body armor. If you’re not sure exactly what might need, consult the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for specific details. You’re also probably thinking about extras such as rain gear, long underwear and anything else that might help protect you while you’re exposed to the elements.
You’re probably not thinking about how to manage all of this on a blazing late-summer/early-fall day, when the heat radiates both from the atmosphere and from the pavement, and a brutal sun beats down. To be fair, many veteran riders who are accustomed to cooler climates or shoulder-season rides may not be familiar with the best way to approach a hot-weather ride, either.
If you’re going to be riding a motorcycle in a hotter climate, you need to carefully consider your hot-weather riding gear, and your best hot-weather riding practices.
Make Sure You’re Wearing the Right Gear
- Dress in layers. According to Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine, more is still better when riding in hot weather. While you’re riding, you’ll experience a wind-chill effect, so you don’t want to dress too lightly. When you stop, remove layers as needed. Stay cool with one moisture-wicking layer, as the cover will retain moisture and help your body cool itself. It also protects you from direct sun and wind.
- The folks at BikeBandit.com recommend a full-face vented helmet. Race-oriented helmets are best, because they feature large vents and lots of air flow. (There will be additional noise with these, so ear plugs are a good idea.)
- The site also recommends getting a mesh or vented motorcycle jacket.
- A cooling motorcycle vest, which you soak in water, wring out, and wear underneath a vented jacket, is also recommended by BikeBandit. It’s the closest thing you’ll get, they say, to air-conditioning on a bike. (Full cool suits are also available.)
- Mesh or vented motorcycle gloves.
- Vented motorcycle pants made of breathable material.
- And well-ventilated motorcycle boots (don’t forget moisture-wicking socks, so your feet will stay dry and cool).
Cool Technique: If you’re wearing a T-shirt underneath your motorcycle jacket, SoundRider.com suggests soaking it, wringing it out and putting it back on underneath that vented jacket. It’s not as fancy as a cooling vest or cool suit, but it’ll give you an extra blast of A/C on an uncomfortably hot day.
Adjust Your Riding for Hot Summer Days
- Route planning: Northwest Motorcycling Sound Rider suggests choosing higher-elevation routes if possible; if there’s no alternative, adjust your timing so you’re riding in the cooler mornings and evenings rather than in the heat of mid-day. Also, the Used Harley Dealer blog recommends choosing routes with shade (i.e. not the freeway), routes free of stoplights, and routes free of construction or traffic jams. If you do get stuck, turn off your engine, especially if you have an air-cooled bike.
- Hydration: HowStuffWorks.com advises the use of a hydration bladder — a backpack-style reservoir that allows a motorcyclist to drink without using his or her hands. Hydration backpacks can be filled with water, ice or sports drinks.
- Take advantage of evaporative cooling: Olympia Gloves recommends wearing motorcycle gear specially designed to be protective yet well-ventilated; combine that with light layers underneath (see all aforementioned gear tips!). And, don’t forget the sunscreen. Protect all exposed skin, especially on the backs of your hands, on your wrists, and on the back of your neck.
- Cell phones and umbrellas: Bring both, says Used Harley Dealer. If you break down, you’ll want to be able to call for assistance… and give yourself some shade while you wait for help to arrive.
- Extra oil: Have this on hand, says Olympia Gloves, in case your bike overheats.
- Keep an even more careful eye on the road: Olympia Gloves notes that patches of oil can be extremely hot and slippery on a summer day. Avoid them.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Watch yourself, and your companions, because these are dangerous conditions. Northwest Motorcycling Sound Rider provides a good list of symptoms and action steps.
Learn from more experienced riders! If you do an online search for “summer motorcycle riding tips,” a number of blogs will pop up (a great example is The Lost Adventure). Connect with the motorcycling community, ask questions, be prepared and get out there! The road awaits.