One of the most oppressive conditions you can be in is extremely hot weather. For many other weather conditions there are ways to make yourself feel comfortable, but short of laying in a pool, oppressive heat is soul draining.
Now imagine having to ride a motorcycle when the sun is beating down something fierce. It’s an engineering marvel that today’s motorcycles can withstand such punishing heat – but can you?
There’s no two ways about it. Riding in super hot weather is taxing on both the body and especially the mind. But there are tips, tricks, and products, designed specifically to keep you cool, calm, and collected on the bike even if it seems the world around you is going to melt.
Here, we’ve gathered 9 tips to remember on your next hot-weather ADV ride. Some of these might seem like common sense, while hopefully others are new ideas you hadn’t thought of before.
1. Stay Hydrated!
Hydration is first and foremost on this list because it’s literally the difference between life and death, even when it’s not hot outside. If you know you’ll be facing intense heat, start hydrating ahead of time.
Water is fine at this stage. The exact amount of water is debatable, but your body has a clever way of regulating itself and telling you if you’re dehydrated or not.
First, how often are you urinating? If you don’t have the constant urge to pee every hour or two, that’s the first sign you’re not drinking enough water.
But even if you are going to the bathroom a lot, yellow urine is another dehydration marker. Extremely yellow is a bad sign, and the lighter it gets, the better. Clear urine is a great sign and says your body is well hydrated.
Once you’re out on the ride, it’s important to keep hydrated, especially if you’re already the type who sweats a lot. Wear water bladders on your back and keep drinking. It’s best to keep only water in these bladders – anything else becomes a much bigger chore to clean later.
Speaking of sweat, pay attention to how much you’re sweating. You’re losing a lot of water, so it’s important to stay on top of it. But you’re also losing electrolytes which keep your body and mind sharp. So, every other gas stop, it’s not a bad idea to have the occasional sports drink – just be mindful of the sugar content and dilute with water, if necessary.
Another thing to be mindful of: how much you’re urinating. This is your sign your body has what it needs and is releasing any excess. If half the day has gone by and you haven’t gone once, that’s a bad sign. So drink up (water, that is)!
If there’s only one bit of advice we give here, it’s keep drinking water.
2. Wear Mesh/Vented Gear
It should go without saying, but you want as much airflow going to your body as possible. So wearing gear with plenty of ventilation is crucial. In case you weren’t aware, your sweat that’s sitting on top of your skin meets with the passing air to cool your body down.
If you’ve ever stepped out of the shower or pool and immediately felt cool or even cold, then you’ve felt the effects of water and air on the body.
The good news is plenty of apparel manufacturers have great summer gear that incorporates lots of ventilation with plenty of protection.
3. Sweat-Wicking Underlayers
Now that you know how sweat and air work together to cool your body, wearing sweat-wicking underlayers becomes even more important.
These layers pull the sweat coming off your body and puts it on top of the material, giving it first crack at the oncoming air to cool your body most efficiently.
Cotton, by contrast, will suck the sweat and absorb it. Not only does this make your shirt feel soggy and heavy, but it puts a layer of cotton between the air and the sweat it’s trying to partner with to cool you off.
4. Keep Your Neck (and Head) Cool
This is important enough to deserve a separate section. Much of your body temperature is regulated through your neck and head. However, since your neck is one of the few parts of your body exposed while riding, the hot air streaming by your neck could make you feel hotter, faster.
There’s an easy fix to delay, or even neutralize, this effect: sweat-wicking neck wraps. These wraps are made from the same synthetic materials as the base layers in the point above, but are designed to go around your neck and perform the same function. If you haven’t tried them before, you’ll be surprised how refreshed you’ll feel with a wet neck wrap on.
Similarly, there are skull caps made from the same material that do the same function. These work particularly well if you’re bald or have short hair. If you have longer hair, just dunk your head in water before putting your helmet on.
5. Match Your Gear
No, this has nothing to do with fashion. We’re talking about matching your gear to the kind of riding you’ll be doing. When it’s really hot out, any piece of gear you can substitute for a lighter alternative is welcome.
Riding dual-sports on single track means wearing different gear than piloting a GS across the Sahara. Can you skip the multi-layer jackets for body armor and a jersey?
6. Avoid Alcohol
As tempting as it might be to grab a cold one (or a hard one) after a ride, alcohol is the last thing you want to drink when it’s scorching outside.
Do we really need to tell you why? It won’t hydrate you, and it’ll only make you feel worse as your body tries to metabolize the alcohol. Surely you know this, but we’ll repeat it for good measure.
7. Ride Early or Late
If you can’t postpone your ride, then hit the road either early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the hours where the sun is beating down the most.
This might mean having to adjust your sleep times, but it could be a useful tactic to avoid the hottest parts of the day. If the conditions are right to ride at night, that’s a good option too, and will let you cover a lot of ground.
8. Take Breaks
When the urge hits to take a break – do it. The heat from the sun combined with the heat from the motorcycle can take the energy out of anybody. So if you need to pull over, replenish, and get the energy back, go for it.
Bonus points if you can find a convenience store or gas station with a walk-in freezer to escape into.
9. Don’t Try To Be A Hero
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Don’t let your ego, pride, or even a deadline get in the way of you getting where you want to go safely. Heat stroke can make you delirious and weak – and it creeps up on you slowly.
Many times, if you start to realize you might be feeling the effects of heat stroke, it’s too late. And the last place you want to be when your body starts shutting down and overheating is on a motorcycle.
The truth is nobody will care about your story of how you overcame cramps and a protesting body just to ride your motorcycle. That is, if you make it to where you’re going at all. In fact, ridicule might be the response you get instead. Don’t be a hero. Take your time. Get there safely.
It goes without saying, riding in very hot weather is inconvenient at best and deadly at worst. Take all the precautions, listen to your body, and drink fluids until you can’t stand it anymore.
Then drink some more. If you absolutely have to ride in the searing heat, then follow the tips above to give yourself the best odds of getting there safely.