May 27 2009 by Jason Fogelson
As I've mentioned before, I'm an ATGATT guy (All The Gear, All The Time). But as temperatures begin to creep up, even the most devoted safety gear wearer can find it challenging to balance safety and comfort.
Here are some DOS AND DON'TS to help you stay comfortable, cool and safe on your motorcycle when the heat is on.
DON'T lose the jacket. One of the big mistakes riders make in hot weather is to take off their riding jackets and ride in a t-shirt or tanktop.
Not only do you lose the crash protection that a good jacket can provide, you're actually speeding the rush to heat stroke by exposing your skin to the elements. When you ride in hot weather, the wind speeds sweat evaporation. Your body produces sweat to cool you down, and the hot air rushing over your skin as you ride dries the sweat quickly - so your body sweats more. Dehydration occurs rapidly, and before you know it, you've got a headache, your riding suffers and you are a danger to yourself and others. A much better choice is to find a hot weather jacket. High tech fabrics like you'll find on Harley-Davidson Motorclothes' FXRG® Textile Jacket ($495 - $515) can provide great abrasion and crash protection, while controlled ventilation allows air to circulate beneath the jacket and heat to escape. If you absolutely must wear leather, check out a perforated leather jacket like the new FXRG® Perforated Leather Jacket ($625 - $645).
DON'T lose the helmet. The same warnings apply to helmets that apply to jackets - exposing your head to the elements while riding a motorcycle is just plain not safe. Sure, the wind in your hair feels great - but you're drying yourself out and raising your body temperature in a hurry. Find a helmet with good ventilation like the Profile from Arai ($481 - $593) , and select a lighter-colored shell. Your brain will thank you.
DON'T lose the gloves. Think about falling off of your bike - what's the first thing that is going to hit the pavement? In all likelihood it will be your hands. Hot weather gloves can be made from the same kind of high-tech materials and perforated leathers that we're finding in jackets nowadays. Just make sure that your gloves have sturdy, well-protected palms for safety. Check out the Perforated Full Throttle Gloves from Olympia Gloves ($49.95).
DO hydrate. One of the best things you can do to avoid heat-related health issues is to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeine drinks, and avoid alcohol (of course). Drink plenty of water before you start riding, and stop frequently in hot weather to drink some more. If you're going to be riding in a really hot climate, like through the desert, consider a hydration pack like the ones from Camelbak ($24 - $139), so that you can drink water while you ride.
DO use cool wraps. Keeping some cool moisture next to your skin can help keep your body temperature from rising. Several companies make cool wraps that encapsulate moisture-retaining crystals within cloth. Soak the cool wrap in water for a few minutes, then use the wrap as a neckerchief during your ride, and it will help keep you cool for hours. There are even vests with similar technology. Check out MiraCool for an explanation of the process and some products.
DO avoid the mid-day heat. Check the weather forecast before you ride. If it looks like a really hot day, consider heading out at dawn to take advantage of the cool morning air. Take a riding break during the hottest part of the day. There's nothing like an afternoon nap under a shady tree to add to the vacation feeling. Then ride again in the early evening, when the heat abates.
Don't become a victim of the heat.