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As we prepare for our Summer riding season, the heat of riding is heavy on our minds! We’ll be coming from heading east on our annual Coast 2 Coast Ride, from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. For us, this means we’ll have to cross the deserts of California and Arizona, and endure the humidity of Georgia and Louisiana. Our readers have asked us how to keep cool on a long distance ride, and we’re happy to help! This summer riding guide is designed to help you prepare both your body and your bike for the high temperatures you’ll incur from state to state. Feel free to comment with your own ways to keep cool!
Acclimation is the process of training your body to perform efficiently in hot weather. Through heat acclimation your body undergoes physiological changes that improve cardiovascular function, cause your body to sweat sooner and more efficiently, and allow you to ride longer. Summer long distance riders should learn how to acclimate to hot weather to reduce the risk of heatstroke and heat-related deaths. Benefits of Acclimation include:
During the first 8 days, your core body temperature will readjust. Resting in heat, without activity will not acclimate your body. Work up to 60 – 100 minutes of exercise in hot climate. Eat enough calories to replace burned calories. A diet of 2100 calories is recommended during acclimation training.
Hydration for your ride begins during your acclimation process. Staying hydrated is essential when riding in hot weather. It takes two weeks to fully hydrate the body for a long road trip. Dehydration can result in decreased blood flow to the skin, decreased sweat production, reduced blood volume, and an increase in your core body temperature. The water lost from sweat must be replaced while exercising.
There are many causes of heat illness that are good to be aware of before you begin your acclimation process. Heat illness can be caused by dehydration, low level of fitness, current bacterial or viral infection, sleep deprivation, inappropriate clothing, and drugs and/or medications. Being aware of these risk factors can help you prevent heat illness.
Heat exhaustion occurs as the body continues to shunt blood away from the brain and muscles. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
If you begin to feel these symptoms during a desert ride, take immediate action before you pass out.
If you experience heat exhaustion and just try to “tough out” the heat without getting cooled down and re-hydrated, the body thermostats will begin to fail. Core temperature continues to rise (may go as high as 106 or 107 degrees F.), sweating stops, the heart beats even faster, and you may pass out. If you are coherent enough to recognize the symptoms, immediately get medical aid while you are still mobile. And watch your riding buddies for any of the following heat stroke symptoms.
Yes, heat stroke is life threatening. It’s a medical emergency. Don’t be bashful about calling 911 for assistance. In the meanwhile,
In hot weather, wear light colored, light weight or moisture wicking clothing. Heavy clothing that does not dry quickly will leave you hot and uncomfortable. Avoid over exposure to the sun, as heat fatigue and heat exhaustion will cause you serious issues and impair your ability to ride. Here’s a list of my essential summer riding gear:
Head Gear: Schuberth C3Pro W Multi-Tec Helmet
A Multi-Tec Helmet offers you the option of opening up for air along the ride. Believe it or not, I tend to ride with my helmet closed in extreme heat. This keeps the hot air from blowing in my face, and keeps the direct sunlight off of my skin, which results in cooler head temperatures. Be sure your helmet has great ventilation and air circulation. My choice is the Schuberth C3W Pro. After 2 major accidents and no head trauma, this is the only helmet for me.
Armor Up: Indian Mesh Riding Jacket
I used to think that riding with a jacket in extreme heat would just make me hotter. Boy, was I wrong. A Mesh Riding Jacket will offer your skin protection from direct sunlight, and cooling airflow as you ride. This keeps you much cooler than riding with no jacket at all. Mesh jackets often have removable armor for added protection against injury, and a light weight liner that can be added as the temperature drops. Available at indianmotorcyle.com
Upgrade your cool: Bilt Cooling Vest
When riding in extreme heat, the air itself can be one of your biggest issues, and sometimes, your sweat alone just isn’t enough. A cooling vest helps you create a barrier between your body and the elements. Soak the vest in water at each gas stop, and wear it under your jacket. As the vest dries, it keeps your body cool and comfortable. This vest also offers a waterproof lining, which will help keep you dry along the ride. Available at cyclegear.com
Hot Hands: Tourmaster Airflow Gloves
Airflow and palm cushion are the most important features for my gloves in extreme heat. Mesh gloves keep my hands cool and comfortable when riding. Available at cyclegear.com
Stay Dry: Moisture Wicking Clothing
Moisture wicking clothing is light, well ventilated and designed to keep your dry and cool in the heat. Heat Out gear is designed with riders in mind, and includes technology designed to keep you cool, dry and bacteria free.
Heat-Out gear technology is specifically designed with riders in mind. Their special blended material keeps you cool and dry. Heat-Out gear is designed in a men’s cut, and is made to fit snug, as a base layer under your jacket and cooling vest. Available at cyclegear.com
Under Armour’s HeatGear technology offers a great moisture wicking fabric, in a loose fit. I prefer a lighter material and a loose fit when riding long distance. Your favorite athletic brand may also make a ventilated, mesh cooling line, designed for athletes to stay cool while they train. This is a great option for riding in the heat. Available at underarmour.com
Dry Feet: Thor Dual Sport Cool Socks
After hours in the sun, your feet will get to feel tired hot, sweaty and icky. Thor’s dual sport Cool Socks will apply that same moisture wicking technology to keep your feet cool and comfortable in your riding boots. Available at revzilla.com
Drink on the Ride: Camelbak FlashFlo
I’m all about ease of use on the road, and my Camelbak makes it easy to sip and ride. I opted for the Camelbak FlashFlo lower lumbar waist pack, which has a 1.5 ltr bladder. I can store my keys, sunscreen, wallet, snacks, sunglasses, and water. I fill the bladder with ice and cold water and attach the straw to the front of my jacket. My water stays icy cold and refreshing during post 100 degree days. The waist pack works better for me than the backpack. I don’t feel the weight on my shoulders and it’s easy to access off the bike. Available at camelbak.com.
Hydrate your bike: Check your fluids – Check your oil levels, and for those with liquid cooled engines, check your coolant levels. Leaving your bike thirsty could have you stranded in the heat.
Tire Temperatures and Air Pressures – Tire air pressures are absolutely critical at any time, but when pavement temperatures are in triple digits, under-inflated tires (which are prone to blow-out failures to start with) become a disaster waiting for a place to happen. Time to failure gets even shorter if the bike is loaded with luggage and a passenger.
Help your bike breathe: Clean your vents and filters – Keeping your bike vents and air filters clean will help air circulate and keep your bike cool. Clean road grime from all vents as you can along the ride.
Roadside Assistance: Make sure you’ve got help on the way – Check your insurance for your Roadside Assistance option and keep the necessary numbers handy. Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys offers free roadside assistance with their BAM card. Automobile Club (AAA) offers nationwide coverage. Be sure to sign up for the motorcycle option. You’ll need to have it active for 1 week before your roadside emergency can be covered.
Just In Case: Keep Fluids and Shade Handy – Pack water and an umbrella just in case you’ve got to sit and wait for help. Waiting in extreme heat can take hours, and having water and shade ready can save your life.
Do you have more to add? Feel free to drop us a comment!