Motorcycle Riding in the Heat

motorcycle cooling vest, motorcycle riding gear
I used a bandana on my face as well soaked in water.

I see discussions on social media all the time that “real motorcycle riders ride in the rain.” I never bought into that. I’ve ridden in the rain plenty of times, but there is no point to me leaving my house for a ride as a downpour comes down anymore than I would go play a round of golf or paint the fence. But, what about real riders ride in the heat?

With the temperature in Phoenix yesterday at 118 degrees, I would be more concerned about the heat than I would the rain.

In 2015, I rode my Honda Vtx from Miami to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It wasn’t until I crossed the Texas state line, entering New Mexico, that I was able to get away from the heat wave. It was over hundred degrees for the first few days. It was tough physically and mentally. But how do you survive extreme heat while motorcycle riding?

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  • If you are thirsty, your body is telling you it is time to have a drink. What do you drink? Well, I’ve read many studies with different conclusions, so I do one simple thing- drink plenty of water and sports drinks like Gatorade. A lot of my riding buddies just mix the two together. I prefer to start with a bottle of water and when I am done with that, I drink Gatorade or any other sport drink.
  • One mistake I do is that I tend to chug water and that only causes my body to release fluids faster. So I have to start re-training my brain on that one.
  • During that trip, I saw plenty of bikers wearing the Harley Davidson T-shirt with the sleeves cut-off and drinking Coke at a gas station. Huge mistake on both ends!
    • stay away from caffeinated drinks!
    • going shirtless or sleeveless only increases the amount of sun/heat your body and skin absorbs. You don’t see landscapers working in shorts and a T-shirt do you? No! Wear long sleeves. I prefer micro-fiber long sleeve shirts. And skip the dark clothing!
  • Oxford Products was one of my sponsors, and I tried the great mesh jacket you see below. I took out the liner because even with the rain, the little amount of water that seeped through felt refreshing.
summer motorcycle jacket
Oxford Motorcycle Mesh Jacket
  • Stay away from alcohol while riding and drink less alcohol at night.
  • I was soaking my clothes at gas stations that had outdoor bathrooms. I soaked my jeans, socks, shirt, and splashed water on my face and hair. The microfiber would dry quickly since that is the purpose of microfiber, but it was an effective way to cool the body down.
  • I ride with cargo pants so I can slide bottles of water and sport drinks inside the pockets and make it easily accessible versus having to stop each time I want something to drink. When I’m done with the water, I put it back in my pants and throw it away at the next stop.
  • Make space for a cooler in case of long stretches where there are no gas stations. At the minimum, carry coolers that fit inside your saddlebags.
  • I had a cooling vest from Tech-Niche (see picture above) but riding at highway speeds, it would dry up quickly, but after my ride, it felt nice to sit at the campsite wearing it.
  • I’ve never tried a hydration vest, but it only makes sense. Think about it, our military uses it.
  • What you eat is important as well. I love bananas, so I ate plenty of bananas and that is a great way to replenish potassium levels. Fruits contain water so that only helps. I also skipped large meals that would only make me sleepy as my body starts to digest the food. I preferred plenty of snacks and a light lunch.
  • Granola bars and energy bars were also quick and easy to have with me.

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  • One option is start riding at the crack of dawn, so by noon, you have four to six hours under your belt and two to three hundred miles logged. Then, from 12-2 p.m., you can relax inside an air conditioned diner or gas station with a Subway restaurant, cool down, check your email, chart the rest of your ride.
  • Charting your next stop is extremely difficult and takes practice if you are camping all the way through like I did. If staying at hotels, that does make it much easier.
motorcycle riding summer, motorcycle travel
I had just crossed the Texas state line into New Mexico.

Effects

On the first day it was mostly cloudy with scattered rain throughout the day, so I was able to avoid direct sun and extreme temperatures, but once I hit the panhandle, I had done three hundred miles that day. At a stop, I felt “weird.” I cannot describe it, but I was thinking is this what passing out feels like? I think I was even experiencing cold sweats. By then I had spent hours riding in 104 degree temperature and even though I was soaking my clothes and hydrating, it wasn’t enough.

honda vtx, ford truck, camping in florida
Here I am getting hosed down before I leave Big Lagoon Campground in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Besides my normal water break, I had Anny get me a power bar, 2 more bottles of water and Gatorade. I drank the bottle of water immediately and then the Gatorade. It took about fifteen minutes to feel “normal” again, but regardless, I stayed sitting in the shade for another forty-five minutes. No need to play macho man and ignore what my body is telling me.

Without listing all the effects of dehydration, just use common sense. Whether it is a headache, dizziness, fatigue, these are all signs that it is time to stop, even if it means arriving later than planned at your next location for the night or not arriving at all. Fact is, if you get hospitalized, your trip is over anyway, so don’t push yourself. This is your vacation, not extreme motorcycle riding for sport.

Last, but not least, get used to the heat. Go for walks when it is hot or exercise. It helps not only physically, but psychologically.

Be safe, hydrate, eat well.

MC Atty

By the way, I even tried the red neck air conditioner to combat the heat!

 

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