Rides and road trips are among the most exhilarating pastimes for motorcycle enthusiasts during summer months. As temperature patterns rise, however, you need to take steps to maintain proper coolness for your own comfort and health as well as for the functionality of your motorcycle. It is important to know what to wear when riding a motorcycle in summer and how to maintain your bike and keep it from overheating.
Tips for Staying Cool While Riding in Extreme Heat
A lot of riders are at a loss regarding what to wear when riding a motorcycle in hot weather because the attire associated with the activity tends to be warm. Granted, the wind resistance of freeway rides provides a chill factor that counters the heat, but only for as long as you remain in motion and even then sometimes the wind can't overcome the sun's rays that are beating down.
For proper safety and comfort, you will want to keep these tips in mind when gearing up for your next hot summer ride:
1. Wear Jackets With Ventilation
For motorcycle rides in hot weather, it is crucial to wear a jacket with proper ventilation. At times of intense humidity, the best jackets for heat protection are those with textile mesh panels. The mesh panels allow the jacket to breathe and this can make the riding experience cooler on hot days thanks to cooling effects of high-speed wind resistance on the open road.
Another option is perforated leather with or without zip vents. However, the perforation must be extensive for the jacket to keep you cool in the summer heat. Otherwise, it's liable to trap heat and make the experience even muggier.
When you select a jacket for summer riding, pay attention to the quality of the seam stitches. Jackets with single stitches between the sleeves, cuffs and front and back panel are often less expensive, but they also tend to be less durable than jackets with double stitching.
2. Choose Gloves With Mesh Backs
Despite being small items, gloves are just as important for safety as other articles of clothing. You never want to ride without gloves, not even when the outdoor temperatures are liable to make an encased pair of hands sweaty. In the event of a slide or a drop, you will need to have gloves to protect your hands.
To avoid instances of palm perspiration as you grip the handles of your motorcycle, stock up on a pair of heat-friendly riding gloves. The best kinds of gloves for summer riding are those made of perforated leather. Gloves of this sort will have perforated backs with solid leather palms and inner-fingers. Alternately, gloves with back panels made of a textile mesh are also good for hand ventilation.
Another crucial feature of any pair of motorcycle riding gloves is a wrist closure that will keep them on your hands when you most need them for protection. Some gloves have elastic wristbands for this very purpose, but features such as snaps, adjustable buckles and wrist straps offer greater retention.
3. Wear Pants With Enhanced Fabric
Even on summer road trips, the pants that you wear must offer sufficient protection. For years, solid leather pants were considered the safest option when it came to riding a motorcycle. However, such pants could lead to perspiration under intense heat. Thankfully, the options for motorcycle riding pants have expanded in recent years due to innovative fabric engineering.
Even jeans now offer greater protection with their newly enhanced varieties. For motorcycle riding, jeans lined with Kevlar offer maximum protection from abrasions. Kevlar-lined jeans often have impact protectors within the pocket region. Alternately, some jean manufacturers have enhanced their product with protective Armalith thread.
Many of today's jeans also have elastic material for enhanced comfort and fit. Non-denim pants that use hybrid material can also offer the necessary protection while still being breathable enough for summer wear. Whichever type of pants you choose, make sure that it is sufficient to protect your legs in the event of a slide or a fall. Never opt for anything less than full-length riding pants, no matter how tempting it may be.
4. Wear Base Layers to Absorb Perspiration
When it comes to motorcycle attire, some riders favor head-to-toe leathers with the autumn/winter option of base layers. As far as hotter months are concerned, base layers are often seen as extraneous layers that intensify heat, perspiration and discomfort. Unfortunately, the leather, or other jacket material, itself can be uncomfortable when it touches your skin. Under humid conditions, such discomfort can take the joy out of riding.
To prevent the heat-binding discomfort, wear lightweight, moisture-wicking base layers with sufficient ventilation. This way, the layers under your jacket and pants can serve the two-fold purpose of buffering the textures of your outer attire while also keeping you comfortable and dry.
5. Choose a Breathable Helmet
For motorcyclists, the single most important piece of riding attire is the helmet. You need proper head-gear that protects the most vulnerable part of the body during open-air riding. Despite its importance, a lot of riders opt to skip the helmet during summer months.
In earlier decades, it was understandable why the helmet was seen as an uncomfortable burden in humid climates. Older helmet designs were typically solid all around and lacked ventilation. When temperatures exceeded 85 degrees, the lack of breathing pores in a typical helmet could make the riding experience sweaty and uncomfortable.
Fortunately, contemporary helmet styles include an array of options designed to make the summer riding experience safe as well as comfortable. The best summer motorcycle helmet designs include those constructed of carbon fiber or hybrids of polycarbonate and fiberglass. In addition to meeting safety standards, helmets of this variety are lightweight, ventilated, sunray-equipped and often Bluetooth compatible.
A number of motorcycle helmet manufacturers also now offer transition visors that automatically adjust their tint based on the amount of light.
6. Wear Summer-weight Boots
Out of all the essential articles of clothing for the motorcyclist, boots are among the less flexible when it comes to summer-friendly options. The majority of boots geared towards motorcyclists tend to consist of closed leather with no ventilation. Consequently, the lowest portion of the body often retains the heat.
Some manufacturers have redressed this problem and introduced boots onto the market with tiny frontal holes and mesh side-paneling to help increase airflow. As you ride at high speeds, the wind penetrates the holes and mesh to ventilate the toes and ankles. This can cool your feet as you ride and prevent heat from being trapped in your lower extremities.
Boots are one of the more crucial articles of the motorcycling wardrobe. In the event of an accident, boots offer protection in what could otherwise be a badly impacted part of the body. Even when you take short rides, a solid pair of motorcycling boots can minimize and in some cases prevent injury of your ankles, shins and toes. As tempting as it may be in hot weather, never opt for open-toed shoes.
7. Pack Summer Road Trip Supplies
If you embark on a summer road trip by motorcycle, be sure to stock up on supplies and protective gear. For starters, keep an adequate supply of bottled water on hand. Schedule time to make pit stops for refreshments and cool drinks along your route, whether you're riding alone or with a group.
Also, be prepared for sun exposure. While it's important to have sunscreen on hand for the times that you park your motorbikes and peel off the leather layers, remember to wear sunscreen on any areas that may not be covered during your ride as well. Thin, ventilated cover layers can also serve as an anti-humidity sun-shield in hot, sunny environments.
If you or any of your road mates are allergic to stings, be sure to bring any necessary medication along to counter the effects of a stray bee, wasp or hornet sting. These incidents are not uncommon during summer months.
8. Keep Yourself Hydrated
To stay in peak riding condition along those long and humid summer routes, drink plenty of water at each stop. After all, when your body sweats, it is depleted of water at a more rapid pace. Consuming water will keep your body replenished. Again, always keep bottled water on hand and stick to routes with a frequency of rest stops or gas stations for times when you need to resupply.
Try to keep water as your primary drink when you're riding. Drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol can leave you dehydrated and cause you to urinate more frequently due to the diuretic properties of these beverages. Sugary drinks can also cause you to experience an energy "crash," especially in high heat.
For optimal hydration on humid days, consume roughly one liter of water per hour during rest stops.
9. Make Stops Along Routes
Along lengthy rides and road trips, be sure to make pit stops at reasonable intervals to keep yourself rested, fueled and energized. Ideally, you should take a small break at least once per hour on hot days to consume a cold beverage and tend to other possible necessities before you proceed on your route. It is best to avoid routes with anything less than two convenience stores within a 60-mile distance on days of intense humidity.
Whenever you pull up at a convenience store or gas station during a hot day's ride, consider placing your helmet in the outdoor cooler for a few minutes while you take a break and grab something to drink. After 10 minutes or so in the cooler, the helmet should be cooler and more comfortable to put back on.
10. Beware of Heat Exhaustion
During the course of a given ride, certain factors are not worth toughing out, especially if they involve physical symptoms. If you find yourself taken with feelings of nausea or dizziness while out on the road, pull aside and take some time to recuperate and rehydrate. If you start to experience headaches, cramps, fatigue or heavy sweating, these are signs of heat exhaustion and you should stop riding and seek help.
Any one of these symptoms should serve as a warning from your body that you need to stop, rehydrate and regain yourself. Failure to do so could make the problem worse and lead to heat stroke, which is when the body falls unconscious due to the ill-effects of intense heat. A heat stroke could put you in grave danger if you happen to be riding at the time of such an episode. Heat stroke can also cause permanent organ damage, brain damage or death.
If you are out on a road trip with one or more motorcycling mates, do not allow yourself to feel pressured into continuing along despite experiencing heat-exhaustion symptoms. As long as the symptoms persist, stay off the road. If your nausea does not subside or your temperature continues to rise, call for medical help.
Tips for Keeping Your Bike Cool and Functioning in Extreme Heat
When you go riding a motorcycle in extreme heat, the heat and humidity can cause issues for the stock components. Consequently, keeping a motorcycle cool in hot weather can sometimes require some extra maintenance steps and maybe even some aftermarket modifications.
1. Keep Your Engine Cool
For summertime motorcycle adventures, special attention must be paid to the state of a bike's engine. In the summer months, a motorcycle engine is liable to overheat if precautions are not taken in advance of rides and road trips.
To ensure that the oil cooler remains at maximum efficiency, check for signs of leaks and obstructions in your water pump and hoses on a periodic basis. Every few weeks, use a bristle brush along the cooler and radiator to clear away dirt and debris that can cause excess heat to build up. Along the course of a given ride, kicked-up elements and colliding insects can get lodged into these engine components and cause your motorcycle to overheat.
For added protection of your radiator, have it covered to keep out dirt and bugs. Aftermarket radiator guards can keep your vulnerable engine components safer from the elements and, in doing so, prevent your engine from overheating during summer months. Additionally, keep the fins of the air cooler clean and free of dirt buildup. Moreover, avoid stationary idling as much as possible on hot days.
You may find that the stock water pumps in some bikes - such as those in MV Agusta F4 and Brutale models - may need to be replaced with aftermarket water pumps to prevent overheating on hot days, especially if you find yourself idling in the heat for long periods of time.
Another crucial supporting factor to a clean and cool motorcycle engine is proper levels of quality coolant and oil. On a monthly basis, check the coolant level and drain and replenish the fluid as needed. The coolant must be maintained at a basic level and kept clean and free of impurities to offer your engine sufficient cooling power. You may also want to consider upgrading to Engine Ice coolant.
To ensure smooth running and the proper functioning of engine components, check your oil level on a regular basis and change it out according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule. Oil prevents friction between engine components. However, oil can only do its job as long as there is enough of it to go around and so long as it remains free of acidic impurities and maintains its proper viscosity.
To keep the oil pure, refrain from mixing different grades of oil. Also, clean out the oil tank from time to time. Impurities and debris can collect as the oil tank becomes lined with traces of old oil, which can contaminate new oil. Lastly, never ignore the oil pressure gauge as this could warn you of imminent problems that, barring immediate action, could cause serious damage to your engine.
3. Lubricate as Necessary
Just as the oil must maintain purity and proper viscosity, so too must the lubricant along the drive parts. Each summer, check the lubricant along the primary drive to ensure that the grease is healthy and that the moving parts are sufficiently covered. If the grease is hard and dirty, wipe it away and replace with a fresh application. Old, hardened grease can corrupt newer coats when the two mix.
Check the lubricant along the rear gear to ensure that the thickness is suitable for the month ahead. Ideally, the lubricant should be inspected and changed at similar intervals to the engine oil. As instructed in manual from the manufacturer, clean and re-lube the metallic chain as required. With a belt-drive system, check the tension and alignment of the belt on a periodic basis.
4. Check the Tire Pressure
Along the course of a ride or summer road trip, an under-inflated tire can pose great danger along the roadway. The weight of your riding load can impact the air pressure of each tire. Even when you travel lightly, it is crucial to ensure that the pressure remains at the recommended level.
Insufficient tire pressure can be exacerbated in times of summer humidity due to intense heat along roads and highways. When the roadways are hot, the rubber of your tires is liable to heat amid the friction and heat of the pavement. Consequently, under-inflated tires are more liable to blow in humid conditions. To prevent this from happening, check the tire pressure with a pressure gauge on a weekly basis and replenish the air as needed.
Rubber stripping can also accumulate as tires incur wear and tear over the course of several seasons. As tire rubber is rendered thin, leaks become more likely. To be on the safe side, check the condition of your tires periodically and carry a patch kit and portable pump on long trips if you can.
5. Maintain the Electric Components
On a motorcycle, the electrical connections must be secured to help ensure a safe riding experience and reliable performance from your bike. Bad connections can cause a motorcycle to stop functioning and leave you in peril if you happen to be in the midst of high-speed travel. While connection problems can occur during any season, the threat is most likely under humid conditions.
Each summer before you head out for rides or embark on road trips, inspect the connections along the battery compartment to ensure that the wires are securely fastened. If connections are weak or corroded, fuses could blow, especially at times of intense humidity.
You can also keep a supply of spare fuses on hand in case you need to replace a fuse while out on the roadside. Be sure that your spare fuses match the amp rating of those currently installed. Also, inspect the cause of the fuse failure when such incidences occur. If the problem is not rectified, a replacement fuse could easily blow upon being installed.
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