A commute or long-distance ride rarely seems more appealing in a car than on a motorcycle. But when the thermometer climbs past the 100-degree mark, even the most enthusiastic riders begin to miss the amenities of an automobile; air conditioning, an enclosed cabin and cup holders stuffed with ice-cold soda all sound immediately more alluring than the open air. Whether you forge past that thermometer out of bravery or necessity, know that the proper gear, careful planning and some logic can go a long way to making the trek less miserable. Still hot, just less miserable.
Temperatures can be pretty...
Temperatures can be pretty brutal in Qatar, which is the sole reason why the MotoGP races are held at night each year. You can similarly avoid the heat by riding early in the morning rather then mid-day.
One of the best ways to deal with adverse temperatures is to simply plan around them. Mid-day rides are nice in that they allow you to hit the snooze button a few extra times, but they’ll also leave you more susceptible to high-noon heat. As such, early morning jaunts and late afternoon rides are more fitting during the summer months. Temperatures are lower, plus humidity levels in the evening enable sweat to evaporate quicker and you to cool off more rapidly. There are advantages and disadvantages to both morning and afternoon rides of course, so plan accordingly. Temperatures are going nowhere but up in the morning, meaning you could get caught in the mid-day sun if your ride is extended for any reason. Afternoon rides can leave you riding in the dark too, which will immediately leave many hanging up their keys. Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity to beat the heat and worth considering.
For track-day riders, it may be easier to avoid sweltering conditions. CVMA, one of our local race organizations, simply closes its doors for the warmer months, noting that the Southern California sun is more than most racers are willing to bear. Chuckwalla Raceway is located in the middle of the desert mind you, and your hometown racetrack may not be similarly affected by summer heat. Even so, pay attention to your calendar when penciling in track-day events and consider if the weather during that month will permit a full day of aggressive riding. Again, the best way to avoid unbearable temperatures is to simply schedule around them.
Many riders feel less is more...
Many riders feel less is more when it comes to riding in the summer. The unfortunate truth is that T-shirts and flip-flops provide zero protection. Proper riding gear not only provides insulation from the sun, but also from wind blasts that can increase body temperature in extreme conditions. Close-off ventilation in said gear will allow you to get the right amount of breeze just where it’s needed, too.
Should you be unable to evade the scorching thermometer, make sure your gear is up to the challenge of keeping you comfortable. A perforated jacket with close-off ventilation and riding pants with similar vents are your best bet. Street riders will want to add to that a well-ventilated helmet and a pair of equally perforated gloves for total body comfort. Most manufacturers offer such gear as part of their summer collection, and acquiring the right gear is as simple as a trip to your local dealership. Track enthusiasts and those opposed to anything but a one-piece leather suit should pay close attention to the percentage of perforation a suit offers before purchasing it. A high level of ventilation and warm-weather under garments will do wonders when attending a track day in 100-degree weather.
Despite the abundance of available summer gear, it’s still not uncommon to see a rider trade his or her protective jacket for a riding vest once the temperature gauge begins to skyrocket. Not only does this put you at a higher risk of injury, but it’s also more detrimental to your body once ambient temperatures surpass your body temperature. The problem is that, at these temperatures, the wind acts in opposite of “wind chill,” meaning it actually warms your body rather than cooling it. A better — and safer — method for keeping cool during a summer ride is to use a freezable neck wrap or bring a spare towel that you can soak in water the second you get off the bike — the latter of the options was the key to our survival during many race weekends at Willow Springs Raceway.
Once you’ve decided when you want to ride and what sweat-saving gear you’ll ride in, you need to look over your bike and decide whether the fluids are up to the beating a summer ride can deliver. Higher viscosity oil may be a better alternative to the 10W-30 you’ve been using, as it’s less likely to thin as temperatures peak. Synthetic oils should be taken into consideration as well, since they offer a naturally higher viscosity index and are suited for a wider range of temperatures. Aside from changing oil, consider coolant additives that offer better heat transfer. There are many products currently on the market, and some even claim a near 30-degree reduction in cooling system temperatures. Mixing these additives with distilled water can also keep your bike’s operating temperatures down at the racetrack, while still staying within the race organization’s coolant guidelines.
Perspiration rates increase...
Perspiration rates increase significantly during a summer ride, meaning you’ll need to drink more water than usual to avoid dehydration. Fatigue, dizziness and confusion are all warning signs to look out for, and you should take a break in the shade if the heat starts getting to you.
Water becomes doubly important in the summer months, and keeping hydrated is an absolute necessity rather than a recommendation. Increased perspiration rates are your enemy, but can be combated with a CamelBak that feeds you water through a hose leading to your helmet. If you opt to go the old-fashioned route, carry enough water bottles in your backpack or luggage so that you’re not stopping at every fast-food diner along the highway begging for a free cup of water. At the racetrack, drink a surplus of water and sports drinks in between sessions and stay away from caffeine-saturated drinks that will make you even more dehydrated.
The symptoms related to dehydration are especially detrimental for a sportbike rider. Fatigue, dizziness and confusion are just a handful of the warning signs to look out for, and each will affect your ability to control the motorcycle as well as your overall judgment. If your body is telling you there’s something wrong, pull to a well-shaded side of the road, drink up and rest; no section of canyon road is worth a trip to the hospital.
In reality, there’s very little you can do to circumvent warm weather once you’re on the bike. That doesn’t mean your summer ride has to be a miserable one, however; properly ventilated gear and a surplus of water can go a long way in keeping you comfortable. A little forethought can make all the difference too, so consider pushing your mid-day rides earlier or later when applicable. And when planning your next track-day event, consider the temperatures to expect and pack you’re gear bag and cooler accordingly. In the end, your experience will be all the more enjoyable. SR