Baby, it’s hot out there. Heat isn’t just uncomfortable for us motorcyclists – it can be downright dangerous. Here are our tips for staying cool in hot summer temperatures.
Mesh textile or perforated leather apparel
This one is a no-brainer, but it’s also the simplest way to increase airflow and sweat evaporation (our body’s natural air conditioning). Look for mesh gear that has a separate perforated inner liner to keep the outer large-pore mesh away from your skin; in the event of a fall and slide, that stuff turns into a cheese grater against your skin. It should have reinforced panels at impact areas as well: the shoulders and elbows at minimum. Some higher-end apparel also includes a removable rain/windproof liner and/or zip-open panels that make it more useable across a wider variety of weather conditions.
If you don’t want to give up the look and protection of leather, perforated jackets are a great choice. They won’t breathe as well as textile mesh, but it’s better than standard, un-perforated leather, even with zip-open vents.
Lobby your local government to legalize lane splitting/filtering
Beyond the proven benefits for everyone when motorcycle lane splitting and/or filtering is allowed, it keeps us cooler and safer in hot weather. Even moving at a sedate 10 mph creates enough airflow to make a real difference in our bikes’ engine temperature and our personal comfort and safety.
If you live somewhere that’s not too humid, a cooling vest works wonders. They work by either being filled or soaked with water, then as you ride and the wind flows over the vest (which you’re wearing under your hopefully well-ventilated jacket), it works like an evaporative cooler. I’ve actually gotten so chilled wearing one that I’ve had to zip up the vents on my jacket to “turn down the AC.”
The bad news: if you live somewhere super humid, these don’t work as well.
Soak a bandana or buff in cold water
Then wear it around your neck. It doesn’t last very long, but is a quick and easy way to cool off. It also leads into the next tip….
Take frequent breaks
When possible, take a break every hour, or less if you need it. Find a spot in the shade, strip off your gear, drink some water and re-soak your vest or bandana. Every few hours, eat something to replenish essential electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Learn more about the importance of electrolytes, and why just drinking water isn’t enough, here.
Plan your ride
If you’re on a road trip, try to plan it so that you aren’t riding through the hottest areas in the middle of the afternoon. If that’s not possible, try leaving extra early, before the sun comes up, to cover some miles before it gets really hot. Then take a long afternoon break and resume in the evening.
The obvious downside to this is riding in the dark, especially in the evening when animals tend to be active.
Wear a light-colored helmet
It’s amazing the difference it can make when you wear a white or light-colored helmet rather than a black one. Then open ALL the vents (don’t forget the exhaust vents at the back).
Leave the bike in the garage
It’s not often that we actually advocate for not riding, but sometimes it’s just not feasible, especially if you live somewhere with that perfect storm of extreme heat, high humidity and no ability to lane split. Go ahead and commute in your air-conditioned car, we won’t judge.
Do you have a tip or hack for staying cool in hot weather? Share it in the comments below!