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.

Cooling vests
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!

8 COMMENTS

  1. I sure do. Drink water, and lots of it BEFORE you get thirsty! Heat exhaustion can set in and you often timed don’t know it before it’s too late. Organs can shut down before you realize your in danger! I recommend drinking 6 – 8 ounces every 15 minutes in extreme heat. (95-110+ degrees). Over 110 consider not riding at all. Make certain you bring lots of water with you… much more than you think you’ll need. If you have a mechanical failure you may need it.

    While it’s “cool” riding in short sleeves. ALWAYS ride wearing a long sleeve shirt even if you chose to take off your safety jacket. You will perspire at a great rate of speed when you skin is exposed to the hot air. You won’t realize how much you perspire and you’ll need more water.

  2. I’m proud of my participation with the SCMA and have enjoyed every one of the 600,000 thousand plus miles I have ridden in the last 21 years but still found some helpful hints in the above article. Thanks for sharing some good suggestions.

    HOWEVER I THINK IT IS BETTER TO BE ALIVE THAN DEAD AND SPLITTING LANES IS JUST GODS PLAN TO WEED OUT THE STUPID ONES.

    SIMPLY A CALIFORNIA FRUIT CAKE IDEA.!

    LOTS OF WAYS TO GET HURT ON A BIKE BUT LANE SPLITTING IS ABSOLUTELY THE DUMBEST WAY I CAN EVER DREAM OF.

    I make it to California a couple of times a year and just hate it when traffic is moving slowly and some idiot blast past me and scares the crap out of me because I didn’t see it coming and I have seen numerous very close calls as vehicle drivers were starting to change lanes.

    Just can’t believe an article designed to help riders recommends such a stupid idea.

    Of course these thoughts come from an old guy that refuses to belong to any motorcycle group that promotes riding without a helmet and there are several of them too.

    What are these people on?

    Chuck Gatecliff

    • You might want to read Jenny’s article “Why Lane Splitting Should Be Legal Nationwide” with well researched facts for a better understanding about lane splitting. I think she does a good job addressing your concerns.

  3. I would suggest that riders carry either a Yeti or Corkcicle 1 liter bottle, these new bottles are amazing and managed to keep ice in mine while stored in the side bag of my Gold Wing which is directly above the exhaust pipe. When I stop for gas I but a large berate full of ice and dump it into the Yeti. I also use the evaporative vest and keep all your riding gear on for insulation but with vents open.

    PS: lane splitting is mandatory when it’s smoking hot and traffic is stopped or crawling.

    Great article Jenny!

  4. A Camelbak filled with ice and then water to completely fill it will give you a ‘brain-freeze’ with every sip. It’s amazing how much that helps cool you down. Don’t forget to blow the water back into the bag from your mouth to clear the tube. Otherwise, your next sip could be almost boiling. When you stop for lunch, fill it up with ice again!

    Also, pour water from a water bottle down your arms from the wrist opening of your jacket to the armpits. Yes, you’ll be riding with a wet shirt but it will also create that air conditioning until the shirt is dry. Then, do it again 😉 This method works best with a long-sleeved shirt. Believe it or not, you will be most comfortable and less sticky in a long-sleeved shirt.

  5. I agree with Chuck about lane splitting
    On Long Island , vehicles WILL close the gap seeing a motorcycle coming through. It’s not the best answer. I promotes anger in vehicles that are not moving or moving slowly.

  6. I also agree with Chuck. Lane splitting is not something that should be done, especially if one is doong because traffic is stopped or moving too slow. Abide by the laws. All motorists need to do this. Don’t we have enough problems with distracted drivers??? You won’t see me splitting lanes.

  7. I also don’t agree with lane splitting. It’s very dangerous and scary when you’re the one doing it and a car decides to jump over to block you.

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