Archive for the ‘motorcycle riding in extreme heat’ Tag

More tips for Riding in Extreme Heat

Don’t forget that once the temperature gets above your body temperature (~99°F / ~37°C), you don’t want to be wearing a mesh jacket. You want to zip up all of your vents and keep as much of your skin covered as possible. Hot air hitting your skin at a temperature higher than your body temperature will heat up your skin and dehydrate you faster than you’ll know it’s happening.

Cover your neck with a soaking wet bandana, wet down your T-shirt, and stop often to re-soak both. Drink way more water than you think you’ll need.

Heatstroke is a very real possibility on a motorcycle, and at high temperatures, mesh clothing will not help with this. If you do wear a mesh jacket in these temps, make sure you have a Camelbak or some sort of hydration system, and drink water constantly.
There are two big things at work here.

1.Evaporation and
2.Insulation.
Both deal with sweating. Let’s look at each one separately. But first, a quick primer on sweat.  Sweat happens when your body transfers heat from itself into the air. When sweat evaporates, it cools down the surface of your skin.

OK, on to evaporation. Evaporation can only happen when there’s less moisture in the air than on your skin. So if you are in a big hot stinky swamp pit, evaporation ain’t gonna do much for you. If there is no evaporation happening, your body will stop sweating. This is very bad, and you will soon be very unhappy as your body overheats.

So now you are thinking, “won’t closing your vents ensure that your suit becomes a big hot stinky swamp pit? Aren’t you ensuring that you’ll raise your core temperature too much because your sweat can’t evaporate?” If you are hard-core enough to ride in extremely hot weather when the humidity is high, let’s face it: nothing is going to be a perfect solution. At that point, you get yourself shade and water, and often. Also, assuming you’re touring, try riding at night or at higher elevations. However, in most of our daily lives, this isn’t going to be an issue. No one’s jacket is windproof (we all wish it was, especially in the wintertime!), so unless your idea of gear is Saran Wrap, your skin is going to be able to breathe and your sweat is not going to stop evaporating 100%.

So, on to our second idea: insulation. Earlier, we established that sweat is the body’s way of transferring heat from itself to the air. This can only happen if the air is cooler than the body. Otherwise, the skin will draw heat from the air. Why is this a problem? It’s called vasodilation. The idea here is that as the body heats up, blood vessels enlarge to circulate more blood to the skin. Normally, this is good because the evaporative cooling process cools down the skin, and therefore, the blood. However, if your sweat evaporates too quickly and dries out, the skin absorbs heat from the air, which then actually heats up your blood. Mmm, nice hot blood circulating all over your body—especially up into your brain.

By zipping up your vents, you provide a layer of insulation between your skin and that hot air. By keeping your clothing wet, you augment your sweat and keep your skin (and therefore blood) cool. One thing mentioned in particular is a bandana. You could actually use a Cool Tie, which is a bandana-like tube filled with paraffin crystals that hold water much longer than cotton. In desert conditions,  soak this Cool Tie and wrap it around your neck while riding. It keeps the blood flowing to your brain cool, and helps keep your head on straight. It’s very easy to become confused when in the early stages of heatstroke, and keeping your blood cool is one big way to combat this.

To reiterate that this is only really applicable when the ambient temperature is above your body temperature. Also,  nothing against mesh jackets, but in extreme, 99°F+ / 37°C+, conditions, you have to be prepared to go into desert survival mode, which, includes zipping up vents and keeping the hot air and sun off of your skin. No matter what your opinion on the vents, it should also include frequent stops, lots of water (and/or some sports drink that replaces electrolytes and sugars you loose as you sweat), and lots of shade. If you’re not willing or able to make those sorts of preparations when riding in 99°F+ / 37°C+ weather, take the car or stay home. That isn’t being a big pansy; it’s being smart and safe.

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How to stay cool and safe riding a Motorcycle in 90+ heat

Riding in temperatures reaching triple digits can be as dangerous as riding in freezing temperatures. The beginnings of a heat stroke, as with hypothermia, can affect your judgment and impair your ability to operate a motorcycle safely.

The Warning Signs:

Symptoms include pale clammy skin, headaches, dizzy, nausea, loss of memory and fainting, muscle tremors, cramping and being tired and weak. Red skin with little or no sweating indicates a dangerous level of heat exhaustion. At this point immediate action must be taken to prevent a heat stroke.

The treatments are mostly common sense, but remember the victim may not be mentally capable of making the right decision. Move them into the shade or preferably air conditioned space. Spray water on the person, and get some air circulating around the victim with a fan and have them drink non-caffeinated fluids, cool but not ice cold.

Rinsing with cool water is fine, but do not apply ice to the victim as it will fool the body into closing skin pores to retain heat, making the situation worse.

Be aware that individuals with high blood pressure, those who are overweight are at a higher risk to suffer heat exhaustion and/or a heat stroke. High temperatures with high humidity combined with these risk factors and alcohol use or certain medications and the ingredients are all present for a tragic end to the ride.

Stay Cool on the Bike:

It’s not always possible to avoid riding when the temperatures reach triple digits, and even with temperatures hovering between 90-98 Fahrenheit the combination of high humidity exposes the rider to dangerous heat stress.

The best course of action may be to wear long sleeves and or a good mesh leather riding suit, especially on rides where the temperatures reach north of 98 degrees.

Our body is wonderfully adapted when it comes to keeping us cool. We can cool off a lot easier than we can warm up.

Motorcyclists however, are at a disadvantage when it comes to cooling because in extreme heat, the wind is not our friend. Temperatures over 100 degrees turn the environment around our motorcycle into a convection oven. Strong winds, even as low as 35 mph, snatches away our perspiration before it has had time to cool our skin, leaving us dehydrated and hot.

Add to that the radiant effect of sunlight on uncovered skin (such as wearing thin t-shirt, tank top or no shirt) and serious sun burn isn’t far behind. Wear long sleeve technical style shirts that runners wear made with a cotton/synthetic blend that keeps sunlight off your skin, but the fabric is breathable so you can feel the sweat cooling your skin as it evaporates.

You could also add a full face hybrid flip style helmet and evaporative vest on long hot rides to help keep you cool.

The vest helps lower your core temperature. But to maximize its benefit it must be worn next to the skin preferably under a lightweight vented or perforated jacket. An extra idea too maximize the vest benefits even more is to soak the vest in water before riding.

You can probably expect stares of disbelief as you cover up with a jacket in 100+ heat but you’ll be the one staying cool on the road!

The bottom line is when the temperature reaches triple digits, try to keep as much of your skin covered as possible and to drink fluids at every gas stop while cooling in the shade or inside the store. Riding through “Hell” is never fun, but at least it gives you something to talk about at your next bike night!