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Riding a motorcycle in the heat.

Discussion in 'Motorcycle Talk' started by Worldtraveller, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. Following a "discussion" on the PNW FB page, I thought I would post some thoughts on riding in the heat. A lot of riders in the PNW aren't aware of the issues with riding in elevated temperatures, and in Southern OR this week, temps are expected to remain above 100F pretty consistently.
    The good news is that in spite of being so close to the water in a lot of locations, the humidity tends to stay pretty reasonable in most areas (unlike the midwest and east coast), so evaporative cooling works.
    Evaporative cooling is how you stay cool on a motorcycle. Evaporative cooling works because as water evaporates, it absorbs heat (I can explain the physics if anyone wants, but I'm trying to keep it simple here). In order for the human body to benefit from it, though, that cooled air has to stay around a little bit to have any effect.
    The other big aspect of staying cool is (and this seems simple, but few people understand it) not getting hot. This means, not letting the sun directly (radiative heat) on your skin as much as possible, and having some kind of thermal barrier (aka insulation) between the direct sun and your body.
    In other words, in addition to being a bad idea in general for a motorcycle, shorts and a tank top are about the worst thing you can do to stay cool when the temps reach about 90-95 and above.
    In order to maximize the benefits from evaporative cooling, you need the air to swirl around your body a bit. So perforated leathers or vented (not mesh) textile gear is the best way to accomplish this, combined with wetting a t-shirt, or using a dedicated wet cooling shell that stays wet longer (these are some of the least expensive bits of motorcycle equipment you can buy, so you really get a good bang for your buck here). Cycle gear has quite a decent, inexpensive selection (at least online) last time I checked.
    To minimize radiative heating, you want gear that covers as much skin as possible (this just happens to be a generally good idea on a bike anyway). Some leathers (they aren't cheap, but Rider's Warehouse Transit Suit is supposed to be one of the best) are actually treated with a special coating that reflects some wavelengths of sunlight to reduce the effective heating you get from the sun. For this, even mesh is ok, as long as you have something between the mesh and your skin (soundrider makes some reflective shirts that work great, I wear them on my bicycle rides in Arizona). Leather and textile gear is generally better for this, too, and are much better for evap cooling.
    As far a your body goes, stay hydrated, and make sure at least some of what you're drinking has some electrolytes in it. Most sport drinks have 3-4 times the amount of electrolytes/water ratio than they should for optimal performance, so you can either dilute it, or if you don't like the taste, drink a fair bit of water in between the gatorade type drinks.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. Nor am I a nutritionist. I do, however, do a lot of riding in the heat, both on my bicyle and my motorcyle. I am from (and currently residing in) Arizona, so I know something about 'real' heat. If I remember, I'll post a picture from my back porch last summer, with the thermometer reading 127F. :D

    I have done long (over 140 mile) bicycle rides in August in Az, and do a lot of riding with the motor as well. :)
    Some good links with more info:
    sodapop likes this.
  2. Great!!
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I wear an Aerostich Darien riding suit. For me it works up to about 95 degrees without cooling aids. After that, I have an evaporative cooling that works pretty well. It's not ideal, a bit heavy and clammy but, but it gets my core temp back down to reasonable temps and lets me continue on instead of hiding out in the shade. The main trick is getting just enough airflow to let the water evaporate from the vest without getting too much air so that the vest dries too quickly.

    I also drink lots of water. When I take a drink I drink somewhat more than I think I need to to make sure I get enough. It has been working quite well.
    sodapop and Worldtraveller like this.
  4. It's always good to drink more than you think you need. If I'm riding for more than about 90 mins, I will get my camelback on so I can sip while I ride.
    sodapop likes this.
  5. I took a 7500 mile ride through much of western USA and Canada earlier this summer. My main concern was when the temps hit 93 F and above. At that point, you can't produce enough sweat to cool your body down and you actually increase your body temperature from the air moving over it. Controlling how much air hits you gets to be critical.

    I was wearing mesh gloves the first few days. My hands chapped really badly, to the point where I was putting Chapstick on them to try and get some moisture back in them. By accident, I put on a pair of leather gloves that had perforations in them for some air flow. It worked perfectly. The skin healed up and they were actually no hotter than the mesh gloves.

    For a jacket, I had an Olympia Dakar mesh jacket. Under that, I wore the Heat-Out base layer t-shirt sold by Cycle Gear. The long sleeved t-shirt kept the air from directly hitting the skin through the mesh sleeves. When the temps got high, I put on a cooling vest from Cycle Gear. It was like turning on air-conditioning! Wonderful! I wear a Hit-Air airbag vest all the time, so that blocks a lot of air from coming through the chest. My cooling vest lasted 3 hours in 100 F heat, versus 30 minutes on some fellow riders who had full mesh gear and were getting the air flowing directly through without restriction.

    Worldtraveller likes this.
  6. i don't got none of that fancy scmancy gear.. i have thing called a water bottle. see u open it up, drink contents, get hydrated, repeat if necessary. problem solved.