I might be in a shopping mood because several of my recent articles have to do with gear. But I think that goes with the changing season. Here comes summer – after a pandemic! – and I find myself looking for cool new stuff. At some of the rallies, festivals and rides I recently sponsored and attended, I met folks with some fun new jackets, boots and helmets.
More recently, I overheard some bikers talking about how hot they got during recent trips. So, I thought I’d share some tips for staying cool during summer motorcycle rides. And guess what? Not all of it involves new gear!
Staying Cool During Summer Motorcycle Trips
No matter where you’re riding in this amazing country – from the Rockies of Colorado, to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, to the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee – you need to be prepared for the effects of heat.
My advice is going to fall into two categories: 1) healthy habits, and 2) gear. Now, sometimes gear can support your healthy habits, so we’re just going to jumble the two topics together. Still, to stay cool during hot summer rides, you should think about both your habits and your gear.
You know what makes you hot? Dehydration! Even though you may feel like the breeze is keeping you cool while you ride, your body is continuously soaking up intense heat rays from the sun. Extended exposure can cause something called “heat exhaustion,” which can sneak up on you quickly. To avoid heat exhaustion, which is accompanied by dehydration, you need to drink lots of water. I also recommend drinking electrolytes at least once a day. I keep Nuun tablets on hand because they are easy to transport, contain very little sugar (as opposed to Gatorade), and I can drop them into any bottle of water any time to get the vitamins and minerals that my body craves.
There are also lots of good hydration backpacks on the market. You can use a simple CamelBak or go higher-end for a backpack that also contains lots of compartments for snacks (eat salty treats to restore your body’s minerals), your wallet, etc.
Also, don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. The alcohol reminder should be obvious, not only because you shouldn’t drink and ride but also because it can dehydrate you. The same is true for caffeine. Coffee and soda can lead to dehydration. (But, honestly, I need caffeine to jump-start my day. I’d rather be alert than asleep!)
This section may recommend more gear than healthy habits. However, you probably have some of this stuff at home; you just need to use it properly on hot days.
- Dress in layers: The first layer you put on should help your body regulate its temperature. You don’t want leather next to your skin because it traps heat! Instead, wear a tight, synthetic shirt next to your skin so that it wicks sweat away but still breathes. Yes, even long sleeves are a good idea because you’ll protect your skin from the sun and the material will help your arms stay cool.
- Cover up: Speaking of covering your arms, you should actually cover up your entire body for summer rides, just as you do in winter rides. It sounds hot but if you wear the right materials, it can actually be much cooler than exposing your skin to continuous sunshine. That breeze while you’re riding can only mask the sun’s intensity for so long. The key to covering up in the summer is to wear gear that is light and well-ventilated. Even today’s helmets offer great ventilation options to keep your dome protected and cool!
- Chillers: So, this is a bit of advice I gained from watching a bunch of high school athletes. They have these towels that retain moisture and they put them on the backs of their necks to cool off during intense games or workouts. It’s brilliant! So, I looked around and discovered that there are cooling neck wraps for bikers, too.
Finally, if you’re headed out on a long ride, plan breaks! Stop at a little ice cream shop, stroll around the adorable small towns where your rides take you, visit the mom-and-pop shops that live for summer traffic. Then, get back in the saddle and head back on the road.
As we all know, when it comes to riding in the great, beautiful United States of America, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Have a fun, safe, COOL summer!