I know, I know. It’s almost October, and here I am, chatting about riding motorcycle tours in the summer heat!
I’m not trying to make you feel bad. And I’m aware it’s raining outside. But having spent much of my summer in the blazing heat of the sun, I figured I’d pass on some hints and tips to stay cool, comfortable, and safe.
See, most people concern themselves with winter riding – and rightly so.
But as earth’s temperature rises, our summers are becoming just as dangerous as our winters – but for a different set of reasons.
Riding a motorcycle in the heat can be exhausting when the sun is bouncing off your back in the midday heat. So in this post, I wanted to go through some top tips I learned in the recent summers.
Stay Hydrated When Riding A Motorcycle In The Heat
Most people begin to feel thirsty when their hydration levels drop by about 2%. But the problem is our physical performance and cognitive functions diminish by 10% when our hydration levels drop by just 1%.
So it’s true what they say – if you feel thirsty, it’s already too late.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy leaving 10% of my ability to think technically in the hotel room simply because I didn’t drink enough water.
So what can we do to stay on top of hydration?
Use Hydration Packs
I usually use hydration packs for running in the summer months. But they work equally well for riding motorcycle tours in the heat.
The good thing about hydration packs is that there are lots of different types. Get a regular backpack that houses a hydration bladder if you need to carry additional items.
Or get a designated hydration pack whose only function is to carry water.
You can also get hydration packs designed to go in your tank bag.
Whichever you choose will come with a tube that feeds through your helmet. And this allows you to sip on water throughout the day.
Once it’s empty, fill it up at any cafe, restaurant, or service stop.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb or a particularly fancy hotel, fill a bottle of water up (or your hydration pack) and pop it in the freezer overnight.
When you ride with it the following morning, it will slowly release ice-cold water as it melts, providing you with cold, refreshing H2O throughout the day.
If you use a small water bottle, you can also keep this in your jacket to vent the cold air throughout your jacket.
Drink Throughout The Day
As we know, the best way to stave off dehydration is to drink water. But we need to drink little and often – not chug litres down when we’re thirsty.
Avoid getting on the bike dehydrated by topping up with water as soon as you wake up. It’s then a question of maintaining throughout the day.
When you get back at the end of the night, enjoy a cool shower, and continue to sip on water throughout the evening, so you’re going to bed hydrated.
Plan More Breaks
As mentioned above, dehydration decreases cognitive function, so it’s important to stop off, rest, and replenish more often than usual.
Breaks give you time to sit in an air-conditioned restaurant for a while to cool down. They also give your brain a well-earned rest.
One thing I learned this summer was just how effective slush drinks are! Some flavours can be a little funky (avoid peach!), but slush drinks are excellent at cooling you down from the inside out.
Consider Early Starts Or Late Finishes
If you have a 10-hour ride to make the ferry, you will likely need to ride throughout the hottest part of the day.
If this is the case, set off early, give yourself time to take more breaks, and accept you will need to ride in the hottest part of the day.
But if you have a shorter day planned (say, 4 or 5 hours), consider setting off at sunrise to be at your location before the hottest time of the day.
Similarly, consider setting off in the late afternoon when the harshest temperatures are calmed down if you don’t want to set off early.
Avoid Excessive Alcohol
Boooooo! I’m not trying to be a killjoy, but we all know the effects of alcohol. Sure, they’re good at the time, but they’re not so good when you get up the following morning and the temperature is already at 30°.
You and I know that alcohol leaves you dehydrated – despite your best efforts to counterbalance it with water simultaneously (I’ve tried it!)
And let’s face it, you don’t need to contend with a hangover during a day that promises to be difficult as it is. Be sensible with the beers in the evening, and enjoy your ride in the morning.
After all, that’s why you’re there!
For more on hydration, see our dedicated post: 10 Top Tips For Better Motorcycle Touring Hydration
Wear The Right Kit When Riding A Motorcycle In The Heat
You can have all the best intentions in the world to stay hydrated, but if you wear the wrong kit, you’ll likely end up suffering.
Over the last few years, motorcycle clothing manufacturers have found ingenious ways to keep you cool and protected.
These are my choices of some of the best summer kit available.
Summer Base Layers
Before we even get onto the bike-related kit, I want to start with base layers.
Moisture-wicking, technical base layers wick away sweat from your skin – keeping you cool and dry in the process.
Not only do they act to remove moisture from the surface of your skin, but they provide a barrier between you and your bike kit – keeping you free or chafing.
In my view, base layers are invaluable on any trip – whether hot or cold.
An open-face helmet will likely keep you cool. But it won’t provide much protection in the event of an accident.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, a full-face helmet will give you great protection but will be stuffy and uncomfortable.
For this reason, I prefer to wear flip-front (modular) helmets in the summer months.
My personal preference is the HJC RPHA 90s Carbon. As a modular helmet, I can flip it up (or down) as I see fit.
The ventilation is excellent, and it has a drop-down visor for eye protection.
But it’s also lightweight, meaning it isn’t burdensome to wear all day.
I won’t go anywhere in the summer months without my mesh textile jacket from Furygan.
I concede it doesn’t offer as much protection as a proper textile jacket. But I find it to have the perfect balance between keeping cool and staying protected.
Not only is it lightweight, but the large mesh panels allow continuous airflow and ventilation.
And due to the perforations, it allows any sweat/moisture from the base layers to evaporate quickly and efficiently.
For me, a mesh jacket is a must.
Mesh Pants Or Jeans
In my experience, mesh pants are hard to come by. Hein Gericke used to produce some good ones before they went into administration for the final time.
A close second choice is lightweight jeans. My personal choice of jeans is from RST.
Whilst tempting to wear normal jeans, I recommend spending a little extra and going for dedicated motorcycle jeans, which offer protection at the hips and knees.
Ventilated Adventure Suit
Of course, if you prefer a suit rather than a mesh jacket and jeans, there are plenty to choose from. Although I find myself questioning the true ventilation qualities of many of them.
That said, I had the pleasure of testing Furygan’s new Voyager 3 jacket and Discovery pants on a recent summer trip. And I must concede they were excellent.
Not only did they keep me dry, but the clever ventilation system kept me cool when the temperature rose.
I highly recommend these if you want a waterproof, ventilated suit that you can use year-round.
Related Post: Furygan Adventure Suit Review: 5,000 Miles In The Arctic Circle
I find my hands act as a thermostat for the rest of my body. If my hands are hot (or cold), it doesn’t take long for the rest of my body to follow suit.
I personally enjoy mesh gloves when riding in hotter months. I’ve had two pairs of TD12 mesh gloves from Furygan and recently upgraded to their new Volt summer gloves.
If you’re more concerned with keeping cool, go for the TD12’s. If you want a touch more protection, go for the Volts.
It’s only recently that I discovered the joys of summer riding boots. For many years, I simply wore my Altberg’s all year round.
This year, however, I switched to low-slung summer boots, and they’ve been brilliant.
If you don’t fancy low-cut boots, you can always opt for regular-style (shin-high) boots that are ventilated.
We wrote a dedicated post here if you’d like to read more about summer motorcycle boots:
Other Things To Consider When Riding A Motorcycle In The Heat
When people ask me for tips and suggestions about riding motorcycles touring in the heat, the above points regarding kit and hydration are my go-to points.
But there are other things you can consider that can make a big difference to your comfort when riding in warmer temperatures.
Sun Cream & Lip Balm
You’d be surprised how much difference sun cream makes when riding a bike in the heat!
Unlike a beach holiday where you’d like to return home with bronzed skin, getting a tan is not a priority when touring on a motorcycle.
So to that end, go all out and get SPF 50 or complete sunblock.
Slap it on before you leave in the morning, and keep the bottle in your top box so you can reapply throughout the day.
The same goes for lip balm. Get one that has sun protection in it if possible, and apply it throughout the day to avoid sore, cracked lips.
Consider A Cooling Vest
Cooling vests aren’t quite as popular in Europe and the UK, but they’re a good option if you can find one you like.
There are a few different kinds to suit your needs. The basic ones act in the same way moisture-wicking base layers work – by removing moisture from the skin’s surface and evaporating.
Another version to consider is a cooling vest with chambers. Fill up the chambers with cool water, and the coolness dissipates evenly across your skin as you ride.
Simply pour it out and refill the chambers with cold water when the existing water gets warm.
Consider A Cooling Neck Wrap
Cooling neck wraps, such as Oxford’s ones are made of ‘Coolmax’ technical fabric that works in the same way as base layers and cooling vests.
Not only do they keep direct sunlight off your skin, but they wick away moisture so it can be evaporated – keeping you cool, dry, and comfortable.
Get Your Clothes Wet
We mentioned above that regular breaks help manage internal temperatures on hot days.
Whilst on these breaks, fill up your water bottles and hydration pack with cold water and then dunk your base layer top and neck wrap in a sink of cold water.
Wring them out so they’re wet (but not dripping), and then put them back on before you leave.
Of course, they’ll dry as you ride in the heat. But it’s a nice way to keep cool for a while longer.
It also stops them from stinking!
I can cope with hot weather on my bike so long as I’m moving. With my ventilated suit (or mesh jacket), mesh gloves, and modular helmet, I have a good system for maintaining airflow.
But that goes out of the window if I have to sit in traffic. Because riding a motorcycle through traffic in 100° heat isn’t great.
Avoid (or re-route around) towns, cities, and tourist attractions if you can.
Overheating: Know The Signs
If you follow the above tips, you’ll likely be fine on your trip. But it’s still important to know the signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
First, let’s look at the symptoms of heat exhaustion (less severe):
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Excessive sweating
- Cool, pale, or clammy skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Muscle cramps
The next step up is heat stroke which needs medical attention immediately:
- Throbbing headache
- No sweating
- Body temperature exceeding 103°
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Loss of consciousness
Tips For Riding Motorcycles Tours In The Heat: Conclusion
As you can see, riding your bike in the height of summer needn’t be as uncomfortable as it seems.
With some careful consideration of the kit you choose and some good habits around hydration, you can enjoy touring all summer long!
If you have any hints and tips to share about riding motorcycles in the heat, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Top image: ArtHouse Studio