If you're a motorcyclist, the summer is a blessing and a curse. Sure, there are plenty of long weekends and lots of opportunities to spend quality time with your bike, your thoughts and the open road. In fact, 71 percent of new motorcycle and scooter retail sales in 2010 occurred from April to September [source: Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council].
But when the mercury rises, so does the discomfort of cyclists everywhere. In addition, the gear typically worn by conscientious riders can leave them sweaty and miserable. No question, it can be a challenge to find the right gear to provide a mixture of safety and comfort in warm-weather conditions. We have some options for you, however.
So before you put that bike in the garage or, worse, go for a ride without a helmet or long pants, consider these 10 accessories.
Dehydration is a constant concern when it comes to riding in warm weather. As a rider, you're going to sweat in response to the heat and physical activity of riding a motorcycle, and you must replace lost fluids throughout the ride. Don't wait until you feel thirsty, dizzy, dry-mouthed or experience any of the other warning signs of dehydration before taking a drink.
Many riders travel with some sort of hydration bladder -- a backpack-style reservoir that connect to hoses and allows a journeying motorcyclist to drink without using his or her hands. You can fill the reservoir with water, ice or sports drinks. Avoid beverages with caffeine or alcohol, which are diuretics and cause further dehydration. A regular water bottle is a suitable alternative as well.
Windshields serve a variety of purposes, including warding off -- you guessed it -- the wind on chilly nights and directing the airflow around the driver to minimize aerodynamic drag. In the summer, a shorter windshield can direct some of the breeze onto the rider so he doesn't cook in the still air. There are also adjustable windshields that mount on a set of movable brackets, allowing the rider to change the angle manually [source: MadStad Engineering]. Some motorcycles allow adjusting the windshield with a push of a button on the handlebars.
In addition, Honda Goldwing motorcycle owners can choose to install Air Wings, a set of adjustable fins that are mounted on either side of the bike, to increase or decrease airflow as desired. The fins can also be angled to deflect heat from the motorcycle's engine and radiator [source: Baker Built Air Wings Inc.].
While apparel companies make leather jackets with removable liners and insulation that can be used in multiple seasons, riders who spend a lot of time traveling in warm weather should invest in a jacket made from nylon mesh or another lightweight fabric. Most jackets include a series of zippered vents that can be opened to allow increased airflow inside and closed in cooler temperatures. In general, one-piece riding suits are better for colder weather because of their waterproof materials and minimal ventilation.
Though the materials aren't as durable as heavier leathers like cowhide, most lightweight jackets incorporate protective padding on shoulders, spine and impact points that conforms to European certification standards.
Insulated leather gloves hold off the bite of winter, but they'll suffocate your hands in hot weather. Like the jacket we just talked about, look for gloves with mesh or perforations on the knuckles and leather on the palms. The mesh redirects airflow to cool your hands, while the leather lessens the vibrations pulsing through your hands and protects them in the event of a crash.
Many pairs incorporate carbon fiber -- a material that is as strong as steel while carrying a fraction of its weight -- to protect the fingers and knuckles. Always wear gloves designed for motorcyclists: Don't substitute golfing or batting gloves, and never wear gloves with open fingers.
Warm-weather pants follow the same construction as warm-weather jackets: They are made of lightweight, breathable fabrics with perforations or vent panels to increase airflow. They include reinforced padding on the knees and hips to soften the force of impact from collisions. In addition to protective CE armor, which meets European safety standards, some companies incorporate Kevlar -- a strong, lightweight fiber that's also used in cold-weather motorcycle apparel -- on impact points.
When selecting a color for your pants or jacket, don't assume that lighter colors offer a cooler riding experience. ''The reality is that when you're stopped at a streetlight, there might be a slight advantage. But black is no hotter than silver or gray when you're going 65 miles per hour,'' says Jordan Pryce Levitt of motorcycle apparel company REV'IT! Sport USA.
Underneath your jacket, wear clothing made of sweat-wicking fabrics designed to draw moisture away from the skin and enhance the rate of evaporation. These garments are available as separate long-sleeved tops and bottoms or one-piece outfits that resemble a surfer's wetsuit.
While a number of sports apparel companies design multipurpose sweat-wicking garments for athletes like runners, cyclists and other energetic types, base layers for motorcyclists are designed to accommodate the rider's posture. For example, the tops typically feature elongated backs and sleeves to fit a rider's bent-over frame, and they frequently include perforation panels to increase airflow.
If you're involved in racing, base layers make it easier to slide into your race suit.
While waterproof leather boots are ideal in cold, wet weather, ventilation and breathability count the most in warm weather. Opt for boots that incorporate mesh in their construction, feature ventilation panels on their sides to enhance airflow and include a liner made of breathable fabric.
The boots should fit over your ankles and include a nonslip sole. Underneath, wear a pair of socks made from a blend of synthetic, sweat-wicking fibers. Like your base layer, the socks will draw out moisture and cool your feet down. And even on the hottest days, never wear sneakers -- they offer little protection in the event of a crash.
According to a 2005 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets were only 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities [source: NHTSA]. Nonetheless, most states enforce laws requiring motorcyclists to wear them while on the road.
Even in hot weather, wear a full-face helmet with a flip-down visor to protect from the elements and debris. Ensure that the helmet has ventilation and a breathable or removable lining.
To stay cool, wet your hair with water before starting every leg of your trip. And don't worry about overheating because of your helmet: A 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal determined that no more than 10 percent of body heat escapes through your head [source: Sample].
If you don't mind the feeling of wet fabric on your torso, an evaporative cooling vest is a great way to stay cool. These vests -- which construction workers also frequently wear in the heat -- are soaked in water and worn underneath riding jackets with good ventilation and airflow. The evaporation of the water helps drive down the rider's core temperature.
Don't have a vest? Wetting down a T-shirt can achieve a similar effect. If you go this route, you might not want to wear an evaporative cooling vest under anything other than a mesh jacket in order to avoid damaging your gear.
Covering your neck is a must while riding a motorcycle. Start by slathering on the sunscreen . Exposed skin absorbs heat from the sun and is at risk of sunburn, windburn and, potentially, skin cancer. You can help prevent hyperthermia by covering and cooling the carotid arteries on either side of your neck, which deliver blood to the brain.
Many companies sell scarves made from special fabrics that they claim won't go dry for days on end, but you can regulate your body temperature on a shorter trip by soaking a simple cloth bandanna. Carry a water-filled spray bottle or stop at a rest area to resoak the garment when it dries out.
You're ready to ride! Don't be surprised if people start asking you for advice about motorcycles. You'll be a fount of knowledge when you bone up on bikes on the next page.
Can you choose the best motorcycle accessories for health and safety in warm weather? Take the warm-weather motorcycling quiz at HowStuffWorks.
- Baker Built Air Wings, Inc. ''Air Wings Demonstration Video.'' 2009. (May 21, 2011) http://www.bakerbuilt.com/bbairwings/index.htm
- Cherney, Andrew. ''Hot-Weather Motorcycle Apparel and Gear.'' Motorcycle Cruiser. February 2009. (May 14, 2011)http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/accessoriesandgear/hot_weather_gear/index.html
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- Pryce Levitt, Jordan. Director of Sales, REV'IT! Sport USA. Personal interview. May 20, 2011.
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- RevZilla Blog. ''Warm Weather Adventure Motorcycle Gear Guide 2011.'' March 30, 2011. (May 13, 2011)http://blog.revzilla.com/2011/03/warm-weather-adventure-motorcycle-gear.html
- Sample, Ian. ''Scientists debunk the myth that most heat is lost through head.'' The Guardian. December 18, 2008. (May 21, 2011) http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/17/medicalresearch-humanbehaviour
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