What motorcycle accessories will help me stay cool?

With the proper accessories, even a summer ride can be cool and exhilirating. See more pictures of motorcycles.

When you're behind the wheel of a car, beating the heat usually just means turning on the air conditioner. But when you're straddling a motorcycle, staying cool centers on adequate hydration and the right equipment.

The body increases its respiratory rate and releases sweat to regulate its core temperature. Motorcyclists traveling long distances are at risk of dehydration -- the depletion of bodily fluids -- and heatstroke -- a heat-related condition characterized by muscle cramps, rapid breathing and rapid heart rate, when body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit [source: Mayo Clinic]. At their extremes, these conditions are fatal to the rider. And because these conditions can result in an altered mental state, the motorcyclist also creates a hazardous environment for everyone who shares the road with him.

So the most important steps to stay cool while riding in the heat are ensuring adequate fluid intake and minimizing your exposure to extreme heat. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks with electrolytes at regular, frequent intervals. Many riders travel with hydration bladders -- refillable reservoirs attached to hoses that allow them to drink hands-free.

Be mindful of symptoms like dizziness, muscle cramps and cool, clammy skin. Avoid riding in the middle of the day, and plan your trip for the morning and evening instead. Take frequent rests in the shade. Make sure to stow a few snacks in case you get hungry between rest stops.

Next, make sure you have the proper gear. Wearing a T-shirt and shorts might seem like a good way to keep cool, but remember that any exposed skin absorbs heat and risks sunburn. Any exposed skin is also unprotected against abrasions, the most common injury among motorcyclists [source: NHTSA]. On the other hand, wearing the same all-leather get-up you donned in the winter will cook you when you're idling in scorching temperatures. "The rider always has to make a choice between maximum protection and maximum comfort," says Jordan Pryce Levitt of motorcycle apparel company REV'IT! Sport USA. [source: Pryce Levitt]

A separate set of warm-weather apparel can easily cost more than $1,000. But while many companies make all-season jackets to accommodate both warm and cold climates, the extra investment is worth it for motorcyclists who spend a lot of time riding in hot weather.

Read ahead to examine essential gear that will help you stay cool on the open road.