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.
If you like the traditional look of leather and you live in a region where the temperature plummets once the sun goes down, perforated leather clothing can increase airflow during the day and provide warmth during chilly evening rides. But jackets and pants constructed from lightweight fabrics -- nylon is one of the most common materials -- with mesh linings underneath offer much more breathability for consistently dry, hot climates. These typically incorporate ventilation panels on the chest, back and arms to promote air flow, and many even have interior liners and insulation layers that can be removed or replaced to help regulate body temperature. Lightweight jackets typically incorporate extra foam padding on the shoulders, hips and other points of impact to protect the rider. To prevent this padding from coming loose during a collision, jackets and pants should have a snug, but comfortable fit.
Ventilation is an important feature in your riding apparel because it allows cooler air to circulate against the skin while allowing your heat to escape. Generally, waterproof winter boots have poor ventilation, so opt for warm-weather boots with mesh ventilation panels. Gloves should incorporate mesh or perforation holes on the top and leather on the palms for collision protection.
A base layer is essentially for keeping cool. These shirts and bottoms constructed from sweat-wicking synthetic fabrics draw the moisture away from the skin to the outer layer of the garment and increase the efficiency of sweat evaporation. Motorcycle-specific brands often augment these garments to fit a seated cyclist: For example, the sleeves and the back are elongated because of a cyclist's bent-over posture.
In dry climates, riders can choose cooling vests, which they soak in water and drape over their torso to keep their skin damp and cool.
Last, soak a scarf and wrap it around your neck. It will shield your neck from the sun and cool down the blood passing through the carotid arteries. Some scarves are made from synthetic fabrics that purport to absorb more water and keep you cooler for longer periods, but a standard cloth bandana can work in a pinch. Soak the scarf in water and re-wet it as needed. While you're at it, take off your helmet and soak your hair to cool down even more.
- 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
- Cherney, Andrew. ''Summer Gloves: Buyer's Guide.'' Motorcycle Cruiser. August 2005. (May 13, 2011) http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/accessoriesandgear/0508_crup_summer_gloves_buyers_guide/index.html
- Conley, Paul. Owner, Moto Market Protective Gear. Personal interview. May 20, 2011.
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- Mayo Clinic. ''Dehydration Symptoms.'' Jan. 7, 2011. (May 21, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dehydration/DS00561/DSECTION=symptoms
- Mayo Clinic. ''Heatstroke.'' Sept. 5, 2009. (May 21, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heat-stroke/DS01025
- Mokey, Nick. ''Must-Have Motorcycle Accessories: The Ultimate Gear Test Drive.'' Popular Mechanics. Oct. 1, 2009. (May 19, 2011) http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/4235875?click=main_sr
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- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. ''National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety.'' (May 20, 2011) http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/00-NHT-212-motorcycle/human27-29.html
- 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
- Siahaan, Troy. ''MotoGP Corkscrew Jacket and Apex Leather Pants.'' Rider. July 2007. (May 13, 2011) http://www.ridermagazine.com/output.cfm?ID=1260361
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