IMPORTANT NOTICE: Ultimately, the safety of motorcycle riders and their passengers is their own responsibility. Nothing presented in the column supersedes, negates or relieves a motorcyclist and/or passenger from assumption of personal responsibility for their actions and safety.
It’s that time of year again. Becky and I rode back yesterday from the Riding Into History vintage bike gathering in St Augustine. On the way home, the ambient temperature readout on Becky’s new VFR1200FD told her it hit 95 degrees as we rode through the Ocala forest. Our trip home was 4 hours in the Florida heat.
Every year starting about this time and for the next 4-5 months, all of us in Flatistan (central and south Florida) face this same challenge…the heat.
There are lots of ways to combat the heat. Some motorcycle owners just say the heck with it and don’t ride. I discount them as fair weather riders. The real answer is to recognize the heat factor and plan for it.
For short rides, pick the right time. If you can ride first thing in the morning, you can usually get in several hours of bearable temperatures from dawn to about 11am or so. The same thing applies for the afternoon and evening hours. After about 4pm, riding becomes fun again.
If you want to ride in the middle of the day during our hot season, there are a couple of strategies to help you out.
First off, don’t think that riding in a t-shirt and shorts will make you feel cooler. The blazing sun on your skin will only cook you like a Thanksgiving Turkey. Besides that, you have pledged to wear ATGATT, right?
Armored mesh gear is the way to go. The air flows through it and the gear keeps the sun off.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. If you wait until you’re thirsty to stop for a drink (of water!), then you’re already dehydrating. Drink early, drink often. If you’re riding longer distance and don’t want to stop, invest in a Camelbak® or other water supply system that you can draw from on the ride.
There are lots of commercial cooling vests, rags, etc, on the market. There is even an electric a/c system available for motorcycles. I’ve tested it and it works, but it seems bulky and a little impractical, at least for my riding style.
Want some easy, low-cost A/C while you ride? Take a bottle of cold water and pour it over your shirt, then immediately put your mesh jacket on and ride. The air flowing through the jacket turns that wet t-shirt into a cooling vest. Even in 95 degree weather in Florida it will keep you cool for at least 30-45 minutes. The jacket keeps the sun off the shirt and that combined with our humidity prevents the shirt from drying out too quickly.
Whatever you do, watch for the signs of heat-related illnesses. Don’t overdo it. Take frequent breaks.
Finally, watch out for each other as well as yourself. Let’s all take care as we ride during the hot summer months!
Ride Safe! Doug Westly – Safety Editor