Story by Doug Westly
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published the July 2014 edition of the MSTA Florida Chapter newsletter, The Florida Gator Tale. The story has been edited to match the MSTA website’s style.
I always get a chuckle when northern or western riders come to Florida in summer and ask, “How do you ride in this weather?”
We are now in the middle of summer. I saw 97 degrees indicated on my GS instrument panel the other day. Even our cats refuse to go outside during the middle of the day.
So, how do we cope with the hot weather while riding?
First, pay attention to the cats. If they aren’t going out when the sun is high in the sky, maybe we shouldn’t be getting on our bikes at that time either. The easiest way to beat the heat is to ride early in the morning and/or late afternoon into the evening. Mid-afternoons in Florida should be reserved for naps, boating, and BBQs – in that order. I never get past the first one.
Second, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. If you wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking water, it’s too late. If you know you’re going to be riding, start hydrating well before that.
You also should know the symptoms of hyperthermia, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I won’t delve into all the medical information here, as it would take the rest of the column. If you’re going to be out in the Florida summer sun, make sure you study up on the medical safety aspects.
Choose your gear wisely. I saw at least one rider this past weekend – in full, non-perforated race leathers – riding on the street in the heat of the day. While I applaud him for his views on crash safety, I question his common sense. Part of safety is understanding the relationship between your gear and the environment. Encapsulating yourself in a leather sauna suit, in 95 degree or hotter temperatures for a street ride is probably not an exhibition of understanding.
That’s why companies make perforated leather, armored mesh, etc. Good undergarments that wick sweat can help. If you need to, soak down your t-shirt and your gear, then get back on and ride. It will turn your gear into an air conditioner.
Whatever you do, don’t say to yourself, “It’s too hot for gear. Just this once, I’ll only ride in….” Don’t do it.
If you decide to ride in the heat of the day, make sure the environment is part of your ride strategy. Limit yourself to short rides, or short stages on a longer ride. Take lots of breaks and keep up the fluid intake. You also can wear a backpack reservoir and sip regularly throughout the ride.
Finally, watch out for each other as well as yourself. Let’s all take care as we ride during the hot summer months!