Well, you all knew that this article was coming, didn’t you? Now that I live in Phoenix, AZ, aka “hell”, I have learned an awful lot about hot weather riding. Frankly, there is no other kind of riding in AZ. We have two seasons: Skin-blistering, evil hot (from the months of May – October) or just plain hot (for the months of November – April).
If you are lucky enough to be able to actually pick and choose your hot weather riding (or, if you live in hell like me) this article will help you prepare for it.
What do so many of us see in extra hot weather? Bikers who have shed all of their protective clothing and gear. These folks ride with the absolute bare minimum: halter tops, shorts, T-shirts, sandals, or in some cases completely bare-chested. The men, not the women. Although at Sturgis, you never know what you’ll see. ; ) Anyway, many of these motorcyclists don’t even wear helmets or head covering of any kind. These folks are absolutely risking heat illnesses, such as muscle cramping, lethargy, dizziness, headaches, and even the much more severe heat exhaustion or heat stroke (not to mention fast and easy tattoo removal, by way of asphalt or death, by way of cracked skull, etc.).
Although it seems completely counter-intuitive, shedding layers in hot weather is actually a very, very bad thing. Here’s why:
The body contains its own protective protocol for keeping our organs at a constant, healthy temperature and avoiding heat stress. It’s a process called vasodilation. When it is hot, the body dialates the blood vessles to circulate more blood and pull heat from its core to the skin. The skin in turn produces sweat to cool the surface of the body and dissipate the heat into the atmosphere. So, cooler skin means cooler blood and cooler blood means a cooler core.
If the temperature outside is cooler than the body temperature, then it makes sense to open the zipper on your jacket a bit and let some air hit you while you ride. But, if the temperature outside is actually hotter than the body’s temperature, the skin cannot dissipate the heat into the air; the heat has no where else to go but back in, so the skin simply transfers the heat back into the body’s core. This is bad. And, in this case, layers of clothing and gear will actually come to your rescue.
Layers of clothing cover the skin from direct sun exposure and actually help the body sweat more. This sweat in turn keeps the skin and your clothing wet and facilitates a healthy evaporation cycle even in extremely hot temperatures. The process is great. You get hot, your core sends heat to the surface, your skin sweats, which keeps you wetter and cooler; and, that then helps evaporate the heat as you continue happily on your way. As for making the most of evaporation, it’s best to keep your neck constantly wet because there are major blood vessels in the neck area and for obvious reasons, evaporation works best in areas of the body where there are more blood vessels.
We also have to do our part in helping the body carry out evaporation by keeping a steady stream of water coming into it; drinking lots of water, as in a quart per hour or more, while you are riding in high temperatures, is absolutely vital; I have a camelbak fanny pack apparatus that contains 1.5 liters of water that I sip from constantly as I ride. I also wet my entire T-shirt below my summer jacket and continue to pour water down my neck, both front and back, when I stop to rest.
And, that’s another thing. In hot weather, you have to stop more often. Tack on more time for your trip, folks, because the safest thing to do is to stop every hour and pound lots of water, drink some electrolytes if you can get them, wet your clothing, and rest, preferably in air conditioning. Rest is as important as drinking water and wearing layers.
So, when the high temps hit and you need a riding fix, add some layers, stay hydrated, and rest often. You’ll weather the weather with no problems. Love, your friend, Lizzy: