How to Ride Safely in Extreme Heat

How to Ride Safely in Extreme Heat

  • Riding a motorcycle in triple digits has been described as the equivalent of a giant hair dryer constantly blowing directly in your face.


    This can get serious – deadly serious – if it gets out of hand. Without turning this into a biology lecture, here’s the short version of how the body responds to intense heat.


    Blood vessels enlarge to circulate more blood. Heart rate and blood flow increase. Blood pressure drops as more blood is pumped toward the skin and less goes to the heart and brain.


    This hampers brain activity and muscle control, causing leg cramps, muscle fatigue, headaches, dizziness and intense sweating – all symptoms of overheating and heat exhaustion. Think about how these things would affect you if you were just relaxing on the back porch, much less operating a 3,000-pound Harley Davidson at high speed.


    If you try to push through it without cooling down and rehydrating, heat stroke may be next. That can kill you.


    Here are some tips for riding safely in extreme heat.


    1)      Hydrate constantly. Drink before you start your ride and plan to consume one liter per hour in extreme heat. Water is the best. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are the worst. Wear a hydration bladder or a hydration pack. You need to drink more water than your body sweats or you run a serious risk of becoming dehydrated and experiencing the symptoms mentioned earlier.


    2)      If you feel any symptoms of overheating, pull over. Cool off and drink plenty of water. Don’t get back on your bike until those symptoms have completely subsided. Don’t try to tough it out, and don’t worry about inconveniencing your friends. A hospital trip would be much worse than an extra hour spent in an air conditioned building.


    3)      Wear gear that enables airflow. Before you ditch a jacket altogether, think about how it would feel to have a bug hit you on the shoulder at 70 miles per hour. Just ditch your favorite leather jacket for a mesh or vented jacket. And yes, many of these do come in leather. Also, invest in a vented helmet, mesh gloves, breathable pants, a cooling vest and even ventilated boots and socks.


    4)      Lose the windshield. If your motorcycle’s windshield or windscreen is removable, it may be a good idea to take it off when riding during summer months to allow for increased airflow.


    Leather helps you look the part when you’re riding a Harley, and it’s actually great for safety – but not when the heat is extreme. To avoid melting, you may need to throw on some gear that you’d rather not wear. 


    What are your tips for staying cool when riding in extreme heat?