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How to keep cool on the bike when it’s hot

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We have all seen it on hot days, the people riding round in T-shirts, shorts and flip flops. Personally, it’s not for me. I value my skin and having had various slides down the tarmac, I’ve worked out that tarmac and skin don’t mix. Hopefully, you think the same too, but riding around in full protective gear when the weather is hot does get warm. So here are some top tips on staying cool while riding AND staying protected!

crashed motorcycle leathers
30mph slide does this to leather and plastic, imagine what it does to skin…

Why is staying cool on a motorcycle important?

A higher core temperature feels uncomfortable, but it can also lead to dehydration which can cause a lack of concentration, decision-making, and even headaches and nausea. None of these side effects are good as a motorcyclist; believe me, I’ve been there if you haven’t! Normally, when you start to feel thirsty, it is too late, and you’re already well on the way to dehydration. Not good, but it can be treated and prevented.

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The coolest part of the day

This first one might apply if you are only riding for pleasure, but picking the time to ride can help. For example, early morning or later afternoon rides tend to be much cooler, with the sun being lower in the sky. On the other hand, midday sun can be scorching, so setting off earlier or later could be cooler if not riding to a destination for a time.

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Open the vents!

Many helmets these days have adjustable airflow and exhausts vents, which many people forget about. Opening up the vents allows the helmet to breathe better, scavenging in fresh air and exhausting hot air. The vents normally have channels inside to circulate your head too! Occasionally vents can get blocked by the carcasses of bug and flies. A trick is to carefully remove those with a cocktail stick, allowing airflow again.

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Are perforated leathers cooler?

Most one-piece leather suits will have perforated sections sometimes on the front of the legs and the chest, allowing airflow to pass through. This is great during the summer months allowing ample air through to the skin and is refreshingly cool. Simply running the zip slightly open can allow air to pass through if you don’t have a perforated suit; however, you might be more exposed.

4SR leathers
Perforations in the front of the suit allow cooling air through

Normally once up to speed, the airflow over the clothing is quite cooling, but hot leathers stuck in traffic with the beaming sun can be a nightmare! Contrary to popular belief, dark colour clothing can help keep the wearer cool. With black absorbing heat, this can help evaporate sweat off the skin quicker, wicking away heat. With lighter colours reflecting heat, this could mean that darker colours are better in the sun.

Is mesh motorcycle armour safe?

For some riders wearing a full leather suit while out on the roads is excessive. Modern textiles and other materials are just as resistant to abrasion as traditional leather. Brands are increasingly coming out with lightweight garments with added armour, which still provide AA CE ratings. The mesh construction allows the garments to be highly breathable, but the built-in armour ensures complete protection to the wearer. This solution is great, but, can most people afford summer and winter gear?

knox mesh jacket
Knox’s mesh range feature lightweight breathable but fully protective jackets

What motorcycle base layers?

These baselayers can wick away sweat, and combined with a perforated suit; the airflow can be extra cooling. There are plenty of manufactures, but cheap sports compression layers have always worked well for me. The stretchy fabrics work well, and the garments are lightweight and keep you comfortable. They can be easily washed too, which is hygienic as they often get smelly. Polyester or wool are good materials, and they work in summer to keep you cool and winter to keep you warm, bonus!

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Keeping hydrated on the bike

We all sweat; it’s a natural bodily process designed to keep us cool. Evaporating moisture off the skin reduces temperature, and we will continue to sweat until dehydration where there isn’t enough water left. This is why keeping hydrated is important on hot days. Also, it is worth maybe about getting some salts and electrolytes in which are naturally lost too. So that sports drink might be a better choice on a hot day than that tempting cup of coffee. Of course, the sugar may also be useful too.

motorcycle hydration
Pouches can sit inside the race hump but they may warm up quickly!

While coffee does have caffeine which can improve concentration and performance levels, it is a diuretic (makes you need to pee) which counters the point of actually drinking the coffee for hydration anyway. The diuretic nature comes from caffeine, so in theory, a decaff coffee won’t make you need a pee and could still be a good hydrator.

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Some leather suits come with a hydration pouch that can accommodate a drink pouch. Normally they have about half a litre capacity. These can be useful for just wetting the mouth; however, you will definitely need more quickly. These pouches will tend to warm up very quickly due to being on the back, so either add ice or accept the fact it might be warm.

What to eat while motorcycling

In much the same way as keeping hydrated is important, keeping the body fuelled is important too. That large breakfast packed full of protein and carbs takes much more water to break down inside the stomach than lighter and healthier. Even I hate to write an article suggesting bikers ditch the pies, fish and chips and bacon butties, but when the weather is warm, and after a big meal, we all want to sleep, right? So save these until after the ride; you’ll need and deserve it!

Take regular breaks

If it gets too hot, there is no shame in stopping and finding some shade. Temperatures in the shade can be massively cooler and can make a big difference to keeping chilled. Sometimes continuing to battle, the heat will make things even worse. So pullover, enjoy the scenery and have a drink and ice cream; slower is sometimes better.

Park your bike in the shade too if you can

We’ve all opened the car after it’s been parked in the sun for hours, and it’s like a greenhouse. Likewise, we’ve all sat on the seat of a motorcycle after it’s been parked out, and yes, it gets hot! But, believe me, and your butt will thank you for parking in the shade!