Opinion: Surviving the summer heat


Every year seems to get just a little worse and every year I wonder – is the heat getting harsher or is my body getting less tolerant as it ages? I suspect it’s a slightly depressing combination of both, but life must go on. Over the years, I have come up with a strategy to deal with riding in the heat and this is what I find works for me. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions.

The first step is to simply not ride at the wrong times. Wherever possible, I try to ride before the real heat sets in the morning – and after it eases in the evening. It may skew your schedules, but the physical discomfort avoided is worth it.

The primary tool in my arsenal is a hydration pack. Being able to sip cool water while riding is a gamechanger and I don’t think I could go back to riding without one. I even mix some ORS into the water when I know it’s going to be a really long shoot day. Just make sure to clean the bladder well after you’re done.

You can go through more than four litres of water on a brutally hot day and still be dehydrated because plain water doesn’t replenish lost salts, so I also ensure to recharge with a glass of ORS once I’m home.

As for the gear , the temptation is to find the lightest, most ventilated jacket possible and that does work well in the city. However, I’ve found that too much ventilation at highway speeds is a little counteractive because it dries you out very quickly, which walks you right down the path of dehydration again. I try to look for jackets that have ventilated sections rather than having a full mesh panel from shoulders to waist.

The other useful tool is a cooling vest. It might seem counterintuitive to add one more layer of clothing, but the moment you start moving, the evaporative action starts to cool you down. Oh, and it really helps to wear a good moisture-wicking base layer rather than a cotton t-shirt.

None of these are magic solutions ,but they collectively give you noticeably more comfort. That can make the difference between getting physically overwhelmed or feeling good enough to keep riding.

Beyond that, it helps tremendously to listen to your body and there’s no shame in taking breaks to cool off. Fresh lime soda and tender coconut water are great rehydrators to sip on when stopped. On really nasty days, it’s nice to throw some water on your head and torso just before getting back on the bike. The wind will dry you off in no time, but it’ll lower your core temperature in the process.

Extreme heat can lead to some pretty nasty things, right from dehydration all the way to heat stroke. An overheated and dehydrated brain also becomes sluggish and can result in some very poor decision taking. On a motorcycle, that’s a dangerous thing.

Yes, riding in this weather is tough, but that’s no reason to park your bike for the next few months. Plan well, take some basic precautions and you’ll still get to enjoy being on a motorcycle!

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