As we prepare for our Summer riding season, the heat of riding is heavy on our minds! We’ll be coming from heading east on our annual Coast 2 Coast Ride, from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. For us, this means we’ll have to cross the deserts of California and Arizona, and endure the humidity of Georgia and Louisiana. Our readers have asked us how to keep cool on a long distance ride, and we’re happy to help! This summer riding guide is designed to help you prepare both your body and your bike for the high temperatures you’ll incur from state to state. Feel free to comment with your own ways to keep cool!
Acclimation: Getting your body ready to ride
Acclimation is the process of training your body to perform efficiently in hot weather. Through heat acclimation your body undergoes physiological changes that improve cardiovascular function, cause your body to sweat sooner and more efficiently, and allow you to ride longer. Summer long distance riders should learn how to acclimate to hot weather to reduce the risk of heatstroke and heat-related deaths. Benefits of Acclimation include:
- You may possess greater comfort during your ride while exposed to hot weather.
- You can withstand the heat for longer distances.
- Acclimating to heat can lower your body heat production, heart rate, core temperature, and salt loss.
- You may have improved organ protection, skin blood flow, and sweating
- It is best to have a medium-to-high level of fitness before you begin to acclimate your body to hot weather.
- Allow 10 – 14 days of training in heat to acclimate your body to the heat.
- Find some time in your schedule to exercise in heat for 30 mins to 1 hour a day for two straight weeks.
- If the weather isn’t very hot, you can wear additional layers to simulate high heat conditions or train in a hot room.
- Start your training with 15 minutes of intense movement, and increase your time no more than 20% each day.
- For best results, use Interval Training (alternating periods of movement and rest).
- If you feel fatigued or overheated, stop immediately.
During the first 8 days, your core body temperature will readjust. Resting in heat, without activity will not acclimate your body. Work up to 60 – 100 minutes of exercise in hot climate. Eat enough calories to replace burned calories. A diet of 2100 calories is recommended during acclimation training.
Hydration for your ride begins during your acclimation process. Staying hydrated is essential when riding in hot weather. It takes two weeks to fully hydrate the body for a long road trip. Dehydration can result in decreased blood flow to the skin, decreased sweat production, reduced blood volume, and an increase in your core body temperature. The water lost from sweat must be replaced while exercising.
- Be sure to drink fluids both during the acclimation process and when you are done. Because high heat results in an increased fluid loss, don’t wait until your feel thirsty. Drink frequently. Drink a half a quart for every pound of water weight lost.
- More sodium will be retained by the body and less excreted in your sweat and urine if you have more fluid in the body. This allows the body to maintain its proper sodium concentrations.
- Consume enough sodium to replace what is lost by sweating. A low-sodium diet may impair your body’s ability to maintain its sodium levels.
- While on the road, drink water and urinate at every gas stop. Drink electrolytes to replace sodium at every other gas stop. Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade work well.
Notice the Signs: Heat Illnesses
There are many causes of heat illness that are good to be aware of before you begin your acclimation process. Heat illness can be caused by dehydration, low level of fitness, current bacterial or viral infection, sleep deprivation, inappropriate clothing, and drugs and/or medications. Being aware of these risk factors can help you prevent heat illness.
Heat exhaustion occurs as the body continues to shunt blood away from the brain and muscles. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Headaches, dizziness, nausea, momentary fainting
- Tiredness, weakness
- Profuse sweating
- Pale, clammy skin
- Approximately normal body temperature
If you begin to feel these symptoms during a desert ride, take immediate action before you pass out.
- Get into some shade, preferably into an air-conditioned room.
- Loosen clothing and wet down skin or undershirt to increase evaporative cooling.
- Slowly sip water, or salt water solution, same dose as for heat cramps. Avoid alcohol or caffeine.
- If you feel faint, lie down and get feet raised above head level.
- If you can’t keep the salt water down, get emergency medical aid. You may need an intravenous salt solution.
- Even after you begin to feel normal again, consider staying out of the heat for a day or two. Your body needs some time to recuperate. If you are on a long trip, consider a 24 hour layover in the next air-conditioned motel.
If you experience heat exhaustion and just try to “tough out” the heat without getting cooled down and re-hydrated, the body thermostats will begin to fail. Core temperature continues to rise (may go as high as 106 or 107 degrees F.), sweating stops, the heart beats even faster, and you may pass out. If you are coherent enough to recognize the symptoms, immediately get medical aid while you are still mobile. And watch your riding buddies for any of the following heat stroke symptoms.
- Victim incoherent, staring vacantly, blanking out, or unresponsive
- Skin hot, red, dry (no perspiration)
- Rapid pulse
- Body temperature elevated
Yes, heat stroke is life threatening. It’s a medical emergency. Don’t be bashful about calling 911 for assistance. In the meanwhile,
- Get the victim into some shade, out of riding gear, and cooled down by any means available. If possible, get the victim into an air-conditioned room, or use fans to help provide evaporative cooling.
- Repeatedly sponge skin with cool water or rubbing alcohol. Apply cold packs or ice cubes if you can get them. The goal is to get body temperature below 102 degrees F.
- Don’t give the victim any stimulants, especially not any alcoholic beverages.
- If the victim’s temperature begins to rise again, repeat the cooling process.
- As soon as possible, get the victim to emergency treatment.
Gearing Up for the Heat
In hot weather, wear light colored, light weight or moisture wicking clothing. Heavy clothing that does not dry quickly will leave you hot and uncomfortable. Avoid over exposure to the sun, as heat fatigue and heat exhaustion will cause you serious issues and impair your ability to ride. Here’s a list of my essential summer riding gear:
- Multi-Tec Helmet
- Mesh Riding Jacket
- Cooling Vest
- Mesh or Perforated Leather Riding Gloves
- Moisture Wicking Shirts or Body Suits
- Comfortable Riding Boots
- Cooling Socks
- Hydration Pack
Preparing your bike for hot weather riding:
Hydrate your bike: Check your fluids – Check your oil levels, and for those with liquid cooled engines, check your coolant levels. Leaving your bike thirsty could have you stranded in the heat.
Tire Temperatures and Air Pressures – Tire air pressures are absolutely critical at any time, but when pavement temperatures are in triple digits, under-inflated tires (which are prone to blow-out failures to start with) become a disaster waiting for a place to happen. Time to failure gets even shorter if the bike is loaded with luggage and a passenger.
Help your bike breathe: Clean your vents and filters – Keeping your bike vents and air filters clean will help air circulate and keep your bike cool. Clean road grime from all vents as you can along the ride.
Roadside Assistance: Make sure you’ve got help on the way – Check your insurance for your Roadside Assistance option and keep the necessary numbers handy. Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys offers free roadside assistance with their BAM card. Automobile Club (AAA) offers nationwide coverage. Be sure to sign up for the motorcycle option. You’ll need to have it active for 1 week before your roadside emergency can be covered.
Just In Case: Keep Fluids and Shade Handy – Pack water and an umbrella just in case you’ve got to sit and wait for help. Waiting in extreme heat can take hours, and having water and shade ready can save your life.
Do you have more to add? Feel free to drop us a comment!