For most, riding a motorcycle is much more than a hobby — it’s a lifestyle. Whether you have hundreds of miles under your belt or you’re learning to ride solo, we’re sure you look forward to joyrides, especially during the summer. Even taking longer road trips in warmer weather is all part of the experience.
But as temperatures increase, you need to keep yourself safe with personal comfort and health, along with maintaining the functionality of your bike. Peterson’s Harley-Davidson is here to guide you through the safest driving methods and best maintenance practices when riding in hot weather.
The Drawbacks of Riding in a Hot Climate
Driving your motorcycle on back roads, finding new destinations and committing to an exciting road trip gives you an incomparable feeling. But during your adventures, you might experience phenomena such as too-tight boots or an uncomfortable position. While these are simple adjustments you can fix or choose to ignore, you never want to dismiss physical symptoms that can affect your health and driving safety.
When you start to feel dizzy or nauseated, pull over immediately. Take time to rehydrate and rest. If you continue to push forward, your symptoms can worsen, affecting how you drive. Signs of dehydration can also increase to more severe physical problems if untreated.
Signs you may be experiencing heat exhaustion include headaches, fatigue, cramps and excessive sweating. You should pull over and seek medical attention, especially if the indications don’t settle. If you fail to take a break to recuperate, your body can worsen and heatstroke can occur.
Heatstroke will cause you to fall unconscious, and if you’re riding while it happens, severe accidents can transpire. Instead of ignoring your body, taking a break is a simple task that won’t put a stopper in your joyride. If you’re riding with other people, don’t feel pressured to keep going. They probably need a break too.
While there are some things you can push through while driving, you should never take physical symptoms lightly. During the summer, riding in extreme heat can increase your chances of health risks, so always put yourself first to avoid complications.
Motorcyclists make up only 3% of drivers on the road. That means we have to be extra cautious when riding when it comes to being aware of other drivers and ourselves.
One of the best things you can do is stay hydrated throughout your trip. Planning can make a massive difference in how you feel during your adventure. If you know you’ll be riding on a specific day, make sure to avoid alcohol and focus on your water intake levels the day before. Drink water consistently throughout the night, as well as in the morning. You can also prepare by wearing a Camelback or other device to drink water while on the move.
No matter if you’re heading 10 miles down the road or setting the route for a multi-state trip, drink water at every rest stop or more if needed. Staying hydrated during humid and hot summer trips is critical for your health and safety. As your body works hard to keep you cool, you sweat — which is water leaving your body.
Consuming water regularly will keep you replenished and help you avoid feeling lightheaded. It can also help you thwart heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The trick is to not guzzle down water all at once, even if you are thirsty. Take small sips at a time, because chugging can cause cramps.
If you choose a route with few gas stations or available rest stops, always pack a supply of water. You should abstain from drinking liquids that contain caffeine, like soda and coffee, because they can hasten the dehydration process. They also make you need to use the restroom more often. Sugary drinks are also not a good idea. High sugar levels in a drink can give you a brief energy boost, but you experience energy crashes soon after. With the combination of heat and the wrong beverage, it can make matters worse.
Along with packing water and staying hydrated, you’ll want to pack supplies if you’re taking a more extended trip. For example, stock up on the essentials and bring extra protective gear — pack water, sports drinks, fruits and other snacks. If necessary, pack an extra T-shirt, jacket and socks if you become uncomfortable.
In the summer, even on cloudy days, sun exposure is a factor. Along with your food and drinks, pack sunscreen and re-apply every two hours. Wear sunscreen on any areas that get exposed to the sun while riding, including your face, hands and the back of your neck. Bring necessary medications, bug spray and anything else you require on a road trip.
Make regularly scheduled pit stops, too. They let you rest, fill up your gas tank and gain energy for the next haul. Stopping is also the best time to stretch your legs and use the bathroom. Taking small breaks every hour or less is vital as the weather gets hotter. You can even cool your helmet by placing a small bag of ice inside to refresh yourself.
Clothes for Riding in the Heat
Typical motorcycle riding gear includes warmer articles of clothing such as boots, jeans, long-sleeved shirts, jackets and gloves, so it can be challenging to know what to wear when it’s already hot outside. Riding on the highway at top speeds can create a wind chill, but sometimes it’s not enough to keep you comfortable in the summer.
According to motorcycle safety, proper riding involves wearing “all the gear all the time” — ATGATT. It’s a term you probably learned in your motorcycle training course when understanding complete motorcycle safety. Never reduce your gear, even when the perceived risk may be lower.
You should still wear full-body clothing when driving in the summer. However, there are several tips on how to stay refreshed. For example, wearing form-fitting sportswear can keep you cool. Many brands integrate moisture-wicking properties into their apparel. Another way you can gear up for your summer ride is by following these six pieces of advice.
1.Apply Base Layers
While many motorcycle riders wear base layers during the colder months of fall and winter, the extra clothing can also help during hotter seasons. If you choose thick layers made of a material that retains heat, it will do you no good.
Instead, wear a lightweight base layer that has moisture-wicking properties. Choosing a material with the right ventilation will keep you cool and comfortable. It can also create an additional layer of comfort between you and your jacket. Not all jacket materials are the most comfortable against our skin. By having an extra layer or two, you can avoid discomfort for a more enjoyable ride.
You can also add an extra layer to your pants to prevent discomfort from your jeans or other fabric. Adding a base layer acts as a buffer between your protective clothing and your skin, while keeping you dry at the same time.
2.Choose Proper Pants
One of the worst things you can do is to wear shorts — yes, even when it’s hot outside. Not only do you put yourself at risk if your skin comes in contact with the exhaust system, but shorts will also not offer protection in the case of an accident.
While leather pants used to be the go-to for safety reasons, they are a catalyst for retaining heat, and they increase perspiration when subjected to the sun. Today, you can still choose to wear leather with a base layer, or you can rely on other fabrics that deliver ventilation for a safe ride.
Jeans provide security and are a lighter-weight solution than leather. Invest in a pair with Kevlar fabric lining that helps diminish abrasions. Some versions even have impact protectors located in the pockets. Jeans with Armlet threads or elastic materials are other excellent options.
There are also non-denim possibilities available, but make sure they provide enough protection and aeration. No matter how tempting it is to put on shorts, always wear appropriate full-length riding pants.
3.Have Ventilated Summer-Weight Boots
Unfortunately, motorcycle footwear is the least flexible summer article of clothing. Most boots geared toward motorcycle enthusiasts are closed leather with little to no ventilation. Therefore, your feet sweat more than other areas of your body. Your feet demand the same protection as your other extremities. When shifting gears near the hot exhaust system, your feet and ankles will not fare well with sandals, sneakers or different types of footwear. It can cause safety hazards.
Although you can’t get out of wearing closed-toe boots, some brands have designed riding boots with mesh siding and front holes to maximize airflow. When you ride at high speeds, air will penetrate the open areas and ventilate your feet, toes and ankles. Even the slightest amount of air can aid in comfort.
4. Invest in a Breathable Helmet
Investing in a proper helmet is the epitome of motorcycle safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets reduce the risk of death in an accident by 37%, and can diminish the danger of a head injury by 69%.
When you wear a helmet, choose one that is safety-approved by the DOT. It guarantees the gear complies with safety standards required by law. Especially during open-air riding, headgear is vital in protecting the most vulnerable part of your body. It’s never a smart idea to skip the safety equipment, even when it’s summer. And while some states have gotten rid of helmet laws, they can mean the difference between life and death.
Older helmet versions lack ventilation and comfort. Proper headgear upgraded to modern levels of technology can keep you protected and cool. Contemporary styles give you various designs. For example, the best helmets for summer consist of carbon fiber. Others that perform well are hybrids of fiberglass and polycarbonate.
Riding helmets today are ventilated and lightweight. If you opt for a more tech-savvy helmet, it can have everything from Bluetooth compatibility, noise cancellation and UV protection to transition visors, rear-view cameras and 360-degree cameras.
5.Select Mesh-Backed Gloves
Gloves are equally as important as other riding gear. Never ride without gloves, even in the summer when it’s hot and humid. Your hands may become sweaty, but wearing protective clothing can save your hands if you skid or fall onto the pavement.
To try and avoid uncomfortable sweating, you can buy perforated leather gloves. They will have vented backs with solid palms and fingers so you can grip your motorcycle handles. Another option is a glove with textile mesh on the back for better ventilation.
Wrist closures are also crucial components of proper riding gloves. The feature keeps your gloves on your hands for a better grip and consistent protection. While elastic bands are helpful, adjustable straps and buckles offer higher retention.
6.Wear a Ventilated Jacket
Adequate ventilation is critical throughout every season. When you encounter environments with intense humidity, you will require a jacket with mesh panels for heat protection. The material will allow the jacket to breathe instead of trapping heat. An aerated jacket creates a more refreshing ride while delivering wind resistance.
You can also opt for perforated leather jackets. Some come with or without zip vents, but if you go this route, you need to choose one with extensive properties. Otherwise, the jacket will trap your body temperature and the sun’s heat inside, making conditions worse.
When choosing the right jacket, inspect the stitching and quality of the seams. A single stitch line can be less durable as you ride at highway speeds or even on back roads. Check the garment’s cuffs, sleeves and front and back panels.
Wearing full-body protection doesn’t mean you have to suffer during your summer ride. If you wear temperature-controlled clothing that allows aeration, you can protect yourself while remaining relaxed.
Tips for Riding and Not Overheating
Riding in extreme heat not only affects you, but it can also cause issues for your motorcycle’s components. Keeping your bike cool during the summer involves additional maintenance, such as checking your tires, electrical connections and other critical aspects.
1.Check Tire Pressure
Riding on an underinflated tire can pose hazards during your trip. The weight of your ride affects tire pressure, as does heat from the pavement and humidity of surrounding environments. Excessive temperatures can even build up from friction between the asphalt and tires.
Without the proper PSI, your bike’s tires are more likely to blow. Check your tire pressure with a gauge each week and add air according to the manufacturer’s recommended levels. You should also inspect your tires for leaks. Air can seep through rubber when the stripping wears over time.
Monitor the condition of your tires throughout long trips and during summer months to avoid blown rubber.
2.Keep the Engine Cool
You’re not the only one who experiences the summer heat. As temperatures increase outside, so does the likelihood of an overheated engine. You can take precautions to keep your engine cool by covering your radiator. It protects the unit from the UV rays, dirt and bugs while helping the engine remain cool, preventing overheating.
You also want to check your motorcycle for coolant, oil and hydraulic fluid leaks. Check the water pump and hoses during regular maintenance for any signs of seeping. Clean the radiator of built-up debris and dirt by using a bristle brush. Clear off grime, gravel, insects and other elements that get lodged in different surfaces.
You can also keep your engine ventilated by cleaning the fans and air cooler fins. In hot summer months, try to evade stationary idling as much as possible. It’s another factor leading to an overheated engine.
3.Lubricate Drive Parts
In addition to tire and engine maintenance, check the lubricant on the primary drive of your motorcycle at the beginning of summer. Like oil, grease needs the right viscosity and needs to stay clean. If the grease is healthy, you’re good to go.
If the lubricant is dirty and hard, clean the area and apply a fresh application. Don’t place new grease over the old because it can deplete the effects of the new lubricant. You will also want to inspect the grease fillings at the rear gear of your bike. Make sure it’s untainted and has the right amount of thickness.
Check your engine’s lubricants during the same time you inspect the oil and coolant levels. If you have a bike chain, add grease according to the manufacturer’s manual. If you have a belt-drive system, review the alignment and tension.
4. Maintain Electrical Connections
Your bike can stop functioning if its electrical components aren’t secure, and chances of a connection problem increase when operating in humid environments. Investigate the connections before each ride while also looking at the battery compartment connections. Fasten loose wires and replace any that are corroded. When you maintain your electrical connections, it ensures a safe and reliable riding experience.
Maintaining proper fluid levels within your motorcycle is vital for top performance. Paying attention to your coolant and oil levels is even more imperative during the summer. Replenish both as needed during regular upkeep, and change both fluids according to the owner’s manual.
Make sure the oil and coolant liquids are free of impurities, so your bike can reach optimum running levels. Coolant is the solution that keeps your engine and other components cool. Oil lubricates the engine and prevents friction from occurring. Don’t mix different oils to keep your system pure.
You should also clean the engine’s oil tank, because old oil can accrue over time, contaminating any new fluid. Keep an eye on the oil pressure gauge as well to prevent more severe damage from occurring.
Prepping and maintaining your bike through months of warm weather can keep it operating at peak levels while also keeping you safe. When you take the time to check several components before and after long trips and according to your owner’s manual, it can mean the difference between an exciting adventure and waiting for a tow truck.
Give Peterson's Harley-Davidson a Call
Located in Miami, FL, Peterson’s Harley-Davidson is a family-owned and -operated business with more than 65 years of experience. We are just as enthusiastic as you are when it comes to all things motorcycles. We support you whether you’re out for a joyride, require accessories, want to test drive or are ready to invest in a new bike. We strive to build a two-way, trustworthy relationship with you to give you the best solutions for your needs and application.
Contact us online for more information about our products and services, or call us at 833-427-5391 to speak with a representative. We are here to help you enjoy life more — while staying safe throughout the year.