10 Tips for Riding Motorcycles in Hot Weather
Most of my life, I’ve lived in warm climates. Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma to name a few. I’m that freak that leaves their thermostat at 74 degrees in the house. I LIVE for the heat, y’all! But even I’ve had trouble battling hot weather while riding long distance on my motorcycle. Knowing how to stay hydrated and cooled off in extreme heat can keep you riding longer, safer, and happier. In this blog, I’ll share with you a few tips to help make riding a motorcycle in hot weather a little more bearable.
Choosing the Best Riding Gear for Hot Weather
While I am a firm believer in riding your own ride in regards to wearing proper riding gear, it is actually beneficial to be suited up from head to toe on those long, warm riding days. Instead of your skin taking the damage from sunburn and dehydration, riding in full gear will protect your skin and body from sun-related damage!
Mesh jackets, pants, and a well ventilated full face helmet can do wonders at keeping you cooled off in the brutal summer heat. A perforated leather jacket is also a great option if you’re looking to stay geared up. Light colored options, from your helmet to your boots, will also aid in deflecting solar heat. The Hammer Down mesh-backed gloves from Speed & Strength have been my go-to gloves for the past three summers. I love them!
Make the Right Clothing Choices
Base layers are vital to cold weather riding, but can be a major aid in keeping your body cooled off in the summer months, too. Moisture wicking clothing is ideal to keep the body cooled down.
If you’re wanting to shed some layers and ride without proper gear (again, ride your own ride), consider wearing light colored clothing versus your best Johnny Cash suit. Light colors will deflect far more heat than a black shirt ever will.
Sun sleeves are a great option for those who want to keep their arms covered on the go, but not so much once they get to a stopping point. If you’re tattooed, these are a great option for protecting your artwork as well.
Additionally, a neck gaiter or bandana to keep wrapped around your neck will help keep the sun off your skin. Another great option is a hydration vest to keep under your jacket to stay cooler longer. You can also wet these items during your gas stops to help cool off. We’ll talk more on that later.
Avoid Alcohol, Added Sugars, and Caffeinated Beverages
A crispy, ice cold beer always sounds like the best thing to drink on a hot summer day. You’re probably also going to be eager to reach for that energy drink or espresso concoction to fight fatigue. Unfortunately, these are the last drinks you should be consuming if you’re trying to beat the heat and stay hydrated. Alcohol, Sugar, and Caffeine are diuretics, enabling our bodies to lose vital fluids faster. Do your best to only consume good ol’ h2o on the road.
When to Drink More Than Just Water
Alright…I just told you to only drink water, I know. Let’s talk about it more in depth! Humid heat and Dry heat will impact your body differently. Higher humidity levels will make our bodies sweat more. But, that doesn’t mean a 250 mile ride through the scorching, dry, Arizona or Utah deserts isn’t taking a toll on you.
Drinking copious amounts of water to replenish the sweat and minerals you’ve released through your skin can sometimes do more damage than good. When you sweat, your body loses sodium and other electrolytes which need to be restored during the hydration process.
I carry Nuun hydration tablets which dissolve easily into a cup of water. These are packed with electrolytes, like sodium, which is essential for water retention and electrolyte balance in our bodies. They’re also sweetened with Stevia instead of sugar. This helps to keep you hydrated longer compared to sports drinks with tons of added sugar. For under $20 on Amazon, you can get 4 different flavors with 10 tablets per tube. That’s a lot cheaper than buying a few sugar-filled “sports drinks” at the gas station.
Always Carry Water with You on Motorcycle Trips
Let’s repeat that again: ALWAYS carry water with you when riding motorcycles through extreme heat. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your body weight in Ounces. Example: I weigh 180 lbs, so I need to drink at least 90 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated. Usually, I get by on a 48oz Nalgene water bottle that I carry in my saddlebag and refill it at gas stations.
Recently, I brought a 3L Camelbak reservoir with me for the sole purpose of having extra water with me at a few undeveloped campgrounds I stayed at. Luckily, the water bladder came in handy when the temperatures rose as I trekked across Utah during a 105+ Degree heat wave. I ran into the gas station, added a liter of water to the bladder, filled the rest of it up with ice, and then stuffed it in my back armor pocket on my leather jacket.
Surprisingly, this water bladder set up worked out amazing. As I rode across the barren Utah desert to the next rest stop, the ice kept my back cool and eventually melted into water that I was able to drink on the go. Ten years of predominantly riding hot climates, and I’ve gotta admit that carrying a Camelbak was a game changer for me. I’ll never leave home without one in the Summer months moving forward. Another benefit: this water bladder was only $17. Well worth the money!
Backpack options are also available for those who’d prefer an external method of bladder carry. You can check out some of the best Powersports Hydration Packs on Amazon, here.
Make Good Food Choices
Yes, even your food consumption can impact your mind and body on those hot riding days. Be sure to start your day with a light breakfast, that perhaps includes a multivitamin, or a banana. Bananas have lots of potassium, a mineral that we sweat out in the heat, which our bodies need.
Having enough energy to fight fatigue in extreme heat is important. Don’t skip lunch or other meals to make up for lost time.
Salty Snacks, like peanut butter, trail mix, or pistachios, are great to have on hand. The sodium levels in these foods will help replenish your body’s electrolytes. Avoid the otter pops and ice cream until the ride is over. Again, sugar is a diuretic which aids in dehydration.
If you want to ride motorcycles and eat ice cream, drink margaritas, eat greasy cheeseburgers, save it for the end of the ride. You’ll most definitely have earned it!
Make Frequent Stops
While I normally go for 120 miles between gas stops on my Dyna, I’ll typically scale that down to 70 miles between stops when the temperatures hit 100+ Degrees. Your body and your motorcycle, especially if its air cooled, will thank you. If you ride in extreme heat often, an oil cooler would be a great addition to your bike.
Enjoy the swimming hole off the side of the road, drink an extra cup of water at the gas station, and let your body rest. It’ll help make your day a little less brutal and give you the ability to hydrate.
Gas Station Hacks to Help You Cool Off
Gas Stations are basically the Oasis we envision in a heated desert mirage, except that they’re very real. Fuel stops offer way more than good ol’ petrol for your bike and junk food (that you don’t need to be eating). They also offer an escape from the sun, ability to rest, and resources to stay cooled off.
If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a gas station with a beer cave, where they keep the the thermostat set to the low 30’s. These are great areas to cool off for a few minutes. Most Gas Stations also have large Ice Boxes near the entrance that are often left unlocked. Most folks will throw their helmets in the ice box until it’s time to leave.
Other great options would include wetting your hydration vest, shirt, or neck gaiter in the restroom sink, and then throwing it in the ice box while you’re recovering in the shade.
Avoid Riding During the Hottest Part of the Day
When I lived in Phoenix, we loved riding our bikes at midnight in the Summers. Why? Because it was only 100 degrees at midnight, and the sun wasn’t beating down on us on the busy city streets! If you know you’ve got a full day’s ride ahead, start as early as possible and get to your destination before the afternoon heat kicks in. If not, utilize these toasty hours to take a break somewhere while you wait for the temperatures to cool down.
When all else fails…do real chopper sh*t!
I feel like this blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the classic ice bag on the handlebars trick. Ice bags tied to your handlebars or inside your fairing are the original biker air conditioning. It also usually lasts less than 30 minutes.
Grab one of those bags of ice you threw your nasty gear on to cool off, strap it to your handlebars via bungee cords, poke a few holes in the bag so that the ice melt will flick back on you as you ride, and enjoy the AC while it lasts!
Have any tips or lessons you’ve learned to make riding in the heat a breeze? Drop a comment down below!
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You’re the Moto-MacGyver!!! Thanks for the good read and awesome tips!
Every time I think I’ve figured it all out I realize there’s so much more to learn! haha glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
I really enjoy your blogs. I’m still riding after fifty years and spent the last few poking around the desert southwest.
The only thing I can add to the list of handy things to have is a small compact umbrella.
You’ve got it covered, good luck in your travels.
Thanks, Bill! That’s a great tip 🙂
Been riding 33years and enjoy getting others view points on riding. Sweet bike and Great article, best I have read on the topic.
Thank you for checking it out! Glad you enjoyed it, John! 🙂
Staci, I never thought of putting a bladder in a back protector pocket. I’m heading out next week for a week-long trip around Colorado. Gives me a chance to try it!
As for hydration, I have been partial to packing jugs of Powerade Zero in a cooler or my Camelback bladder and making grocery store runs where I can find them for under $1 per bottle.
Nice! I am not a fan of wearing any sort of backpack while riding, so stuffing it in the pocket was the key for me to try it, haha! Let me know if you enjoy that little life hack after your trip! 🙂
Not a hot weather tip, but a wet boot tip. I’ve found that stuffing newspaper into my boots overnight after they’ve gotten wet is a great way to dry them. No clue how it works, but it does. I simply ball up the paper as tight as I can and stuff the boots with as many balls as I can. I wake up the next morning, the newspaper is wet and the boots are dry. It’s saved me on many overnight trips and I wanted to pass it along.
Great tip! 🙂
A trick I learned while deployed to Iraq in the summer was to listen to your body. Do not try to get all macho and tough and power through warning signs like a fast heart beat or suddenly feeling woozy. Pull over and get some water in your and cool down for a bit. It’s worth listening to all of this advice Staci has posted for sure.
As for me, I keep a sun umbrella in my pack when I ride just in case I end up some place without enough shade and that scarf many people saw us military folk wear wasn’t just for cool guy points. I soaked mine in water when it got hot and would drape that over my head and around my neck.
I’ll be heading out across the US in a week (July 2022) and the temps look HOT. I’ll be putting some of this to good use out on the 40!
Great Tips! Enjoy your trip!!! 🙂