Heat stress and heat exhaustion are real threats to a motorcycle rider. Riding in intense heat can be exhausting and dangerous if special care is not taken to stay safe. Be aware of the symptoms of heat related illnesses and the warning signs of dehydration. Knowing the symptoms can help you take preventative measures and appropriate first aid if the need arises.
Preventative Measures and Tips for Riding in the Heat
- If you are riding from cool weather to hot weather, your body will not be acclimated to the hotter temperatures. It will be even more important for you to take preventative measures. If you live in a hot climate, riding short distances in hot weather and steadily increasing the distances can acclimate you to the most extreme heat.
- Drink plenty of water before you go on a ride, during the ride, and after the ride. Gatorade and other non caffeinated drinks that help you rehydrate and have electrolytes are absorbed as quickly as water, but also replace sugar, sodium and other nutrients. Eat fruits and vegetables whenever possible to replace nutrients and fluids. Check your urine; it should be a pale yellow or clear. If it isn’t, you’re not drinking enough fluids.
- Plan your schedule to leave early in the morning and possibly decrease your daily mileage and exposure to the heat. Ride shorter distances between breaks to get out of the heat and into the air conditioning, and to take an opportunity to rehydrate. Try not to ride during the hottest part of the day (usually between noon and 4 pm).
- Consider getting a motorcycle drink holder. There are several models available for various motorcycles including those that can mount to the handlebars. Fill up a cup with ice and suck on ice while you ride. The ice will last longer than ice water. On a long trip across the Mojave Desert and southern Texas, I placed a vinyl six-pack cooler in the windshield with bottled water. It was small enough to not detract from my sight through the windshield and large enough to carry 4 or 5 bottles of water on ice.
- You can also stay cool by splashing water over your body, either at rest stops or while you are riding. The cooler and cup holder allowed me to ride longer distances in 100 degree plus temperatures, and still stay hydrated.
- Wear sunscreen that has UVA and UVB protection of at least 40. Apply to all exposed skin 20 minutes before going out on your ride and every 2 hours thereafter.
- Wear lightweight, loose fitting, and light colored clothing to help your skin cool through evaporation; riders tend to wear black, but white is much better to deflect the suns rays.
- Wear a helmet and protective clothing that has vents that can be opened for air flow. A small brim on the helmet helps shade your face from the sun, and a sweat band helps to avoid the sweat running into your eyes. Wear scratch free, clean, UVA protective sunglasses to protect your sight, and improve your vision on hot sunny days.
- The center console on some bikes, if chrome, can reflect the sun’s rays and blind the rider. The chrome can be painted or covered with custom tank bags in a dull leather finish that won’t blind.
- Avoid riding in intense heat if you have health risks or are taking certain medications, vitamins or supplements that can cause dehydration. Avoid drinking alcohol at all times while riding.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
- Heat exhaustion symptoms include nausea, headaches, excessive thirst, muscle aches and cramps, weakness, confusion or anxiety, drenching sweats, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin, slowed or weakened heartbeat, dizziness, fainting and agitation. It requires immediate attention but is not usually life-threatening.
- Heat stroke symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness or vertigo, fatigue, hot flushed and dry skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, shortness of breath, decreased urination, increased bod temperature (104 degrees or higher), confusion, delirium or loss of consciousness, or convulsions. Heat stroke can occur suddenly and there may not be any symptoms of heat exhaustion. It can be life threatening.
- A person experiencing heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or any heat related illness that can not be alleviated by drinking water and cooling off in the shade or air conditioning should seek immediate medical attention.
Note: These symptoms are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment
Know the signs of heat related illnesses, have a plan to take preventative measures, and put the plan in action. Following the suggestions above will make you more comfortable on long, hot rides, and will keep you safer than if you were to ride without protection.