Hot Weather Riding and Staying Cool

During August of 2007, I took a trip up to Knoxville Tennessee in temperatures that averaged around 100 degrees for an entire week. I have to admit, it was a bit warm with a full face helmet and leather vest. But, I didn’t dehydrate as quickly because of the helmet and long sleeves, making the ride not so bad (beats being at work, right). We stopped for water every hour or so, and made sure we followed some simple steps to make sure we didn’t overheat or dehydrate too quickly.

Clothing Is Key.

If you’re anything like most of the folks I ride with, as soon as the temperature’s up to 70 degrees you’re in your sleeveless halter or no-sleeve billybob tee hauling butt down the road like summer will never end. By August you’re just hoping it will, but you keep that skin under the sun for as long as possible. In hot weather, the more skin you have exposed, the faster you’ll lose the moisture from your body. It’s the evaporation of your sweat that creates the cooling effect for your core temperature, so a blow dryer on it at 80 mph dries you out pretty fast.

I ride in an UnderArmour Heat Gear t-shirt. It helps wick away the moisture, and keeping it under a regular t-shirt keeps the cotton away from my skin. Cotton sticks to you and is a poor temperature regulator when you’re on the road. I’m also a big fan of wool socks. I know, sounds hot. Wool is a great fabric for wicking away moisture, allowing your feet to stay insulated from the road heat as well as cool down so you avoid the build up . . . well . . . we all know how riding boots end up smelling in September. I was glad for the modular full face, which kept the heat from blasting my face (just say no to wrinkles), but still allowed me to open the helmet at stop lights when riding through town.

Bandannas are invaluable. I usually take at least one on every trip regardless of the length of the ride. Soak them in some water and wrap them around your neck or around your head inside the helmet. Inside the helmet will keep the bandanna wet longer, but both help.

I have to admit, I’m not a riding pants person and rarely wear a jacket unless it’s cool outside. Jeans work for me, but when it’s really hot, you inevitably end up looking like you’ve wet your pants for the past 15 minutes. One solution is riding pants, another is a seat cover that allows you to get your bum off the leather. I’ve tried a few, and none have worked for me so far, but a girl can dream. A mesh jacket is on my list of things to try next summer. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Tips For Staying Cool.

  1. Wear wicking undergarments and clothing as much as possible. Wool socks sound counter-intuative, but they work.
  2. Shorts and/or sandals are a bad idea. Not only is this never a good idea when riding a motorcycle, but having on little clothing only results in harsher temperatures impacting your exposed skin and sucking away valuable cooling moisture as your body attempts to regulate itself. Besides – not everyone can pull off shorts, loafers and a Tommy Bahama while smoking a cigar and turning left. Halters . . . we won’t even comment.
  3. Take frequent breaks and make sure you find some shade or an air-conditioned building. Heck – worst case scenario – jump in someones air-conditioned car at a local drive-thru or find the local library.
  4. Try and ride during the coolest parts of the day. Starting early and taking a break during the hottest timeframes helps. There’s always a coffee shop or fast food place to find some ice cream or a soda and relax for an hour or two.
  5. A full-face or modular helmet will help keep your face protected from the “blow-dryer” effect and give you relief in traffic.
  6. If you’re leading, be aware of everyone’s limitations. Just because you can ride for two hours without passing out doesn’t mean everyone else can. There’s nothing worse then someone going off the road into a ditch because of heat exhaustion. In the long run, it just slows you down more when someone gets heat exhaustion. Prevention is the best solution.

Riding With Allergies

Spring’s coming on, and in Florida, March means pollen counts in the 9 to 10 range (considered high to very-high). Riding when you have pollen allergies can be miserable, and dangerous. I try to stay off any kind of medication when I’m riding, because there’s nothing worse than feeling drowsy or blurry-eyed on the road (we’re talking allergies right now).

Of course, sneezing constantly is no fun either.

What causes pollen allergy reactions?

  • A grain of pollen looks like a very spiky sea urchin. When it enters your nasal and bronchial passages, it latches onto the mucous membranes and gets stuck.
  • These membranes have cells (called mast cells) full of histamines.
  • When an allergen trigger (like pollen) lands on one of these cells, a receptor sitting on top of the cell tells the cell to let loose on the histamines.
  • The histamine starts a series of annoying reactions like sneezing, watery eyes, and itching to help you get rid of the allergan.

What are some natural solutions?

  • Neti Pots are a way to flush your sinuses, but are really for after you ride. Someone mentions this in the LiveJournal discussion mentioned below.
  • Quercetin is a natural plant-derived compound (flavonoid) that helps keep the mast cells from releasing histamine. Flavonoids can be found in citrus and green tea.
  • Food can help. Add some horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food. They’re all temporary decongestants.
  • Stinging nettle is a natural antihistamine without the side effects (drowsiness, dry mouth) associated with the drugs most commonly used.

So, what are you options?
I usually go with a bandanna over my mouth and nose when riding in a half helmet. It helps cut down on what you’re breathing in, and actually works on days with moderate pollen counts. A full face gives you additional protection if you keep the vents closed.

Before I start out in the morning, I try and get an idea of the pollen count. You’ve got several options available.

You should also avoid certain kinds of food during ragweed season since they share allergans with ragweed:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Melons and bananas
  • Zucchini and cucumber

What have others tried? Here are a few conversations on the web:

  • LiveJournal’s gerardwing got a good “Riding with Alleriges” thread going with several riders giving their solutions.
  • Masks are available from several manufacturers. You can find reviews and comments on several different types at’s blog. Respro does make a bandanna-style scarf called the Bandit Scarf.

You can also get more information on natural remedies and causes from several web sites: