July 1, 2012 by Rider Newsletter Staff
Recently, a rider friend suggested we remind people about the bad things that can happen if you leave a motorcycle on a kickstand on hot asphalt. It’s a good tip, but, if you ride in hot weather, a sinking kickstand may be the least of your problems.
Summer is the best time to ride, the sun is out, the roads are dry and there’s lots of company out there. The exception is riding in extreme hot weather. Heat can do serious harm to your body and affect your judgment as a rider. If you are seriously overheating, you are in big trouble and you need to take action immediately. Let’s take a look at the dangers of hot weather riding and what you can do to stay in the cool zone.
An increase in core temperature can cause severe problems. It may even be life threatening. If you’re riding a motorcycle when symptoms of overheating begin, you’ve added a whole new source of danger to the issue. There are three levels of distress you can face in the heat:
Cramping is the early warning system your body uses to let you know you are entering the danger zone. It usually starts in your legs and can move to your chest and arms. If you begin to cramp, it’s time to stop and cool down. The sooner the better.
This is where things begin to get dangerous. If your cramps are accompanied by dizziness, nausea or a headache, you’re in potential danger. You may begin to feel weak and tired and you’ll be sweating profusely. Your skin may appear pale and feel clammy. At this point, you have no time to waste. Hit the shade or, preferably, an air conditioned building. Begin hydration by drinking water and/or a sports drink. If symptoms continue or get worse, seek medical attention.
This is where it really gets out of hand. If you’re experiencing heat exhaustion and do not move quickly to get cool, you may ride into the true danger zone. Make no mistake, heat stroke is an emergency medical condition and, in extreme cases can be fatal. At this point, your body’s thermostat stops working and you may stop sweating. Other symptoms include rapid heartbeat, confusion, dry, red skin and erratic behavior.
If you or someone you are riding with begins to experience these symptoms, do not hesitate. Call 911 and get the person into a cool location. Use wet cloths to help lower the body temperature and have the victim sip cool water. The sooner help arrives, the better, because at this point, intravenous fluids may be necessary, along with more advanced methods of reducing body temperature.
Keeping the heat at bay
There are lots of things you can do to help your body stay cool. First and foremost, drink water and plenty of it. Drink whenever you can and more than you think you need. Sports drinks can help by replacing salts, electrolytes and other elements, but they also can contain tons of sugar and sodium and most of them are not recommended for people with high blood pressure.
If the temperature is below 99 degrees, wearing vented clothing and/or opening your jacket and helmet vents can help your body stay cooler. But this information may surprise you. When the outside temperature is higher than your body temperature, it is best to cover your skin. In addition to getting sunburn, skin exposed to the sun in extremely high temperatures will actually absorb heat. This explains the fact that people who live in deserts are usually covered from head to toe.
In 100 degree weather, the best solution is to wear your motorcycling gear with a water wicking shirt underneath. For best results, keep the shirt wet as you ride. A damp cloth around your neck can help a great deal. Remember to keep drizzling water on it as you go so the breeze can do its cooling thing. People may think you’re crazy, and you will feel very hot, but you’ll stand a better chance of staying out of the danger zone.
Of course, the best way to avoid the danger and distress of hot weather riding is to avoid it. Try leaving early in the morning or late in the afternoon so you’re not on the road during the hottest part of the day. Spend the rest of the day in air conditioned comfort. Or how about the pool?