As summer rolls on and riding season comes into full swing, the temperatures begin to soar. Several areas of the US have already seen the mercury rising into the 90’s, with humidity high and the UV index climbing. These are beautiful days for enjoying the road- if you are well prepared!
Heat related illnesses can set in quickly and can quickly become life threatening if not treated properly. Heat exhaustion begins suddenly, usually after exercise or other physical exertion in the warm or hot weather. Nausea and/or vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, sweating, cold clammy hands, headache, and weak, rapid pulse are all telltale symptoms of heat exhaustion. Getting out of the heat (into shade or an air conditioned place), sponging down with cool water, removing tight or restrictive clothing, drinking cool, non-alcoholic caffeine free beverages, and lying down with the feet slightly elevated are ways to treat heat exhaustion. If not treated promptly and properly, the condition can increase in severity to become heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when heat exhaustion is left untreated, and the body’s internal temperature climbs upward of 104 degrees. At this point, damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and other internal organs begins.
As you can probably guess, the best defense against heat related illness is to take the proper precautionary measures.
On those hot and humid days, the last thing most of us want to do is put on a pair of jeans, leather boots and a jacket. Unfortunately, that’s one of the best things you can do. Of course, you should always be gearing up and ‘Dressing for the slide, not the ride’! Long sleeves and jeans will protect your skin from getting sunburned (which, believe it or not, can still happen on overcast days). Jeans and boots will help absorb the heat from the pipes and engine and prevent it from affecting your body in an adverse way. Jackets may seem like a terrible idea, but there are lighter options out there. Several companies now offer mesh jackets that allow air to flow through them. (Personally, I have one of these and love it.) Check for lightweight Kevlar as well for cooling protection. T-shirts made from sweat wicking materials are a great base layer. They allow the sweat to be pulled from your skin and absorbed into the fabric as opposed to clinging to you in a sweaty, matted mess. Additionally, neck protection isn’t a bad idea. One of those tube style scarves can be soaked in water to help keep cool.
USE YOUR HEAD! (HEAD COVERING, THAT IS)
Helmets are a law in some states and optional in others. It is a rider’s personal preference to make the choice of what type of protection they plan to use. I ride with a full face helmet. Mine thankfully has vents to allow some air to pass through. It is also white, which I have found helps as well. I have also contemplated taking the visor off and relying solely on my eye protection, just to allow some air to pass through. A wet bandanna or headband can help cool the scalp under any style of helmet.
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
Did I say hydrate? Hydrate! Plenty of water the day prior to a ride will help keep your body cool. If you are planning a long ride in the heat, drink twice the amount of water you usually do. Don’t want to have to stop for a potty break every five miles? Foods like watermelon, celery, and cucumber are mostly water. Eating these types of snacks will help your hydration. Be sure to pack some water along for the ride as well. If you don’t have saddlebags or storage of some kind, investing in a bladder-style bottle that fits into a pocket or secures to a belt is a great idea. It can be refilled as needed. Additionally, AVOID ALCOHOL! Alcohol dehydrates and robs our internal organs of the water they need to function properly. Save the booze for the end of the ride, after you’ve hydrated, when the bike is tucked away and the keys hung up.
Somehow, I always forget sunscreen. I leave it near my keys, in a coat I meant to wear, the glove compartment of my car. It’s never where I need it to be. However, it should be applied liberally and frequently to exposed skin, even to those places you think may not need it (like the back of your hands). My suggestion is to buy a bunch of the travel size ones and keep them in pockets and saddlebags. You can easily use what you need and discard the empty container.
HAVE A PLAN!
Sometimes we head out to ride and just keep on going. Other days, we have stops planned and places to go. In the heat, it’s best to have a few stops planned as a precautionary measure. You’ll have time to rehydrate, reapply that sunscreen, dampen bandannas and scarves, and check in with your riding partners to be sure everyone is good to go.
Ride on ladies! Stay safe and stay cool!
Posted by Jennifer Anderson