Better riding: The hot season approaches
It's terrifyingly hot as I write this and that hasn't stopped me from riding the motorcycles about. The problem with riding motorcycles in the hot summer, naturally, is a problem of thermal management. And if you fail to manage the temperature and overheat, you can go into heat exhaustion which feels terrible.
How does heat exhaustion work? Well, it starts with exposure to excessive temperatures and causes either water or salt depletion, or both. The former produces insane thirst, weakness and headaches. The latter causes nausea, vomiting, cramps and dizziness.
Now, how do you avoid this situation? Assuming that we are going to carry on riding, we start with the water.
Step one is to start wearing a hydration pack. The great ones insulate the water as well as the drink tube, allowing you to access cold water for hours. Before a ride, fill the bladder with cold water and lots of ice. The trick is to sip a small amount of water often rather than big gulps spaced far apart. Remember that while small quantities of sports drinks can help restore salts, energy drinks and coffee both promote dehydration and should be avoided on hot rides. Tea is very good, as is lemon water.
Hydration packs range from 1 litre to 3 litre designs.
Backpacks that include a bladder if you like wearing them. Or choose just a water bag if you prefer to wear a lighter weight.
Camelbak is the big name while Decathlon's Btwin brand also makes very affordable and very basic water bags. Keep an eye out for Hydrapak, though. I find their bladder, tube and bite valves are more efficient than others, especially their First Wave military lines.
Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,500
Get the Kriega Hydro 3 from any Triumph dealership. Sold for about Rs 5,500, they're cheaper than anywhere else, and it's a smashingly good bag for hydration, light carry as well as expandability.
The trick to riding in the extreme heat is not to expose skin. And the way to do is to wear heavily ventilated, or ideally, mesh gear. Breathable gear and most vented gear simply cannot compare to the air flow and ease with which mesh gear works in high temperatures. If you encounter transient cold conditions, you can layer up to make it work. But cold weather gear in hot conditions sucks. And if your gear sucks, you won't like wearing it. Protective gear cannot help mitigate injury while hanging in your cupboard while you're out riding in shorts and slippers. Look for well-made mesh gear that offers substantial mesh panels over the chest, arms and back. The back panel is essential to air flow too.
Many people worry about mesh's ability to protect you. Choose mesh jackets and pants that include higher strength panels over the usual impact and abrasion areas.
Get a mesh jacket and pants. We guarantee that it'll become your primary jacket for most rides - such is its efficacy. You're looking for comprehensive, ideally CE-rated armour. Many brands increasingly shy away from including a basic back pad, so be prepared to spend extra for a CE-rated back protector.
Prefer a snug fit to a loose one and choose a brand you trust rather than the cheapest thing you can find.
Most brands now offer mesh gear. Indian brands include Rynox, Cramster, Spartan and Zeus. Imported brands come for bigger prices, but there are some solid jackets and pants in there. Look at AGVSport, Ixon, Dainese (India, International) and others.
Rs 6,500 to Rs 25,000
Rishaad and I both wear Dainese mesh gear, and it works brilliantly, looks expensive and well made. I've crashed in my Airtourer S-ST without injury or damage as well.
A neck that is wet
The neck is host to the primary blood supply to the brain, and cooling the neck can have exceptional results in heat management. The theory is that the brain is one of the highest energy consuming organs of all, and allowing it to run cooler has a body-wide effect.
How to do this? Simple. Get a handkerchief, shemagh or buff. Wet it thoroughly and tie it so that the back of the neck is wet. Evaporative cooling will keep perceived temperatures down, and you'll ride longer. Remember to re-wet once it dries.
Rs 500 to Rs 1,500
The base layer
The Americans like to say, "Cotton is rotten". In the context of motorcycles and riding, that's actually true. Once the cotton soaks up sweat, it finds very difficult to dry out. Worse, wet cotton is heavy and that damp feeling leaves you feeling sticky, not pleasant. The replacement is a base layer, usually made from a synthetic material.
You'll notice the use of the word "wicking" in this context. What a base layer does is wick sweat off the skin and rapidly spread the wetness over a large surface area. Within moments, the sweat dries leaving a large cool-feeling patch of skin behind. Good ones are super effective, and I've had the pleasure of being caught in a summer deluge wearing mesh and base layer. I had the chills in 35°C ambient temperatures - that's how effective mesh and base layers are together at cooling you off.
I recommend that you carry a tee to wear when you arrive and wear just the base layer under mesh in hot conditions. The combination is super effective and very popular, hence the motorcycles in skin tight clothes jokes that abound.
Final trick? If you soak the buff to dripping wet, the wetness on your base layer can feel absolutely delicious in the heat. I've also been spotted wetting my base layers from the cold water in the hydration bag, especially in hot rides.
Synthetic base layers are easy to find at cycling, motorcycling and outdoors sports shops. You're looking for the word "wicking" if you get confused by branding and language.
Snug, skintight fits works best. The material needs to be in touch with skin to work best. Good, lightweight materials also 'disappear' once you wear them. The skintight fit is essential for this.
All the big sports brands make base layers or tees and shorts with wicking materials. They're usually expensive, though. We would head to Decathlon, the mecca of cheap sports gear to find ours.
Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,500 per garment.
Riding in the heat isn't always fun, but heat shouldn't stop you from doing what you love. These four tricks work rather well, and we have relied on these for literally years and years.
They're not foolproof, of course. If you feel any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, find a place to pull over and recuperate and then carry on.