Summer Blues

I hate the heat. I think I’d have preferred global cooling to global warming, given a choice.

When I was a kid, air conditioning in cars was rare, a very welcome experience when I got to travel without sticking to the vinyl seats of Dad’s Holden Special. In my late teens I was a motorcycle courier, delivering packages for a living under the blazing West Australian Sun, and at one stage I decided it was better to ride without a jacket and avoid heat stress than risk a crash because my body was overheating.

These days I do things differently. I’ll still ride a bike in the summer, but ventilated gear provides air flow and protection in a spill. A modular helmet gives me an open face or full-face while on the move. Shorty boots make a big difference. In this issue you’ll find Australian Road Rider’s summer glove feature, a guide to choosing summer gloves and a quick look at seven different sets. 

The common theme is mesh panels to create airflow, essential for keeping your cool in the summer. I try to avoid temperatures reaching into the mid-thirties though, even if I am wearing the right gear.

I discovered the Camelback decades ago, but they haven’t really caught on with road riders. Camelback is a brand of hydration backpack, popular with dirt bike riders and bushwalkers. Essentially a plastic bladder with a drinking tube which slides into a backpack, a Camelback lets you drink without stopping, and staying hydrated will keep you a lot more comfortable on a hot day.

I use one in the summer, and if I’m going on a really hot ride, I’ll carefully freeze the bladder half-full, topping it up with cold water when I’m ready to ride – the ice keeps your back cool and the drinking water cold.

Stop more often than usual to cool down. Drink electrolytes, which aid in quicker re-hydration. Jump in a river or stream to cool down. Drag your arse out of bed around dawn and go for a breakfast ride – 90 minutes or so up your favourite road, a quick cafe brekkie and back before the sun’s bit is really harsh.

You can do the same in the evenings, although choose your route to avoid wildlife. I’ve been city dweller most of my life, and I’ve always enjoyed night rides through town. With traffic volumes low and the air temperature mild, night riding is under-rated by most motorcyclists I reckon. In the winter I ride during the day and drive at night, in Summer I tend to flip that.

Buying a second bike for the summer isn’t a bad idea too, something naked…but make sure you test ride it, some machines produce calf and thigh melting levels of heat, especially if you’re not riding at a reasonable pace.  Removing fairing lowers and screens is also an option on many bikes, although not one I see exercised very often.

Most of us are lucky enough to live where we can ride all year – many Americans and Europeans don’t have that luxury due to the extreme winters, and in most of Asia riding is always hot. Riding in an Australian Summer can be tough, but it’s usually manageable if you plan your rides carefully.

Words: Nigel Paterson

This is an excerpt from Australian Road Rider #154. 

Do you have any stories about riding in extreme conditions? We’d love to hear about them -