For much of the Northern Hemisphere, it’s been a wild summer. From extreme temperatures in Southern Europe to record heat and dry conditions in North America, it’s been a season of testing weather conditions.
With weather becoming more unpredictable each year, I thought it was a good opportunity to give some tips for keeping yourself (and your bike) cool during the summer riding season.
Tips for keeping yourself cool
There are plenty of simple tips, tricks and riding gear you can use to stay cool on your bike every summer.
1. Stay hydrated
It may sound obvious but remember to stay hydrated at all times. A wearable hydration pack – like a Camelbak – makes it easy. When it’s really hot (quite often in Mexico, where I live), I also like to put some ice cubes in the bladder. That keeps the water cool for a surprisingly long time.
2. Wear full-coverage gear
This is to protect your skin from the harsh summer sun.
3. Avoid gear with a membrane
Membranes on the inside of your riding gear may be great for staying warm and dry in the cooler months, but they can cut off airflow during summer. Even the best membranes (e.g., Gore-Tex) reduce airflow significantly.
4. Go for ADV or Enduro gear
Adventure jackets have a lot of zips and vents for ventilation. This is ideal if you spend much time on tarmac with the occasional off-road stretch.
If you spend most time off-road, Enduro-style gear, like a jersey, might be better for you. With the Jersey, you lose the abrasion protection but gain more airflow.
5. Wear lighter colors
While it is true that dark colors absorb more UV rays… they do not keep you cooler. Dark colors are better for protecting your skin from the sun. Light colors reflect the sunlight better and therefore keep you cooler. Since motorcycle gear is often quite thick, the sun protection is good anyway… so, lighter colors are better on motorcycles.
6. Avoid riding during the hottest part of the day
Avoid riding mid-day when the sun is at its highest point. Obviously, that’s not always possible, but perhaps getting up a bit earlier, taking a longer lunch break during the hottest hours, and riding longer into the evening, will get you where you want to go too.
7. Listen to your body
If you’re feeling dizzy or overheated, take a break. Find shade, water, and ice, if possible, or a nice cafe or bar, and rest for a while.
8. Soak your neck gaiter in cold water
A not-so-obvious technique is soaking your neck gaiter or scarf in cold water.
Additionally, you can throw some cold water down your shirt before riding. The water will evaporate with the riding wind, cooling your body.
9. Wear goggles instead of closing your visor
Another less-obvious technique (mostly for off-road, when riding relatively slowly) is using goggles or protective sunglasses (that won’t shatter if a pebble or rock hits them) instead of closing your helmet visor. This increases airflow in your helmet while still keeping your eyes protected.
Motorcycle care during summer
Just as we need to stay cool to be at our best, so do our machines. Here are some bike care tips for the hot summer months.
1. Check your bike fluids
It is important to regularly check your fluids in general, but pay special attention to this during summer. This relates to the next point.…
2. Keep an eye on heat-sensitive parts
Rubber parts, plastic parts, hoses, and belts are sensitive to extreme heat. Make sure you check these parts regularly for any unusual wear and tear.
3. PSI (debatable)
High temperatures can cause the air in the tire to expand, creating more pressure. But, should you adjust your tire pressure with changing temperature? Opinions vary widely on this topic.
Personally, I have never changed my tire pressure because of changing temperatures during a ride. Then again, temperature changes during a ride mostly come with altitude changes. Wouldn’t those two factors counteract each other? Keen to get your opinions on that.
4. Look out for your engine temperature
Keep an eye on engine temperature. Typically it should be around 200 Fahrenheit / 100 Celsius. If it gets any higher and you have a liquid-cooled engine, check if the radiator fan turns on at those temps.
5. Don’t stop for too long with the engine running
When you stop riding, air does not flow around your engine and radiator. So, try not to stop/park with your engine running too long. Turn your engine off if you stop for longer than 2 minutes.
6. Don’t park in the sun
The sun is harsh during the summer days. If you park for too long in the baking heat, the plastic parts on your bike can split, crack or even melt.
7. Apply wax or polish more often
This preserves your paint job.
8. Rewire your radiator fan
Okay – this one is up for debate.
Typically on a motorcycle, radiator fans turn off when you turn off the engine. This means cooling stops at that point. Some people rewire their radiator fan to continue working after they turn off the engine. This helps cool the cooling liquid (and engine) down faster during stops. Especially useful if you make a lot of short stops. Watch out, though, as this can drain your battery.
How do you stay cool during summer?
Have any tips or tricks that you use during summer riding? We’d love to hear them.
You can share your ideas in the comments below or with our community over at the Scenic forum.