Be it monsoons, winters or summers, and there isn’t right or wrong weather when riding. While cool, dry weather is the first choice of a vast majority of riders, the riding bug doesn’t wait for the weather to turn favourable when it decides to bite you. Among the more challenging weathers to ride in, hot summers with the raging sun beating down relentlessly upon you are one of the most daunting. If you are planning any short or long rides in such challenging weather, you need to be well prepared, as riding in hot weather presents a relatively more significant challenge to your body. Here are some tips to help you stay comfortable and safe during those hot summer rides.
Choose your ride time smartly
Riding in summers means that you will mostly have clear weather and better visibility than in the monsoons and winters, which gives you a lot of flexibility to choose your riding hours. However, even when you have the flexibility, you should avoid riding during the hottest hours of the day. 12 noon to 3 P.M. is when the sun is the harshest, and the ambient temperature is atrociously high. It is best to take your mid-day breaks during this time if you are on a full-day ride. On shorter rides, plan the ride in a way that you reach your destination before the peak heat time. In order to beat the extreme sun, you will either need to leave early in the morning or ride post 3 P.M. for the most comfortable riding experience. For longer journeys, the best-case scenario will be to start your ride in the morning and halt for a lunch break around 12.30-1 P.M. for a leisurely meal coupled with an hour’s rest. You can resume your journey post 2.30-3.00 P.M. This long-ish break is not just for you, but for your ride too, as hot weather leads to the oil, coolant and engine temperatures shooting up significantly. Giving your ride the time to cool off will help it recuperate and partner you for the onward journey more reliably. For rides where you would return the same day, again, try following the aforementioned timings - reach your destination latest by 12.30-1 P.M. and then start your return journey by 2.30-3 P.M.
While not the most suitable in terms of visibility, the coolest hours to ride during hot summers are sans the sun. So, it isn’t a bad idea to make use of a couple of hours before daybreak to maximise your mileage. If you are a seasoned rider in the dark, adding a few hours of ride time to your journey after the sun goes down is the best way to beat the heat in summers.
Wear weather-appropriate gear
Now, just because you are riding in hot weather does not mean you can ride without proper riding gear. Choose hot weather appropriate riding gear which allows for a generous circulation of air while also keeping you safe. Textile riding gear with armour in vulnerable areas is ideal for summers. The first layer of the garment on your skin should be a wicking fabric that allows for quick evaporation of sweat. Also, when you are riding at speeds above 40-50 kmph you will not feel the heat as much thanks to the wind. It is in the stop-go traffic where the chances of you feeling skewered are the highest, so plan your ride in a manner where you can avoid the annoying city traffic and get onto the highway as quickly as possible. Leave the city during early hours and always take ring roads or by-passes for the cities that fall enroute. Keep the vents of your helmet wide open at all times and if your jacket and pants have vents, keep them open too. There are specialised cooling vests available for hot weather that keep you cooler for longer. It’s advisable to buy one and use it, as it’s incredibly effective against heat. The colour of your gear matters too, and it’s advisable to wear light coloured gear which reflects sunlight, rather than choosing dark coloured items which absorb heat and cause discomfort.
Hot weather isn’t a good time to indulge in greasy, spicy or heavy meals. Your body is constantly struggling to stay hydrated, and if you decide to stuff your tummy with food that’s difficult to digest, it will demand more water from the body for energy synthesis. By doing this, you would be paving the way for yourself to get uneasy and dehydrated. Keep your meals healthy, light, and hydrating. It’s advisable to have simple food which doesn’t demand much from the body in terms of digestion effort and offers a slow, sustained release of energy. Hydrating liquids like buttermilk, coconut water and fresh lemon water go a long way in keeping you hydrated and fresh. Salads containing hydrating veggies like cucumber, onion, carrots and tomatoes also help replenish your body with necessary salts, though make sure you have it from a place that procures and processes these raw vegetables hygienically. It’s also advisable to stop for an additional snack or meal break rather than loading yourself up with a heavy meal for long hauls while riding in hot weather.
Take off the gear during breaks
During breaks, ensure that you take off your heavy riding gear to let your body get some fresh air, allowing it to cool down effectively. It’s advisable to wear a fully-body wicking liner or moisture-wicking T-shirts and shorts inside the gear to take the riding gear off without feeling odd or embarrassed. Take off those riding boots as well to let your heels cool off.
Apply sunscreen and invest in quality eyewear
While hot weather takes its toll on the entire body, it’s the face and eyes that bear the additional brunt of hot weather’s harshness, as they are more exposed to the sun than other parts of the body. Make sure that you apply an effective sunblock on the exposed parts of your body before you set out for your ride. Quality eyewear that protects eyes from heat, UV rays and brightness without hampering visibility should also be invested in.
A hydration pack is a must. You need to hydrate yourself as frequently as possible. Invest in a good hydration pack so that you can keep sipping on water while you are riding. Also, stick to drinking plain water as much as possible, as drinking sugary energy drinks or coffee will consume more water from the body to be processed and do more damage than good. You can also add a dash of oral rehydration salts to the water in your hydration pack for additional protection against a loss of electrolytes from the body.
Take more frequent breaks
You might be an endurance rider and may not experience fatigue as early as others. However, riding in hot weather with the sun beating down upon you is extremely dangerous. Even the most seasoned hot weather riders risk getting hit by heat exhaustion or even a stroke if they are not careful. It’s always better to take a short break earlier than usual, get some air, let your body cool down and rehydrate. Not only does it allow your body to get some rest and recuperate, but it also lets your bike catch a breath. Motorcycles tend to heat up faster during summers, and riding in such conditions for long durations is not suitable for the engine's health. The tyres, too, need a breather to cool down so that they don’t overheat and keep providing you optimal grip.
Look out for signs of heatstroke or exhaustion
Heat strokes and severe heat exhaustion can hit you very sneakily. Do not ever try to ride in hot conditions if you are not comfortable. Be wary of early signs of a heat stroke or over exhaustion like headache, tiredness, cramps, nausea and red patches on the skin. If you are not feeling well even a wee bit, don’t think twice before finding the first place where you could find some shelter and comfort. Take some rest, rehydrate yourself, and don’t move any further unless you feel well. Heat strokes can turn fatal very quickly, and as a responsible rider, you need to take ample precautions to prevent yourself from turning into a victim.
Keep your motorcycle fighting fit
It goes without saying that the health of your motorcycle is essential before you set out for a ride in challenging conditions. To accomplish a successful ride in punishing hot weather, you need to ensure that your two-wheeler has been duly serviced and all its components are working the way they should. Before you begin your summer ride, ensure that the engine oil has not been overused and has been replaced in a timely fashion. Check all the vital fluids, and top them up, especially if you are going on a long ride. This holds especially true for the coolant if you own a liquid-cooled motorcycle. Avoid riding too aggressively as the engine oil has to work a lot harder when you are riding hard, and during hot weather, the chances of the entire system overheating and breaking on you are much higher.
Check the tyres' health as well and ensure that the tread has not worn off. Maintain proper tyre pressure and do not overinflate, as the air expands in hot weather and might cause tyre bursts. Fill the tyres with Nitrogen if possible as tyres with Nitrogen run much cooler. Carry a puncture kit for those unexpected flats. Do not fill the fuel tank to the brim, let there be room for 1-2 litres of fuel. It is okay if you have to stop more for fuel, as taking more breaks in hot weather is actually better for you and the motorcycle.
Summer riding can be fun, as the traffic during hot weather is sparse and visibility is good which allows you to cover a lot of ground very quickly. As long as you are careful and take proper safety measures, you will enjoy your rides and have a really good experience. Always gear up, adhere to the speed limits and follow all the traffic rules. Ride safe!