Summer is here, the sun is out, and as bikers, we know that means it’s time to get out and ride.
What’s that? It’s too hot.
I know I am not alone in planning a day of riding and then realising it is boiling, maybe even too hot to ride.
It seems like a precious waste to not get out and enjoy the weather but other than wearing no gear and hoping for the best, what other options are there?
Here we have put together a guide to ensure you can have two-wheeled fun in the sun that is both safe and enjoyable.
Preparation is key to any successful, stress-free ride, but even more so when riding in hot weather.
Knowing you are prepared and ready for every eventuality means you can get out and enjoy your journey.
I know motorcycles are all about freedom and the old “it’s not the destination but the journey” cliche.
BUT and it is a big ‘but’ with a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy the journey even in the heat.
Every morning before my day gets started, I ask myself this question:
“Are you fit for purpose?”
Applying this simple question to yourself before you set out on a ride will help you assess your mental state.
Are you tired? Hungry? Hydrated? Focused? Any aches and pains?
A quick mental run through these things will ensure you are ready for a fun day’s riding.
Dehydration, fatigue and pain are all distractions that you could do without on the bike and frankly can be dangerous, so take care of yourself first and take no risks.
My last point on this, which I think often gets overlooked, is to check your emotional state.
For example, I make a point never to ride when angry, as I am unfocused and potentially more aggressive or liable to stupid mistakes.
The heat brings out the worst in people; short fuses are as common as terrible drivers.
Being on a bike, you are more vulnerable, so make sure you are calm and collected, ready to deal with the occasional situation where others make poor judgements.
Prepare Your Bike
Right, so you are fed, watered, calm and focused, it’s time to check the bike over.
There are two key things to check when riding in the heat on top of your normal basic safety checks.
- Check your tyres.
- Check your fluids.
Your tyres experience a lot in all weather, but in the heat, the roads are hot, and so is your rubber.
Ensure your tyre pressures are where they need to be; if you have the equipment at home, that’s perfect. Do a quick check before you leave.
It is worth glancing at your tyre tread, too, as a few weeks of nice weather and heavy riding in between could mean you are wearing down a little quicker than you would normally.
You should always check your fluids before you set off, regardless. So, check your oil levels, brake and clutch fluid levels and your radiator coolant if applicable.
Prepare Your Journey
You are ready; your bike is ready; it’s time to plan your journey.
- Plan sensible stops for water and food – make sure you account for needing more breaks than you would normally. Hydration is going to be your best friend when riding in the heat.
- Avoid riding at the hottest time of the day. Head out early or late afternoon where possible. Plan a lunch stop when the sun is at its hottest and sit it out. Riding is meant to be fun, so don’t suffer needlessly.
- Avoid tourist spots. Well known routes and destinations are likely to be packed on a hot day, so take the opportunity to head out somewhere different. This way, you can avoid heavy traffic and tackle some back roads that might be quieter than usual.
Wear Suitable Riding Gear
How often have you seen that one guy wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops on something like a Z1000 when the sun is out?
I have, and many times I have resisted going over to tell him that nobody is looking at his bike; they are looking at him for his stupidity.
Don’t be that guy.
Of course, your one-piece Dainese leather race suit is going to make you feel like you’re in a sauna.
You don’t need to ditch your riding gear just because it’s too hot.
You need to adapt and maybe add a few items to your riding wardrobe.
The key things to focus on are your helmet, jacket and trousers.
I’m a massive advocate for a full-face helmet at all times but can occasionally be swayed by a good quality modular.
However, if there is any time to opt for an open-face helmet, it is in hot temperatures.
The ventilation is second to none and will keep your face cool in the breeze.
You can check some of our favourite open-face helmet options here.
With that said, if you cannot bear to part with a full-face/modular helmet, then there are some things you can do to make sure you have a helmet suitable for the heat.
- Keep your vents open
- Some visors will have a two-stage mechanism that allows you to keep the visor partially open to allow some further air-flow
- If your helmet has a removable peak, it might be worth putting that on to keep the sun off your face
If you think a new helmet is in order for the Summer, then here are some tips for when you are looking:
Look for options with plenty of ventilation points. This Arai Rapide helmet that we reviewed is a great example of this despite being a retro helmet.
Six vents at the front of the chin allow for airflow directly into your helmet.
Brow vents can be switched to suit, and most importantly, there are four exhaust points at the back.
You will be surprised at how many helmets are on the market with vents at the front with a lack of exhaust points.
There is nowhere for the hot air to escape, so instead, it just sits in the helmet, getting warmer, rendering the vents useless.
Modular helmets are aimed at commuters and touring riders; however, they can also be great in warm weather.
Being able to flip the lid up when stopped and letting the breeze in is an underrated pleasure.
Most are fitted with internal sun visors, which are super helpful to flip up or down as needed.
Be aware that you can not ride with the front flipped up with many of these modular helmets, so you will need to check that they are legal to be ridden as both an open-face and full-face helmet.
An example of a legal helmet to use in both positions is this Shark Evo which is dual-homologated.
One last tip is to go for a lightweight helmet. Extra weight requires more energy to wear and more effort equals more heat.
Jacket and Trousers
I love leather; nothing makes me feel more comfortable riding than a decent leather jacket.
However, sometimes leather is just too hot to ride in, and it isn’t fit for purpose.
There are some great options for motorcycle clothing on the market that are just as protective as leather but lightweight and breathable.
No need to scrap your kit altogether and wear just a t-shirt.
Mesh textile jackets, in my opinion, are the best Summer riding option.
The Alpinestars T-SPS Air Jacket is fantastic. Having had the chance to give this jacket a test ride, I can confirm the ventilation through the mesh is brilliant.
I felt protected by the armour in situ as well as knowing that if I were in for a slide, the material would protect my skin.
As with the helmets, make sure that there are exhaust vents at the back of the jacket.
Alternatively, a pair of Kevlar jeans may be a good option for summer as they will certainly allow the air to flow.
However, even these can still be too warm, trousers with mesh ventilation are unbeatable when it comes to hot weather.
Summer gloves and boots are also available on the market.
However, in my experience, boots will always be warm in the Summer; it is unavoidable.
As for gloves, there are some good options with vents on the knuckles etc., but it is much the same as boots; your hands will get warm.
You could opt for some of the cheaper ‘Summer’ gloves on the market, but if you dig a little deeper, you will soon realise they lack quality armour and materials.
As a keen ‘terrible but try-hard’ guitarist, artist and writer, I treasure my hands, so I would rather them be warm than be unable to use them.
Further to which boots and gloves are quite personal anyway, and most people will have their favourite pairs that are comfortable.
Your other kit is the main thing that will keep you cool.
Best Accessories for Summer Riding
Very nearly there now, you have your main riding outfit picked out, and everything is prepared.
There are a few more add ons that can make your Summer riding experience just that little bit better.
Protect your skin and use a decent quality sun cream to avoid getting burnt.
If you are fully kitted up, then there won’t be that much skin on show, but make sure to spray your face and the back of your neck.
Getting home with a burnt face or the back of your neck after a day’s riding will be painful and irritating; it is something that can be so easily avoided.
Cooling Neck Scarves
There are scarves on the market filled with small polymer crystals that release water throughout the day; the idea is to keep you cool.
Of course, your ever-faithful bandana can be run under the cold tap and wrapped around your neck to do pretty much the same thing. You will just have to keep wetting it at your stops to feel the benefits.
A neck scarf/bandana is a good idea anyway as it will keep your neck from being exposed to the sun and running the risk of getting burnt.
Moisture releasing cooling vests are pretty new to the market like this Alpinestars one.
You fill it up with water, and throughout the day, it releases moisture, and the aim is to keep you cool.
Paired with a textile jacket, one of these might be a good idea if you are spending a few hours in the saddle under the sun.
Moisture Wicking Under Layers
Forget your favourite Harley t-shirt (or at least pack it in your bag for when you get to where you’re going) and shoot for specifically made moisture-wicking under layers.
Now you won’t win any style points, but you will thank me later when you are cool and dry after being bombarded by the sun.
Under layers come in tops and trousers; they are breathable and wick away moisture from the body, keeping you cool.
Most motorcycle stores now sell under layers such as these, but you can also pick the same thing up from any sports shop.
Water Tank Backpack
In the Summer, I go nowhere without my Kriega R20 backpack.
Not only does it hold my stuff, but inside is a space for a 3-litre hydration reservoir.
A long tube/straw comes out through the top and attaches to the bag strap with velcro. I can then drink to my heart’s content through my helmet while riding.
You can get hydration packs that are worn like backpacks, but it is just the water reservoir with no space for any bits you carry. This may suit some riders more as it is less weight to carry and is the equivalent of just carrying a bottle of water on your back.
Having water accessible like this when riding is fantastic; there is no need to pull over, get your water bottle out of the panniers to drink before setting off again.
A word of caution, however, as much as being hydrated is key, especially in hot weather, riding with a hydration pack should not replace regular stops.
Hot weather is tiring on the human body, and you can feel the effects of fatigue quickly, so make sure you regularly stop regardless to have a rest and fuel up on some cake.
There you have some of the best tips and tricks to keep you riding safely in hot weather.
With a little thought, preparation and the right kit, Summer riding can be fun regardless of how hot the weather gets.
Exercise your common sense, and if it is one of those rare extra hot days, don’t be afraid to sit it out, clean your bike instead and give it some TLC; not every day needs to be a riding day.