"It's like riding through hell wearing thermal underwear," or as one woman recently said of her ride, "It felt like I was riding with a massive hair dryer blowing in my face."
Riding in temperatures reaching triple digits can be as dangerous as riding in freezing temperatures. The beginnings of a heat stroke, as with hypothermia, can affect your judgement and impair your ability to operate a motorcycle safely.
The Warning Signs:
Individuals with high blood pressure, those who are overweight are at a higher risk to suffer heat exhaustion and/or a heat stroke. High temperatures with high humidity combined with these risk factors and alcohol use or certain medications and the ingredients are all present for a tragic end to the ride.
Symptoms include pale clammy skin, headaches, dizzy, nausea, loss of memory and fainting, muscle tremors, cramping and being tired and weak. Red skin with little or no sweating indicates a dangerous level of heat exhaustion. At this point immediate action must be taken to prevent a heat stroke.
The treatments are mostly common sense, but remember the victim may not be mentally capable of making the right decision. Move them into the shade or preferably air conditioned space. Spray water on the person, and get some air circulating around the victim with a fan and have them drink non-caffeinated fluids, cool but not ice cold.
Rinsing with cool water is fine, but do not apply ice to the victim as it will fool the body into closing skin pores to retain heat, making the situation worse.
Stay Cool on the Bike:
It's not always possible to avoid riding when the temperatures reach triple digits, and even with temperatures hovering between 90-98 Fahrenheit the combination of high humidity exposes the rider to dangerous heat stress.
The best course of action may be to wear long sleeves and or a good mesh leather riding suit, especially on rides where the temperatures reach north of 98 degrees.
Our body is wonderfully adapted when it comes to keeping us cool. We can cool off a lot easier than we can warm up.
Motorcyclsits however, are at a disadvantage when it comes to cooling because in extreme heat, the wind is not our friend. Temperatures over 100 degrees turn the environment around our motorcycle into a convection oven. Strong winds, even as low as 35 mph, snatches away our perspiration before it has had time to cool our skin, leaving us dehydrated and hot.
Add to that the radiant effect of sunlight on uncovered skin (such as wearing thin t-shirt, tank top or no shirt) and serious sun burn isn't far behind. Sylvia Cochran, of USRiderNews says her trips to South Dakota for the Sturgis rally has given her a much better appreciation for the damaging effects of extended sunlight and 80 mph winds on the face and arms.
"In only a few hours of interstate riding you get a nice 'farmer's tan' and your skin starts to feel really 'cooked.'" Says Cochran. "I started wearing long sleeve technical style shirts that runners wear. They're made with a cotten/synthetic blend that keeps sunlight off your skin, but the fabric is breathable so you can feel the sweat cooling your skin as it evaporates.
"The vest helps lower your core temperature. But to maximize it's benefit it must be worn next to the skin preferably under a lightweight vented or perforated jacket. " She said. "At every gas stop I usually buy two bottles of water and drink one, and use the other to soak my vest before getting back on the bike."
The stares of disbelief as she slips on a jacket in 100+ temperatures are priceless but there's almost always another motorcyclist who tells her that they do the same thing. "I'm more surprised at those riders who don't understand this will keep you cooler than just a thin t-shirt."
The bottom line is when the temperature reaches triple digits, try to keep as much of your skin covered as possible and to drink fluids at every gas stop while cooling in the shade or inside the store. Riding through Hell is never fun, but at least it gives you something to talk about at your next bike night!