Motorbiking tips for hot weather

A motorbike surrounded by flames
A very literal visual interpretation of being too hot on the bike
"Stopping can help you to cool down but also to assess how you’re really feeling"
  • | by Derri Dunn

Summer’s frequently touted as ‘the season’ for bikers – and not without some justification.

But anyone who’s ever done the ‘car park dash’ – that desperate race between pulling on your inches-thick protective gear and actually getting the bike moving to facilitate a bit of airflow across your by-now perspiration-drenched skin – will know that the reality can sometimes be a sweaty, sticky nightmare.

And any biker who’s harrumphed at a flip-flop clad boy or girl racer flinging past, bare-armed, on a moped will know that forsaking boots, gloves and jacket is never the answer either.

But if you think you’ve got it tough taking on UK weather, spare a thought for round-the-world bike adventurer Steph Jeavons. When we spoke to her to get her top tips for hot weather riding, she was somewhere in darkest Peru, heading for the Ecuadorian border on Rhonda, her Honda CRF 250L.

Adventure biker Steph Jeavons

Image: Red Moto Adventures

Create a summer wardrobe

Not all of us can afford a separate set of kit for every season, but it goes without saying that if you can stretch to a few pieces of summer-specific kit, you’ll increase comfort massively. And the good news is, thinner, lighter summer gear tends to be a bit cheaper than winter stuff.

Any experienced biker knows temperature control is all about the layering, so you should be able to extend the use of a summer jacket and trousers to cover much of autumn and winter too, meaning that some lightweight gear can be well worth the investment.

Make sure you get the most from your summer gear by taking advantage of all its ventilation features. “Always make sure your vents are open in your jacket, pants and helmet (if you have them),” says Steph.

When it’s really scorching you can also keep your cool by pouring water over a t-shirt or neckwear you’ve got on under your jacket. “Wet your buff every time you stop,” Steph advises. As wet clothing dries it’ll remove heat from your skin, helping to slow dehydration from sweating instead.

Finally, textiles tend to be more comfortable and practical than leather when the weather gets a bit clammy...

Don’t forget to drink

As well as dampening your clothing to keep your body temperature down, it’s important to be aware of dehydration – and drinking while riding isn’t such an easy task. A hydration pack with a drinking hose can be the answer.

“Drink lots. Carry a camel pack and keep sipping,” says Steph. While ice in the pack could be a cooling layer of relief on your back, actually drinking the liquid while it’s this cold makes your body work harder to absorb the fluid. “Make sure it’s not too cold – that will actually heat your body up,” warns Steph.

Don’t let your bike boil you alive

It’s not just you that can suffer in the heat – sometimes extremes of temperature give your bike a rough time too.

If you’re unlucky enough to have ever ridden a naked bike into very slow-moving traffic, such as a motorway tailback, you may have found that things can get pretty scorching under-thigh without the cooling effect of the wind.

To stop your bike suffering overheating and to avoid the knock-on effects of toasted legs, you might want to give a bit of thought to your route on super-hot days. Country roads might give more reliable flow to your journey than motorways and the associated tailback risks, or urban routes with too many stop lights.

If you do end up static, switching off your engine instead of idling will give your bike a chance to cool down, as well as conserving fuel.

Warning signs

Finally, don’t ignore the warning signs or underestimate the consequences of heat exhaustion on the bike.

“Stop regularly and sit in the shade,” says Steph. “Strip off for a while. Heat exhaustion can come on very quickly and you may not notice it until you are very disoriented.

“Stopping can help you to cool down but also to assess how you’re really feeling.”

Be vigilant to warning signs of electrolyte loss such as cramp and blurred vision – it’s never worth risking a crash for the sake of stopping for 20 minutes to cool off and get some water down your neck.

Follow Steph Jeavons' round-the-world adventure on her blog, One Steph Beyond