Summer is upon us, bringing with it Australia’s rainy season as well as temperatures that can reach 50 degrees. While we certainly don’t agree that Aussie Summer is the absolute worst, the heat and humidity can be rough to deal with as we wait for cooler temperatures to provide some relief.
The unique traits of summer in Australia offer a host of new considerations for motorcycle riders to keep in mind. While the promise of warmer weather may make the idea of hitting the open road that much more attractive, there are some important tips to remember in order to stay safe on the road with your bike.
This may seem like it goes without saying, but it’s essential that everyone, especially riders, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other liquids that replenish the vitamins and minerals lost when sweating. And with all that gear on, you’re going to be sweating.
Be sure to not only drink enough water before you set out for a ride, but that you have plenty with you for the ride as well. Do what works best for you, whether it’s stashing some cold water and ice packs in your saddle bags, or picking up a hydration pack. Avoid coffee or alcohol (which you should be doing while riding anyway), as it will only make the problem worse.
Heat stress is cumulative, meaning the longer you go without addressing it the worse it gets and the more time it takes to recover. It can be tempting to keep going and going, enjoying the views of wherever you’re riding. It can also be dangerous.
If you’re planning a long ride, try to stop at least once an hour, taking 10 or 15 minutes for every 45 minutes on the road just to relax and refresh. Convenience stores or restaurants always work to cool off and hydrate. Another trick is to wear a bandana to soak in cold water and wear on your head.
While those hitting the beach may be baring as much skin as local regulations allow, you’re still riding a motorcycle and need to be safe. That means wearing your jacket, helmet, gloves and other gear.
Not only will that keep you safe in the event of an accident, it also protects against the elements. Moving fast through hot air causes more heat to be pulled from the body, resulting in you sweating more. So stick with long-sleeve shirts and other clothes that limit the amount of skin exposed to extreme heat.
Dressing for riding in the summer heat isn’t the same as dressing for riding in cooler weather. While you still need to wear clothes and equipment to keep you safe, there are specific items developed for warm weather riding.
A little research will help you find gloves, helmets and jackets that strike the right balance between protection and the increased ventilation to help you stay cool. Mesh textiles breathe more easily and will do the trick. In addition to hot-weather substitutes for your standard gear, consider adding athletic undershirts and other clothes that wick moisture away from the skin. Get summer gloves which have better air circulation.
You may want to put as many miles as possible behind you every day, but that midday period between 12 and 5 p.m. is when the sun beats down on the road most intensely. That means you’re sweating more and are more prone to dehydration.
Rearrange your riding schedule to log more time in the early morning and early evening. Use the afternoon to cool down in a theater or do some sightseeing. Whatever you do, get off the bike for a few hours until the temperature cools down.
Summer is Australia’s rainy season, when storms can pop up both unexpectedly and violently. You should be prepared to suddenly be riding through a torrential downpour.
That means you should have rain gear to keep you dry as well as visible at all times, even if it’s just some cheap, thin rain pants and jacket rolled up in your saddle bags. And if it does rain, remember to look out for slippery roads, puddles that developed quickly, oil slicks and other hazards.
Keeping your bike in shape is a full-time job already. Hot summer weather adds its own complexities and items to address, including:
While motorcycle riders should always be aware of the conditions of the road and the presence of possible hazards, summer and its accompanying heat bring with them their own set of dangers to watch for and deal with to avoid a motorcycle injury.
Know how to deal with the tar snakes that can pop up unexpectedly when the material used to repair roads expands above the surface. Watch for construction zones changing traffic flow, or distributed debris around the surrounding area. And remember that animals are more active during the summer and may pop out of nowhere, especially at night.
Even if you take all the precautions you can to stay hydrated and increase airflow, you can still suffer from heat exhaustion. Especially if you’re riding for long periods of time or over long distances by yourself, it’s important to know the warning signs, including:
If you notice any of these symptoms, stop and get hydrated and cool immediately. Not only do you need to keep yourself healthy, but any level of impaired driving puts you and those around you at risk.
Knowing how to keep both you and your motorcycle in peak condition during the summer will not only help you stay safe, but enjoy the warm weather and the adventures it unlocks.