Excessive heat can take a toll on you and your bike. Here are some tips on staying cool on your summer ride
Summer is finally here and it’s time to ride. It’s what those of us who endure winter look forward to when the days are dark and icy. Before jumping onto your favorite steed to conquer the roads, however, make sure you’re both ready for the hot weather.
Your machine needs some love
Heat can do strange, often destructive things to your bike. Before taking it out on a sunny, 90-degree day, whip out your owner’s manual and do the following:
- Clean and lubricate your chain (if you have one) and look for rust, wear, and gunk. Also, make sure that the tension is good. If you have a belt check it for cracks or damage and give it a liberal serving of belt dressing. Try to do this the night before a ride so that the lubricant or belt dressing has a chance to work its way into the chain or belt.
- Check all your fluids – oil, brakes, clutch and coolant, depending on your bike. Check any hoses or wires for cracks, excessive wear, damage, or (for hoses) soft spots. Summer heat means your motor will be running at its hottest. Give it all the help it can get.
- Try to avoid excessive idling. Sure, you have to stand idle sometimes, but don't just let your bike sit running in an unshaded parking lot or in line for a bank teller. While excessive idling in high temps is real bad for air-cooled bikes, even water-cooled bikes can suffer in this heat.
- Take a good look at your tires. How's the tread? Any cracks or strange wear? Do they need to be replaced, or just pumped up to the proper pressure? You can do this at a local gas station using your own gauge or the one on the pump.
- Check your brakes. Make sure your brake fluid is relatively fresh, new fluid resists heat better than old fluid. Are your pads good? If you have a drum (or drums) are the shoes good and the brakes adjusted well? Brakes heat up quicker than usual in high temperatures, so make sure they're in tip-top shape before going out to flog your bike on a hot day.
Dress for success
It’s tempting to want to shed a few key items when you feel the hot-hot heat, but there are plenty of reasons to make sure you stay just as covered as always.
Buying a new helmet or gear? Consider white or light colors. It’s amazing the difference it makes when you’re not absorbing the sun’s rays. Trade in those heavy leathers for textiles. Mesh jackets like the Rev'It Traction provide great protection (including armor) in a lightweight, extremely breathable package. If budget allows and you don’t yet have a pair, consider getting a pair of riding jeans, or ventilated textile pants to go with your armored textile jacket. Wrist-length mesh or armored textile gloves also go a long way in keeping you cool.
The more air you can keep circulating around your body, the better. If you want to take it one step further, you can soak a bandana in water to wear around your neck, or even buy a fancy shirt that you can soak in water that will evaporate in the breeze while you ride, or one that wicks away moisture, to cool your core.
Hydrate, Rest, and Recharge
Remember to always have your own supply of water and drink often. Waiting until you feel thirsty is too late. The best is to invest in a hydra pack so you can sip while you ride to ensure that you stay clear-headed. When it’s hot, plan for more pit stops to rest and grab a snack, and try to park your bike in the shade. Your kickstand is less likely to sink into soft pavement and your components and motor can get a break from the heat. That’s also a great time to make sure that any exposed skin gets covered by some clothing or sunscreen. If you notice you’re not making enough runs to the restroom, drink more water.
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Oh yeah, and remember to have fun and enjoy every extra degree. Soon enough it’ll be back to scarves and snow.