Enjoy your riding in the soaring temperatures
Yes, it's hot... damn hot. Wonderful, isn't it? The hottest place I've been was Death Valley, in August. The dash of my trusty Kawasaki Z1000SX told me it was 48C at one point. Today it didn't register more than 38C – that's almost mild, by comparison. I love this kind of weather. For me, it's what bikes were made for – but with my Mr Sensible hat on, I can't deny that heat stroke can be a problem. A few sensible precautions can really help you beat the heat and enjoy the ride. Here are my tips.
Dress for the weather
This is not the time to be wearing black. Light colours are best – you can wash the flies out over winter when you're back in the midnight-hues of GoreTex. Now you want kit that relects rather than absorbs the heat.
Pale leathers are okay at a push. Light-coloured textiles are better – especially those with lots of vents. But these are the conditions mesh was invented for and frankly it can't be beaten. I did the majority of my Big Stupid Trip of a Lifetime in a Rev'It mesh jacket – not only into Death Valley but also through the stiffling humidity of the Deep South and into the sweltering red centre of Australia. Frankly, it was a life-saver.
It's only part of the solution. I wore Kevlar jeans rather than leathers and, despite the heat, quality summer baselayers to wick sweat away from the skin. I also favour short motocross-style gloves in the heat (my favourites pair is the Held Sambia).
The best bit of kit for the extreme heat is a thing called a Cooldown Vest (available from BMW dealers). You soak it with water, its nappy-like construction making sure it doesn't seep out to make clothes or phone or wallet soggy, and as you ride it evaporates. This strips the heat from you and keeps you cool: genius. It does rely on airflow so is most effective inside a mesh jacket. It made riding through Death Valley an absolute breeze – though I got through a litre of water, stopping to top it up as when the liquid's all gone you can suddenly feel the temperature rise.
A good, simple, popular trick is to soak your Buff in water. It feels a bit clammy as you slip it on and the collar and top of your shirt will get damp, but it works the same way as the Cooldown Vest, with a basic heat-exchange process: as the water evaporates, it takes heat from your body and cools you down.
Sort your seat
One thing I wish I'd had on my trip is the Cool Covers seat that now adorns the Z1000SX. Quite frankly every surface I sit on should have one in this weather. It's a simple, well-finished, tough and easy to fit cover that slips onto your standard seat and – as the name suggests – keeps you cool as air flows through its mesh. It does also help on wet days, as water runs through it so you're not sitting in a puddle, but that's a fringe benefit.
Where it really looks after you is on boiling days like this when sitting on a bike that's been parked in the sun isn't like lowering yourself onto a hotplate. Then once you get moving, the flow of air genuinely cools the parts that other accessories can't reach. I can't recommend it highly enough – and there's a huge range to suit all kinds of bikes. Just make sure you get a genuine, British made Cool Covers not a Chinese knock-off. Find the one for your bike here.
Drink like a sailor on shore leave
Well, maybe not so much the booze but stop lots and drink loads – of water. Not anything with caffeine, whether that's coffee or your preferred brand of Cola. Caffeine will make you sweat more and rush all the moisture in your body directly into your bladder... and it can't keep you hydrated if you're pissing it away behind a bush in a layby.
If you have luggage, take a Chilly Bottle (or other tough vacuum bottle) with ice and water with you. Really cram the ice in – I try to get it half full of ice and half full of water. I'll carry water with me or buy more along the way. When I stop, I drink all the ice-cold water in the bottle and top it up. Next time I stop, the water inside is ice cold. If I'm lucky, I can chill two or three top-ups from one set of ice cubes (especially if topping up with cold water).
If you have a jacket with a built-in Camelback, these can be brilliant. Just sip water as you go. If the hose is on your shoulder, exposed to a breeze, the liquid shouldn't be too hot. I hesitate to use a back-pack one as I don't want anything covering any mesh and I don't want the extra layer on my back, but if you don't have luggage for carrying water bottles then they're a brilliant idea.
Stop in the shade
Finally, one small but obvious point: minimise the amount of time you spend standing in the sun. Park the bike in the shade if you can. If you can't, park up and get yourself into the shade – or an air-conditioned cafe – as soon as possible. Never, ever leave your lid sitting in the sun or it'll be like a personalised brain-fryer when you put it back on.
The key thing is to stop for a quick drink really frequently. Every half an hour, ideally. I carry a length of brewers tubing like a big flexible straw, so I don't even need to take my lid off to have a drink: I can hydrate, top up the water/ice bottle and be moving again in three or four minutes. Drinking a moderate amount regularly is better than parching yourself all morning then glugging down 2L in a cafe – that'll just shoot straight through you.
Finally, remember some sun cream for when you're off the bike (and for the back of your neck when you're on it). Know where your sunglasses are... and enjoy it.