Motorcyclists are a rare breed, willingly subjecting ourselves to the wind, rain, and whatever else mother nature throws at us.
But actually, it’s the fair-weather months that hold the record for the most accidents. Typically June, July and August feature the most motorcycle crashes and collisions in the season, either with other roadway users or as single-vehicle crashes.
Check out some of the top warm-weather riding collision causes below, and how to avoid them!
Regular maintenance, and particularly spring maintenance are crucial for a motorcycle. However, when you’re riding in the heat there are a few key things to look for with your bike:
- Overheating – A common warm-weather riding issue that occurs when the bike’s coolant system can’t keep up. Typically engine temperature will start to rise over 200°F (though this depends on bike make and model), engine power will drop, there may be smoke or a smell, and eventually engine damage
- Brake fluid – Keeping your eye on your brake fluid and function is a good idea during warm weather riding days, as it can actually “boil off” in heat and/or with heavy use. This occurs when the braking system can’t sufficiently dissipate heat. A loss of hydraulic pressure will occur, and you’ll feel either weak or a complete lack of brakes. Warning signs for this include brake rotor smoke or smell.
- Tire Condition – While most motorcycle tires should be able to handle warm weather riding conditions without issue, it’s important to check for proper inflation levels to avoid heat damage, poor handling, and loss of control.
During warm weather riding there are a few dangerous but easily preventable conditions that a motorcyclist can be exposed to while on the road. Heat affects the human body similarly to how alcohol does — causing extreme dehydration, disorientation, and loss of consciousness. It’s important to learn the warning signs and symptoms to prevent and address heat emergencies during warm weather riding.
The 3 Phases of Heat Effects:
- Heat Cramps – Often the first 1st warning sign for overheating, heat cramps are the result of an excessive loss of salt and water while sweating. These cramps usually start as muscle spasms and stiffness in the arms, calves, and abdomen.
Remedy: Get off the bike, drink water, and find a cool area.
- Heat Exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is the next and more serious stage of dehydration and mineral loss. Symptoms can include headaches, cramps, dizziness, blurred vision, “sticky” skin, dilated pupils, shallow breathing, vomiting, and passing out.
Remedy: Get off the bike, find a cool area and drink as much water as possible in small amounts (unless vomiting). Remove excess gear and clothing, particularly around the neck/waist, and rest in the “shock/recovery” position. Call for medical help.
- Heat Stroke (Sunstroke) – A life-threatening condition that is typically classified by a body temperature of over 105°F, headaches, dizziness, lack of sweating, hot skin, restlessness, convulsions, vomiting, weak pulse and potentially loss of life.
Remedy: Get off the bike, find a cool area and locate medical attention immediately. If you have ice packs or cool materials place them on blood vessel dense areas like the armpits, back, groin and neck.
Sun Poisoning is sometimes confused for sunstroke, but they aren’t the same thing. Sun poisoning is the more severe form of heat exhaustion and can occur when a rider gets an extreme sunburn. Symptoms include blistering skin, headaches, nausea, dehydration and dizziness. A doctor may be needed to treat the condition with anti-inflammatories, steroids, medicated lotions, or antibiotics.
Cover up your arms and legs. This might seem counterintuitive, but breathable full coverage clothing or gear protects you against dehydration and sunburns. When you’re on the road in warm weather you’re actually sweating, but you most likely can’t feel it due to the convection from the wind. This, along with the sun, draws out moisture from your body.
Use riding gear like this Icon Mesh AF Jacket ($180)
Avoid caffeine! As tempting as that gas-station energy drink might be, try not to buy it. All forms of caffeine are a diuretic, meaning they’ll only worsen your dehydration and fatigue. Opt instead for choices like water or electrolyte drinks.
Use suntan lotion. Getting a tan while riding might seem like the cool thing to do, but it will actually raise body temperature, accelerate dehydration, and put you at risk for skin cancer. Keep in mind that the face, hands, neck, and lips are all at-risk areas for severe burns.
Prehydrate the day before. Avoid alcohol, get plenty of resk, and pack more water than you’ll ever think you’ll need (because you will need it!).
Even on the most beautiful riding days there are risks on the road. Some unique features to look out for in the hot summer months are:
- Roadway users – This should come as no surprise, but especially around holidays or tourist areas, roadway users are likely to be distracted or even under the influence.
- Painted Lines & Tar Strips – Much like humans in summer, painted lines and tar strips can actually sweat. That means you’ll likely have reduced traction, which is important to keep in mind while accelerating, braking, or turning on them.
- Gravel Runoffs – Gravel and debris can travel onto roads in a variety of ways. One of the more common ways in summer is through rainstorms. Heavy spring or summer rains can easily wash sand, dirt, and gravel onto previously clear roadways. High travel areas, like corners or intersections can also be an area where roadway traffic causes gravel to accumulate.
Sometimes risks come when we least expect them, and the best thing we can do as riders is to be prepared. Warm weather riding, while fun, does have several risk factors that every motorcycle rider should be aware of so that they can stay safe while having fun.
Ride safe, and stay tuned for more great content!