Summer is upon and riding season is in full swing. With any luck, you’re spending your weekends at the racetrack for racing or track days, or maybe you’re just taking your street bike out for a nice long summer ride. With temperatures creeping into the 25C+ range, and a high humidity count, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated on your motorcycle.
Proper hydration may not only affect your performance on the motorcycle while racing, but it can also affect your riding on the street. Failing to consume enough liquids can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and in extreme cases, heat stroke (also known as sunstroke). In all cases, performance can be affected as well as your judgment on the motorcycle. In extreme cases, medical attention may be required.
To prevent dehydration and some of its nasty side effects, here are a few tips to think about when riding this summer:
Drink Plenty of Water- this should be a no-brainer, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to remind people the importance of getting plenty of fluids in the heat (Beer and soda don’t count here). When I was racing, I would actually prepare a few bottles of sports drink as well in order to maintain a good balance of electrolytes on those hot summer days. Cytomax and Gatorade are popular forms of sports drinks, however both have been criticized as being filled predominantly with sugars and do little to aid in performance and re-fueling. Lately, I’ve been using Heed Sports drink from the folks at Hammer Nutrition and it seems to be doing the trick. Like many sports drinks, Heed comes in a powder format and you simply add a scoop or two to your water bottle. The powder provides a good balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes and keep you going on those hot summer days. Sometimes sports drinks might make you feel bloated, so it’s always best to supplement them with plain water as well.
Drink Often- everyone has their own idea of what means “drink often”. As a general rule of thumb, you should be drinking before you actually feel thirsty. On really hot days, 1-2 bottles of water an hour is not unusual. One telltale sign that you’re not consuming enough fluids is if your urine is dark yellow. If that’s the case, get drinking!
Wet Your Under Gear -Riding with warm, heavy leathers makes it difficult to remain cool on hot summer days. Consider pouring cold water all over your body, wetting the under gear of your leathers, before going out for a ride or track session. This will help keep your core body temperature down and also help prevent dehydration.
Keep an Eye Out for Salt- If you happen to notice white salt stains coming through on the inside of your leathers, your helmet or on your under gear, then you’re not getting enough water and your performance might be suffering. Salt stains are a sure sign of dehydration. Drinking water and eating salt will help, but by then it’s probably too late and it’s best to try and drink more the next time.
Don’t Be a Hero, Pace Yourself– Too many times I have participated in track days during the summer when riders feel the need to squeeze every dollar out of their day. It’s 4:45pm, you’re hot and tired of sitting around in the sun all day, and yet you have to go out for that one last session to get your money’s worth. More often than not, this is when accidents happen and it will cost you a lot more than 15 minutes of missed track time. If you’re feeling tired, regardless of the heat, sit the last session out and save your tires (and your bike) for the next track day.
Watch for the Following Signs:
If you or your friends aren’t drinking enough water while riding, you might start to notice signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Here are a few things to look out for:
Heat Cramps– if you’re feeling cramps in your stomach, arms or legs then you need water, and you’re not going to feel any better until you get some water into you.
Heat Exhaustion– Ignoring the cramps and/ or continuing to ride and ignoring your body’s need for water, you’re heading into heat exhaustion territory. Symptoms may include headaches, nausea, weakness, sweating or cold sweats, dizziness or fainting. Naturally all of these things will affect your ability to control a motorcycle, so don’t let this happen to you!
Heat Stroke– should not the taken lightly. This goes beyond the simple feelings of being uncomfortable due to the heat. People who suffer from heat stroke might appear confused or incoherent (some may appear intoxicated), they make blank out, their skin may be red, hot and dry and their body temperature may be increased. In extreme cases symptoms will continue to get worse and organs may begin to fail. If you or a friend is experiencing heat stroke, you need to get them out of their leathers and out of the sun as quickly as possible, preferably into an air-conditioned building or vehicle. Get their core temperature down by covering them with cold water and loosen or remove their clothing to allow for more ventilation, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to call for medical help too.
Hopefully you won’t experience heat exhaustion or sunstroke this summer, but the importance of proper hydration should not be taken lightly whether you’re out on the racetrack or enjoying a long Sunday ride with friends.
Follow some simple steps to drinking lots of fluids and making sure you always have lots of water available and you should find your performance on the track or on the street will be greatly improved.