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Safety Tip from Throttle - Heat

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Heat exhaustion and dehydration are real possibilities when riding in hot temperatures. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids and cover up. What? Cover up? Yes. Cover up to stay cool when riding.

People from cooler climates often react to hot weather by removing clothing. That helps cool the skin--providing air temperature is less than body temperature. Heat transfers from a hot object to a cold object. Pick up an ice cube, and it feels cold. Whatís happening is that the ice is rapidly absorbing heat from your skin. Even if the air is 89F, the air will absorb heat from your skin (assuming your body is around 99F). Now, consider what happens when you curl your fingers around a hot cup of coffee. Your skin rapidly absorbs heat from the cup, because the cup is hotter than your hand. The same thing occurs when the air temperature is hotter than your body temperature.

You may think your body is hot at 99 F, but itís "cold" compared to air at 118 F. If you expose your skin to air thatís hotter than you are, your body just soaks up more heat.

The lesson here is that if air temperature is in the 80s or 90s, it helps to open up the jacket vents, or wear a mesh jacket. But once air temperature climbs above 99 F, the best way to keep from getting cooked is to keep your insulation on, and the vents closed. Desert nomads wear long, loose wool garments, both to keep the sweating skin in the shade, and to insulate the body from the hot air.

With the temperature in triple digits, I wear my leather gloves and insulated riding. My feet are down in the air stream thatís first been heated up by the pavement, and then heated some more by the engine. Are my feet hot? Sure, but not as hot as if I were wearing thin boots or shoes that exposed my ankles.

Same for the helmet. Wouldnít it make sense to crack my visor when itís really hot, or at least open up the helmet vents? Nope. Any hot air allowed to reach my skin will heat up the skin, not cool it down. Inside my helmet at 118F, Iím sweltering, but the temperature is probably under 100 F. That crushable helmet liner inside the shell is there to cushion my brain against impacts, but itís the same expanded polystyrene foam they use to make insulated picnic coolers. So, the helmet actually provides insulation against the hot air.

One additional concern about exposed skin is sun and wind burn. Even if you wear heavy duty sunscreen to protect against a nasty sunburn, the wind at motorcycling speeds can also irritate the skin. If youíre riding more than a few miles, itís best to keep your skin covered.

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For questions, comments, or suggestions on safety tips please contact Rob 'Throttle' Capozzi.

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