News 1 Jan 2009

Road: Summer Lovin'

The new year has arrived, and so has the hot summer weather. Moto Online offers summer riding safety tips to beat the heat.



Going for a relaxed ride on the public road is one thing, but exerting yourself at the race track in competition or at a ride day is the ultimate recipe for disaster if you haven’t prepared properly.

Hydration is extremely important when pushing to your limits on a circuit, although the importance is highlighted due to sweating and physical work when completing the lengthy sessions at full speed.

Also remember that bikes can change quite a bit as they run at warmer temperatures, with both engine and suspension performance possibly feeling different with a number of laps under your belt.

Another important aspect is that tyres will feel different in the heat, often building a higher operating temperature and the heat usually requires a harder tyre to reduce wear and offer better feel, depending on your riding level.

Our domestic racing is mostly held during the cooler months of the year, but series such as the American AMA Superbike Championship is successfully run during summer.

Don’t be afraid of the heat, get out there and enjoy it while it lasts.

Australia has just begun its summer months — a time where many riders around the country climb aboard their bikes and ride to their holiday destinations or simply go for a spin to soak up the sun.

Our summer months are recognised as blazing hot, requiring riders to take special caution when out on the road. These precautions should ideally begin well before the ride, and then the heat raises further obstacles when on the bike.

Personally, I love the summer months and much prefer this time of the year over the cold, and usually rainy, weather that winter produces.

Tyres heat up faster and have more adhesion to the tarmac in warmer conditions, there are less chances of rain spoiling a planned road trip, and December/January usually means a break from work to get more riding in.

Most importantly, riding in the warmer weather lifts the mood of everybody out on the road as the summer sun replaces the freezing wind that we have to deal with during the winter months.

But it’s not all fun and games in summer as potential dangers rise and the holiday road toll usually claims more than its fair share of motorcyclists through a variety of avoidable accidents.

While double demerit points scare caution into most motorists, slowing down to avoid a speeding ticket isn’t the only method for summer safety. Whether you’re going for a spin up the street, or a long touring ride, some simple safety procedures to take into account will assist you in your journeys.

•    Hydration Importance
One of the single most important aspects of a safe summer is by hydrating properly and keeping your fluids up before and after riding. Hydration enables your brain and body to register at an optimum level, assisting you in staying more alert and fending off the heat by cooling your body. A basic guide is to drink around 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day if you’re an average weight and size. Drinking around 500ml every two or three hours is a rough guide to have you performing at your best. Ensure you use this guide a few days before and also for a few days after your ride.

•    Gear Guide
While water will assist in cooling your body, wearing appropriate riding gear for summer will maximise your cooling efficiency and keep your body temperatures down around a comfortable level. For example, don’t wear your ultra-padded thermal winter gear that will leave you at boiling point. Instead, try to get your hands on some gear that offers airflow — jackets, full leathers, gloves, boots and helmets are all available with sufficient venting these days. Some lunatics completely ditch the jacket and pants in the warmer months, instead simply wearing shorts and a shirt. Never, ever, do this. Riding in the heat is a compromise between body temp and safety.

•    Road Watch
A major factor of the winter months is ice on the roads, but it’s actually the opposite in the summer. The warmer days with lots of cars tend to cause selected roads to melt, causing great danger to the minimal grip levels of a motorcycle. There’s not much that you can do about the deteriorating road conditions in the heat, but be aware and on the lookout for these instances on extremely hot days. Just like in the coldest winter months when you look for that black ice, stay alert for slick melted tarmac and use tips from our Visual Awareness write up to stay safe.

•    Time Matters
Sometimes it’s simply impossible to avoid riding in hot weather conditions for those who don’t like the heat, but it is possible to select your time to ride and beat the heat. An early morning ride is usually the safest bet if you want a cool ride with good light, while the mid-late afternoon is the hottest time of the day. If you wait for the late afternoon, there’s a good chance you’ll have to return home in the dark if you get held up. Not only is the time of day important, but try to limit your riding to sensible lengths and stop regularly for rests and drinks to cool down.

•    Driver Dangers
Not only is it essential to prepare your body and equipment to ensure the safest possible ride, but since bikes are the minority when travelling on the road amongst the holidaying families, try to steer clear of busy roads and ride where the roads won’t be filled with distracted cage drivers. Take advantage of the joy of two wheels and take the longer route to your destination, possibly avoiding tedious traffic jams and tired drivers. This approach will not only allow you to enjoy the ride more, but also limit the dangers of riding with large amounts of car drivers.