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Summer’s not over yet. Three ways to beat the heat while motorcycling

Summer’s not over yet. Three ways to beat the heat while motorcycling

You want to go ride, but the temperature read out on your motorcycle shows you near triple digits. Then you look at your gore-tex infused or ballistic nylon suit and wonder how you are going to be comfortable enough to do it? Body heat regulation is an important factor to consider for any ride, and a cooling vest may be the answer you are looking for. 

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Unlike most who are counting down the last days of summer, I live in a location where it’s hot and humid year round. I am constantly on the search for how to keep cool while I ride. In addition to consistent hydration, I have found a cooling vest to be a good solution to the heat.

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When I stay local and practice slow (under 15 mph) motorcycle exercises on the weekends, I wear a Leatt Coolit vest under Klim’s solstice base layer (the high neck hides the vest), and then modular protective gear on top of that. The cut of the vest is made for a man, but does fit the curves of a woman well and true to size. All the cooling vest needs is a quick 5 min soak in the sink, a good squeeze to remove the excess water and it’s ready to wear. The vest retains water for a few hours, depending on heat, body heat, and humidity. Where I live, on average, is 80% humidity and the “coolness” lasts for about 2-3 hours during hot 90F weather. After about two hours, the vest is still damp, but has warmed up to my body temperature and lost its cooling effect. I keep cold water with me and will drench the vest again (while wearing it), but most of the time a fast lap or two around the block helps.

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When I am preparing for a longer distance ride and will be hitting the highway, I wear the cooling vest underneath a full Klim Altitude suit, of course with all vents open. I am not one who likes a closet-full of suits or wants to have one for every season. I try to make one suit work year round. My year round just happens to be hot and humid, which is not what Klim suits were intended for. But the cooling vest makes it bearable. The tropics are prone to sudden downpours, which is why I keep the waterproof Klim suit.

Another option is a cooling neckerchief. On my trip south of the border, I used a neck wrap frequently. It was more than just a bandana (and those work too) since it had gel beads that retain water inside the fabric. Unlike the cooling vest, it packs small and stores easily when not in use. The drawback is that it takes about 15 min to soak, so some premeditation is involved. When I know it’s going to be a hot ride, I put it in water and in the fridge overnight. It’s a little shock to the system when you first put it on, but stepping out into a baking sun, you will enjoy its cool benefits for a few minutes before the fabric warms to your body temperature. When this does happen, I roll it over to the exposed side to rejuvenate the cooling effect and repeat this process when needed. While I am riding, the cooler air off the neck wrap is noticeable and lasts for several hours. Usually I get tired of the weight around my neck before its cooling ability is gone.

Between the two, I prefer the vest. The vest offers greater coverage around the core, where body heat regulation is needed the most. The neck wrap I keep on hand for those times when I am traveling and didn’t bring my vest with me.

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Still want to feel cooler? Here’s a DIY tip:

Add a few drops of either peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil in the water while the vest or neckerchief are soaking. When I say a few, that’s all it takes (1-2 drops for neckerchief and 5-10 drops for the vest). You might not notice it at first, but when the air gets moving, the refreshing effect is revealed.

I carry eucalyptus oil with me on camping trips because it also has the added benefit of being a natural insect repellent. It doesn’t smell as nice as peppermint oil, but where I live mosquitos are drawn to me (here’s an amusing and slightly scientific video about that) so I prefer to smell like a tree rather than become a mass of little red bumps.

Two warnings (yes this is the disclaimer section): 1. Always test the oil on your skin before applying in greater amounts. Some people are prone to skin reactions. 2. I have not long term tested the effect of these oils on the fabrics and materials inside. Use at your own risk.

7 Comments

  • Chris on Sep 02, 2014 Reply

    Hadn’t seen those vests, they look pretty sweet. And the bandana made it all the way and lives on!

    • alison on Sep 02, 2014 Reply

      Oh yeah. That bandana has been a lot of places and will continue with me on my travels! The vest has been really great. I am curious how well it does in drier climates???

      • Joe on Sep 21, 2014 Reply

        It will dry out a little faster but the vest works well in in drier climates as well such as So. Cal. I like the idea of the scented oils, that’s going to be tried.

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