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  • Glynn

Cool!

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Now...in Japan, we are experiencing a weather phase that is best described as hot & humid and to assist other riders, that also have to endure this meteorological phenomena, this post is aimed at trying to keep your temperature cool while riding a motorcycle.


Now... this man IS the epitomy of COOL! ( Steve McQueen)


The rainy season has just passed and the months of July & August are to become a motorcyclists’ nightmare. To ride or not to ride. Now back in Blighty (the UK for all you international types out there) the summer was simple. Make hay while the sun shines, put up with the occasional shower or passing thunderstorm and ride your bike at every opportunity.


But here in Japan, the high humidity and average daily centigrade temperatures in the 30’s make you think twice before donning all your bike gear and stepping out into the furnace that sits just beyond the garage doors. Now… if my inside garage thermometer is already saying 36°C you can guarantee that once you’ve pushed the bike outside you better be damn quick to get it moving and enjoy some kind of airflow through your hopefully vented jacket or... just MELT!


Now, there are many theories, old wives’ tales, forum rants and some 'positively whacky' practices on how to stay cool in hot weather. These you will not find here! But the topic of this article has been stimulated by a recent visit to my motorcycle parts/clothing dealership.


I called by to get some replacement components for my Arai XD4 motorcycle helmet, as on another trip to Awaji Island, the visor had begun to sag after one of the visor clips had broken. And as I perused the store, I came across ‘Liquid Wind’! Nooo...don't! Behave! This is meant to be a web site for all age groups. The product name was just another one of Japans unfortunately, famous naming gaffs! So, with time in hand and having found a good reason to enjoy the stores air conditioning (AC) a little longer I watched the promotional video and tried to fathom out how all the equipment presented before me could be put to good use, in keeping me cooler on the bike.


Now before I continue… the phrase, ’using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ comes to mind. You get the idea? This seemed an awful lot of components, before me, to just keep me -5.2°C cooler. I’ll let the RS Taichi companies Liquid Wind Evaporative Cooling System website explain the details, to save some time.


Now... humans cool their bodies through evaporation and as our body temperature rises our nervous system stimulates our sweat glands to secrete water to the surface of our skin, where it cools our body by evaporation which can be up to 2 litres of water (sweat) per hour. And an air gap between a base layer and any outer clothing is essential to help support this process. Skin directly exposed to the atmosphere while travelling at speed does not aid cooling! It just promotes sun burn, drying of the skin, an increased loss of moisture/water from the body (de-hydration) and the joys of more insect bites! So keep your body armour close to your skin and let your clothing hang loose dudes! And before the larger members of our biking society say that a bigger surface area helps promote better cooling, that's not quite how it works... sorry guys and gals.


Yes! And these are my melting ABS! Mmmm.............. Okay, I couldn't go through with it....


.... these are!


Those of you who use GORE-TEX and similar products also know that there is a limit to this kind of technology and that the sweat that is evaporating needs somewhere to go and not hang around and saturate the atmosphere near the skin, thus decreasing our ability to cool. The thorny subject of which is best, vented or mesh garments used in conjunction with various cooling technologies is a whole new debate and their use, is also dependent on the humidity levels of the environment and the speed with which you are travelling through it. Shall we leave that discussion for another day?


Now... while riding home, I began to think of the many ways that I’ve tried to stay cool, on and off of a motorcycle and that today, of all days, I really should have put my BMW Motorrad Cool Down vest in the side cases before leaving. The Klim Induction jacket would have to struggle to work its magic alone.


Having the good fortune to have ridden through the UK, Europe, parts of the Mediterranean, the USA and now Japan, I can tell you that heat is not just hot! And all of you capable riders out there who have travelled can confirm that the humidity is the one thing that makes the summer sunshine seem less err!…. Lovely?


Words and product names such as evaporative, HyperKewl, ice vests, Macna, phase change… and so on, you’ll find bandied around when conversing on this subject. And all who have or are attempting to find a usable solution to keeping comfortable and safe while riding in the oven of summer motorcycling, try to at least use some common sense by wearing layers along with some, quite often, overly priced protective gear.


I will not rant about the do’s and don’ts of wearing T-shirts and jeans on a bike, but only to say that it bloody hurts when you are trying to impress your girlfriend on a Suzuki GT250B. Trying to make the bend at low speed on deep gravel and as Cathy, the then love of my life, miraculously dismounts unharmed, I lay there with the bike on top of me as she utters the words…’you bloody idiot!’ The unnecessary pointing out of the obvious was left ringing in my ears for sometime. It wasn’t the gravel that hurt, as I picked lumps of it from my elbow and forearm, but the thought of being consistently reminded of our disastrous/amusing ride out in the summer heat, back in the 80s. But for me the real disaster was that a trendy new pair of Levi’s and my favourite T-shirt were... Ruined!


T-Shirts, shorts and Flip-Flops do not aid sweating but hinder it, as has been explained above and so the need for at least some safe bike gear is the way to go! But of course, with it comes the added complication of spending good cash and many hours of trial and error trying to find a balanced solution to summer riding. You can certainly layer up when you want to get warmer, but you can’t take anymore layers off when you’re too hot that just leads to...au naturel!


Conclusions:


FLUIDS

Based on my experience? Well… keep hydrated for one. Try and drink some water (500ml) at least an hour before you ride and maintain that hydration by, let’s say, sipping at water every 20 minutes. A good sports drink with electrolytes is an additional option. Pocari Sweat is my go too. And yes the clue is in the name! How you go about your intake is up to you, be it from vacuum flasks, bladders or reservoirs of all shapes and sizes. Or maybe the best recommendation is by making a stop to rest your body and imbibe in a local beverage. Here in Japan we are very fortunate to have many convenient stores ( Family Mart, Lawsons, 7/Eleven) dotted around in even the quietest of locations.


VEST

Now a cooling vest can work either under a fully enclosed, vented or mesh jacket. It's just that one works better than the other when used in various levels of humidity. As I said earlier, I’m still using my old BMW Motorrad vest that was purchased with the advantage of my employee discount, while working for CalMoto a dealership back in California. The secret of such vests… don’t over wet them! Soak them and ring out fully so that you just get a moist material next to your base layer (Icebreaker Cool-Lite preferably). If overly wet and dripping water, be prepared for some very uncomfortable underwear and an itchy Coccyx (Coccydinia - Tail Bone) the next day! And I must make a posthumous mention for the Klim Aggressor Cool 1.0 T-Shirt. A short sleeve shirt that lives up to its name, but it's just a little too short in the sleeves! Maybe I need to work on my biceps?


MESH OR VENTED ARMOURED CLOTHING

Vented or mesh jackets and trousers work much better, but the road conditions you ride on/in will dictate the style, construction, materials and fit of your particular gear. The idea is that being combined with the use of some kind of cooling vest, as mentioned above, where the air flowing through the vents or mesh promotes the evaporation of the water from the vest, thus aiding your sweat and body heat to flow away from the body. At the moment I am trying out the Knox Urbane Pro shirt, trousers and gloves, along with their Orsa Leather MK2 gloves for those cooler evening returns home. And the Klim Induction jacket is the natural ‘grab & go’ when commuting or for day ride outs, if you don't wish to carry a complete layering system with you.


The Knox Urbane Pro shirt works well and as long as your sizing is correct provides a much closer fitting body armour with excellent venting, once you remove the clumsy piece of velcro from the chest area (you can use the velcro patch to add a small piece of chest armour) it easily matches the Klim jacket for air flow. As for the Knox Urbane Pro trousers? They are really well constructed, but as for air flow... forget it! The liner of the trouser just about totally blocks all air flow, making the outer mesh is practically redundant.


BOOTS

This is a tricky one! I regularly use my BMW Motorrad Gravel boots (the second pair) along with a pair of Gaerne G Stone Gore-tex boots providing practicality for both town work and shorter rides. As for a summer boot? I am still trying to find a safe and reasonable compromise. A few years back, I used to own a pair of Alpinestars vented race boots that worked quite well, and I'm now trying to find a touring boot that could fit the bill for 'all year' riding. Cooling is not easy to find in a boot and especially in a pair that comes with adequate ankle and shin protection. As for motorcycle shoes? The MotoKenko jury, is still out on that one!


29th July 2023 - I, of course, could not hold an opinion on a particular item of MC (motorcycle) gear, as with anything in life, unless I have actually tried it. So today (courtesy of a great delivery service from Sagawa), I have just received a new pair of Gaerne G Rocket Motorcycle Shoes. As summer seemed the appropriate time of year to try out this style of riding boot, I took the plunge, into the MC shoe pool of safety footwear. The reason I've been a little reluctant with a short MC style shoe, is the reduced level of protection. But, technology seems to have moved on and the attraction of cooler and more comfortable feet on blistering summer days, has won me over. There my even be a review in here somewhere...let's see!


GLOVES

I have a cupboard filled with a variety of seasonal gloves, but the summer pair I regularly slide my fingers into are the Knox Urbane Pro gloves. Well vented, complete with their special patented Knox Scaphoid Protection System (SPS) and usable touch screen index fingers. The Knox Orsa Mk2's for the rest of the year. Followed by an array of Klim gloves that are used mainly for off road use and the trusty BMW Motorrad Atlantis gloves for those heavy rain sessions. And the most important thing to remember with a pair of gloves is to, please make sure after eating, you keep your hands from contaminating the inside of your riding gloves with your preferred choice of grub, by washing them thoroughly or use some handy wipes. You can never clean a pair of gloves and expect them to return to their original fit! Tried it... many a time!


SCARF

A neck tube/scarf occasionally soaked in water is one of the cheapest and effective ways to stay cool, as it cools the blood flowing through your Carotid Arteries in your neck, that then flows… of course, to the rest of your body. The Klim Tek Sok is my go to!


HELMET

You'll be pleased to know that carrying that inverted composite/carbon bowl on your head, apart from saving it, and you! Has an effective use in hot weather. The obvious is keeping the UV directly hitting the head and causing serious sunburn. But it's also keeping your head cool. Would you believe it? Even though, when you're sitting in stationary traffic and you can feel those beads of sweat building around your ears and forehead, you are still better off in your helmet. And if it comes supplied with a peak as my Arai XD3 does, this also provides more shade around the visor area and keeps that sun suddenly blinding you coming out of a bend when exiting straight into the sun. And as tempted as I am by an open face helmet, the same rules apply as for wearing protective clothing. Keep as much of the sun from hitting you as possible along with the tarmac (asphalt - current North American terminology).


Nowadays most helmets come with removable liners. So, especially during the summer months, wash them regularly. It can take just an hour to wash and dry and reduces the chances of those bodily oils contaminating the impact absorbing liner. Once those oils are in, they never come out! Funky stinky helmet... anyone? Even after washing your liner? And if you have to leave your helmet with the bike... then try to cover it or position it so that it's not sitting directly in the sunlight, try using the helmet bag that came with the helmet. Or another idea is to find one of those cheap grocery cooler bags you can get at supermarkets, turn the, large enough, bag inside out and place your helmet inside. Hides the helmet from direct view and keeps it a little cooler. And if you have access to ice, most convenience stores have it, for free and if you go buy a SMALL soda from the many fast food joints, en-route, you can help yourself to the ice from the dispensing machine! Then it's advisable to carry a sealable plastic bag with you, fill it with ice and place it in the helmet, while you're away. And when you return, you have a cooled helmet and cold water to dip your neck scarf in.


(All of the above mentioned products have been purchased by myself with hard earned cash and a very flexible credit card, and no sponsorship was provided in the production of this blog).



And finally sorry to bring up the Elephant in the room but…. your body weight matters! I am 178cm and around 75kg and I still feel my Sake gut getting in the way of a cooler midriff! Now of course sweating works on the human body in the first few layers. External cooling will eventually reach your internal organs, but if you’re carrying layers of unnecessary insulation it will just take a little longer and with a little more discomfort. So it makes sense to try and shed a few pounds… at least for the Summer months, to make yourself feel a little more comfortable and less distracted by the heat. And don't forget... just like the cold of Winter, you will get distracted if you don't take precautions.


A FEW EXTRA TIPS

Before you even start struggling with the ceremonial donning of all of your biker armour and getting onto the bike, you might want to take these few ideas into consideration. Hydrating before climbing aboard... let's say one glass/mug of water will go along way to start maintaining your planned hydration protocol (Boy! Isn't protocol such a cool word?). And as many a rider knows, keeping certain areas of the body DRY, goes along way towards a comfortable ride. Having served in the military for 17 years I can tell you that body hygiene is literaly drilled into you. Of course, unscented talcum powders were issued for obvious reasons. And now I am a Johnson Baby powder fan (along with a good Dove soap bar)! If you can put up with smelling like a nursery, then it's always a reliable Monkey Bum deterrent, it's cheap and can also promote drier feet, keeping them cooler too. 'Monkey Bum' is an American term used to imply that ones derriere will look like a baboons, if you don't take care of it. Aah! The American turn of phrase!


You might want to consider also putting a few bags of hand wipes in your tank bag/side cases. Menthol coated wipes are popular here in Japan, to aid cooling, although I'm not a big fan of menthol anything, it does seem to work quite well. An occasional wipe of the face (avoiding the eyes) helps with cooling the sun kissed nose and rosy cheeks too.


Stay Cool! Ice Cubes can be your friends...


We all make our own choices, but please be aware of one thing… no matter how many forums you visit, tweets and YouTube videos you blind yourself with. Nothing beats actually wearing the gear and personally trying some of the methods above. And the phrase, KEEP IT SIMPLE! Still applies... in many cases.


And remember, I mentioned the high humidity here? Humidity does not help with us humans approach to cooling… sweat! So going back to the Liquid Wind Evaporative Cooling SystemThey may have something! Remove all of the overly complex system approach and just buy the cooling fluid! It apparently contains Menthol constituents that aid longer term cooling. I am going to combine some of the Liquid Wind Cooling Water with good old H2O (keeping the cost down) and dispense it from a small spray bottle, occasionally applying it on stopovers to my neck tube/scarf and wetting it enough, so as to promote a trickle feed down the front of my chest and back. I’ll keep you posted as to the results.


It's amazing isn't it? Here we are in the summer looking for the one thing we've usually tried to avoid when riding (especially in the UK).....


WATER!


CAVEAT

Now... after mentioning all the bike gear above, I know that I could have written a whole magazine article about the performance of each garment and how it compares with other such clothing on the market today, but, hey! I just don't have the time... at the moment!


So, I have provided the links to the above products, only to make it a little easier for others who are not familiar with motorcycle paraphernalia or cannot resist their inquisitive mind. And if you would like a review of the above items, I can promise you there will be plenty on the world wide web, for you to study at your leisure.


They can be amusing, informative, creative or just damned mind numbing and I too have fallen into that sinkhole by trying to save myself a little money, basing some of my purchases on the outcomes of such tests. And so, to only those informative and realistic reviewers, who led me to a happy outcome.... I thank you!


The future may bring a review or two. Who knows? Maybe the extreme weather days will allow me the opportunity of putting fingers to keyboard by spending a little more time, detailing the pros & cons of items that I have used. But I will write the reviews only because the products are really worth mentioning to fellow riders. My task, I hope, is to be of some help in making the joy of riding a motorcycle just that little more... enjoyable.


My experiences above do not constitute as riding/medical advice or should not be tried without maybe consulting a professional. And I mention the products for your own comparison only, but please feel free, to try any of the products mentioned above. I am!


Stay COOL and have a great Summer!


Raido Anzen

Ride Safe

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Guest
Aug 04, 2023

Brilliant details and most helpful. Well worth the read. Keep up the good work. 👍

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