There’s no doubt that summertime is riding time. Long days and warm evenings make for nice riding, but create their own particular safety issues.
Overheating – Riding in hot weather increases the risk of dehydration and sunstroke. You can beat the heat by soaking a bandana around your neck, soaking your t-shirt, or better still, buying a collar filled with evaporative beads. One company manufactures a vest outfitted with cooling gel packs that can be recharged by soaking them in water for a few minutes. Remember to drink water frequently, and pull over if you or start to feel lightheaded. Instruct your passenger to tell you if they start to feel dizzy. For more information on the symptoms of heat related conditions see the article on “Heat Exhaustion.”
Lack of Protective Clothing – Face it. Even the most safety-conscious among us leave the jacket and chaps at home in the summer. T-shirts and jeans are the uniform of the day. The truth is, overheating by wearing a leather jacket in 100 degree heat is probably more dangerous than not wearing a jacket, but consider a mesh jacket as a substitute. No matter what, be mindful that you are more exposed to injury and increase your margins of safety accordingly. No matter how tempted you get, shorts and tennis shoes or sandals are not riding gear. Aside from the obvious road rash issue, wearing shorts leaves you exposed to rocks, debris and stinging insects. More than one rider has crashed after being stung by a wasp that flew up a shirtsleeve . . . Now, imagine if they were wearing nice loose legged shorts with their feet kicked out on highway pegs . . .
Eyewear – During the daytime, sunglasses or dark goggles are the obvious choice, but with the warm evenings you may find yourself out after dark. It’s always wise to carry a spare set of clear glasses, even inexpensive safety glasses, to make sure you’ll be able to see on the way home.
Sunscreen – Obviously sunscreen is a good thing. Apply it liberally on exposed skin, but be careful. The summer heat will make sweat run into your eyes, and if it picks up that sunscreen on your forehead you’ll suddenly find yourself blinded, and in pain. Buy a waterproof “athletic” brand, and keep it away from your eyes.
Sunrise / Sunset – Probably the nicest time for riding is early in the morning, or in the evening. These times present major visibility problems. If you’re heading into the sun you can’t see much. Okay . . . you can adjust for that – slow down, make sure you assume every driveway has a car in it waiting to dart out and hit you.
What about when the sun is behind you? Even more dangerous, because “they” can’t see you. If you can see your own long shadow, anyone in that direction is blinded by the sun. Assume they don’t have any idea you’re there, even though you can see them perfectly.
Think about it, and ride safe. – Don Oldaker – Safety Officer