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The HOT Safety Report by “Trauma Mama”

I know you have heard it all before… so pay attention and follow some of these tips to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke!

Riding in really hot weather is not bad when you’re prepared for it. Remember to hydrate, keep your skin covered, and avoid hazards. Don’t let the heat weaken you to the point where you’re not fully attentive to traffic conditions and the road. Basically, you must consider how your body will deal with the heat. Reducing the effects of convection, through covering up and wetting down, will reduce the amount of heat that your body must deal with through evaporation. Covering up in the heat will keep you cool. Passengers too!

Hot weather usually means lots of sun exposure, so get some good sunglasses or a darkened visor to prevent headaches caused by sun glare. And don’t forget to put sunblock on the back of your neck where your riding gear leaves the skin exposed.

Don’t forget your passenger! It’s great to have that “Hot Mama” on the back but make sure you educate her on what to wear and sunscreen!

Watch for signs of dehydration or over intoxication. Hopefully you’ll want her to stay on the back!

If you’re riding with a group- Have the Ride Coordination or Road Captain do a pre ride debrief of where you will be stopping – including reminding people to stay hydrated. When you stop to fuel up you ride- fill your own body tank with water as well.

Let’s get the definitions straight! Dehydration

Heat Stoke / Heat Exhaustion

Riding Cool -

In these high-heat conditions, it is best to wear a long-sleeved, tight-fitting exercise shirt made of moisture-wicking material. This may counter-intuitive to wear long sleeves, but as long as you have air moving over the fabric, it will work great. As sweat evaporates, it takes your body heat with it. Moisture-wicking material draws sweat away from the body to be evaporated through the shirt, aiding the cooling process. Conventional materials can simply trap sweat next to the skin, limiting evaporation. The key to these materials is air flow. If there is no air movement over the material, then the shirt will become oversaturated, and sweat will not evaporate.

When air temperatures are high and the reverse wind chill is in effect, wetting down clothing will increase the amount of moisture near the skin. This moisture is now available to be evaporated, drawing heat from your body. Although much of the evaporation will be caused by the high air temperature itself, there will be enough water on the skin to reduce the amount you need to sweat.

Some techniques for wetting down include neck bandanas (particularly those with water-absorbing crystals), wetting down a regular cotton t-shirt, or even pouring water directly into your helmet.

Keeping Hydrated

Try and start hydrating the day before a big ride. Now that we know how much water the body needs while riding in high temperatures, we can deduce that staying hydrated is one of the most important things to do while on the road. As covered in the above graphic, the difference between covering up or not is about 20 oz. /hour and 40 oz. /hour, respectively. Here are some tips to help ensure hydration.

Cooling Vests are great but once they dry need to be rewet to maintain coolness.

Wear a Camelback: For longer rides, wear a camelback-type water bag on my back. I usually fill mine with half ice and half water before the ride, and those cooling sips do add up to make the difference. If you‘re doing it right, you‘ll run out of water in the camelback before your next gas stop.

Carry Extra Water: Carry a plenty of water on longer days of riding. Freezing water bottles the night before will keep the water colder.

Be wary of taking in ice-cold water too fast. It can cause an upset stomach. Swish it about your mouth to bring its temperature up a bit before swallowing.

Urine Test: Go for the clear. Dehydration is not something you can tough out – it will kill you if you don’t remedy it. Deep-colored urine and headaches are early signs that you are in need of water. If you stop sweating, heat stroke is not far behind. Drink water often!

Only Water is Water: Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which cause you to urinate and lose more water. When it’s hot, steer clear of sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol. When you are drinking alcohol – drink responsibly!!

Tar Snakes

Tar snakes are a hazard for both motorized and pedaled two-wheeled vehicles and their riders. Many states – yes Arizona- use a tar-like material to fill in cracks on the roads; these can become quite slippery when it’s hot. Avoid them if possible. Treat them the same as railroad tracks by crossing them at 90 degrees and in an upright position. Slow down if your rear tire starts sliding out from under you – stay calm – and the tire will grip again. Don’t try to over-correct, keep your line, keep your head up, grip lightly, and keep your body steady for when the gripping action returns.

If there’s a large patch of tar snakes and there is no way to avoid them all. Pull in the clutch and treat the obstacle as I would a large patch of ice, coast through it, and after ensuring that the rear wheel is clear, re-engage the engine. This helps to keep from slipping.

Ride Safe, Ride Smart, Ride Responsibly!

Teresa “Trauma Mama” McClelland
A.B.A.T.E of Arizona State Safety Officer