I guess I’m getting old.
For the last few weeks, it’s literally been too hot to ride.
Now, I’m not talking about “hot” the way that a lot of the country has had it – I can well remember a late-summer ride past Joshua Tree in southern California years ago in what was legitimate 100+ temps. I mean hot in terms of 80-90% humidity and more than ninety degrees.
It’s just really sucked.
It’s not that I’m loaded down with gear that’s too heavy or anything like that, it’s just this humidity – it grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Seriously – you get clammy walking outside, your beard hair curls up, and you just feel like an undercooked steak. The only cure I know of is October.
Even maintenance starts to not be fun in this kind of heat, despite being in a garage with the fans on and the door open. I was cleaning up some bad grounds on a buddy’s old Kawasaki two nights ago – at ten o’clock at night, I was still pouring sweat and looked like I’d been wrestling an old Ford FE engine block, not sitting on a rolling seat running a drill motor.
The good news is this – this time of year, the big storms come up frequently, and after a lot of rain, lightning, and general thrashing around, the skies clear, the rain dries off, and the next day is a beautiful one – lower humidity, deep blue skies, and a great day to be on the bike. Around here in the summer, I don’t check to see what the weather is going to be like today, I check to see when we’re going to have a day filled with rain because I know the good riding is going to take place a day later.
It’s not that I haven’t been riding, but those long hauls that I really love just aren’t that much fun when the mercury rises. I’ll put on a few miles here and there – running an errand, paying bills, and so on – but five or six hours of beating this heat and humidity?
But while we’re on the subject, if you are one of the road warriors, vainly pushing along in the heat, here’s a few tips…
- Drink some water. Seriously – if it’s hot, your body is losing water, and that Coke or cold beer isn’t doing a lot to replenish it. At least, to begin with, get a quart or so of water in your system before you go get something else.
- Watch the tune. If you’ve got an aggressive tune in your bike – big thumpie cam, relieved valve train, and so on – you might think about using a higher octane fuel or an octane additive to prevent some new noises coming out of your crankcase.
- Check your battery. Heat and cold kills batteries, and on modern bikes with more robust electrical systems with radios, fuel injection, and so on, a healthy battery and charging system is the key to getting home. It’s a far cry from the old magneto systems that made what they needed while the bike was running. It’s true that bike batteries often last years longer than a car battery, but the last thing you want is to be in BFE and not have spark.
- Just like those batteries, you want to check your grounds. Modern bikes do a lot better job than older units on protecting grounds, but the fact is, sooner of later, those grounds are going to corrode. No ground means no electrical, so checking ALL of them and making sure they are giving good contact with the frame or engine is going to get you home on the hottest days. (And yes, this is why I was cleaning grounds on my buddy’s Kawasaki the other night and sweating my ass off!)
- Watch the rubber. You guessed it, hot assed pavement can impact tires. If you’re like me and run the pressures higher for a better “feel,” do yourself a favor and drop it a few PSIs. Hotter ambient temps equal higher riding temps, and I’ve seen a few “sticky” street tires simply wear like they’d been hit with a grinder. The last thing you need it to find out you’re running slicks on a winding road.
Down here, there’s plenty of beautiful days to ride, but when the mercury rises, it can make for some tough riding on man and machine. Keep your wits about you, pick your battles, and keep the shiny side up.