Stay safe and hydrated in the heat on your motorcycle

Motorcycle and rider taking a break on the side of a road to stay safe and hydrated in the heat
I pulled over for a rest in the shade on a recent motorcyle ride.

Riding your motorcycle in the heat is potentially very dangerous. Dehydration, slow reaction times, and fatigue are just some of the risks. Here are some important tips to stay safe and hydrated in the heat on your motorcycle.

  • Consider whether or not it’s a good idea to ride today at all, especially if it’s over 100 F / 40 C. It’s worth thinking about a nice day indoors instead.
  • Make sure your bike is in good condition. Coolant, tires with plenty of tread, tire pressure, and oil levels are all simple checks that can be done ahead of time.
  • Avoid routes with long stretches where help or cellular service are not available.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or a sports drink before you start.
  • Pack a bottle of water or a sports drink.
  • Plan extra and frequent stops ahead of time – do not underestimate the importance of rest.
  • Plan stops somewhere where you can buy more water or sports drinks.
  • Hydrate every time you stop.
  • If you feel the least bit not well (dehydrated, dizzy, nauseous, off-balance), pull over in a shady area and hydrate. Rest until you’re 100% sure you’ve recovered.
  • In a worst case scenario where you can’t recover, consider calling a tow service. It’s really inconvenient, but it’s so much better than crashing.

It’s important to be extra cautious when riding in the heat. Even a simple mechanical failure can mean getting stuck in the heat for hours if you don’t take the proper precautions. If you follow these tips to stay safe and hydrated in the heat on your motorcycle, you’ll reduce the risk of a bad situation on a really hot day. Anytime you can reduce your risks when riding a motorcyle is key.

No, electronics do not make it safe enough to buy a 1000cc superbike for your first motorcycle

BMW S1000RR
The BMW S1000RR, and no it’s not my first bike (it’s my fourth)

We will never endorse anyone buying a 1000cc superbike as a first motorcycle, regardless of its electronic safeguards or the rider’s supposed “sensible” approach. This thread on a motorcycle forum is an example of the countless times I’ve seen someone buy such a motorycle as their first, shockingly accompanied by some members approving of the purchase. No, electronics do not make it safe enough to buy a 1000cc superbike for your first motorcycle

The temptation is real. Any new rider who likes sportbikes likely has a superbike in mind as their ideal motorcycle, but sometimes without knowing how much more difficult a 1000cc superbike is to handle compared to the bikes we do recommend for starters. Here are some of the factors involved:

  • Our brains tend to freeze in dangerous scenarios, often resulting in bad things for new motorcycle riders. New riders are still learning the simple basics of riding a motorcycle. Like this unfortunate person completely forgetting how to brake or let go of the throttle. There are no electronic controls to keep you from forgetting how to operate the motorcycle.
  • Superbikes have bad ergonomics for beginner motorcycle riders: the seat is high, your feet are high and behind you, and the bike is top-heavy. Your body is pitched forward with a lot of weight on your hands. They’re way too easy to tip over in parking lots (been there, done that) and it’s harder to just look around or check your blind spot.
  • If you play sports, you’ll understand that you don’t give expert level equipment to a beginner. Why? It’s unforgiving. You can’t make mistakes. You don’t even know how to use the damn thing right. Motorcycles are even worse in that respect, because a simple mistake can cost you your life, and even someone else’s in an accident.

What I’m saying is, for f***’s sake, no, electronics do not make it safe enough to buy a 1000cc superbike for your first motorcycle. Anti-lock brakes or traction control aren’t going to stop you from going 0-60 MPH in 3 seconds and then forgetting how to brake before slamming into a tree. Take a safety course and get yourself a Kawasaki Ninja 400, Yamaha R3 or MT-03, and start things off nice and slow.

Besides, every motorcycle rider changes bikes frequently. It’s one of the great things about riding – trading up and trying new and different bikes. The argument that you should buy a bike that “you can grow into” is ridiculous; it’s very easy to buy and sell motorcycles, and you’ll want to. One type of motorcycle is never enough.

California Motorcyclist Safety Course

CMSP logo

If you live in California and want to learn how to ride a motorcycle safely and get your motorcycle license, the best way to do this is taking the California Motorcyclist Safety Course. You get excellent safety training in the classroom and actual riding experience on a practice course using the program’s motorcycles. And as a huge bonus, completing the course allows you to skip the DMV motorcycle skills test for your motorcycle license (you only need to pass the written test).

Similar to the MSF Basic RiderCourse, which is no longer offered in California, the course is typically spread out over 2 or 3 days and consists of 5 hours in the classroom plus 10 hours on a motorcycle on the practice course (typically a very large parking lot with cones). As of August 2023 the cost is $425, but this is money well spent as attendees learn critical riding and safety skills.

The link to the program is below; you can check out the requirements, schedule yourself for the course, and prepare to get your motorcycle license.

https://motorcyclesafetyca.com/

Dainese Steel Pro gloves review – are they worth the price?

Dainese Steel Pro gloves
My new Dainese Steel Pro gloves

I’ve been riding motorcycles for nearly 20 years and owned many pairs of gloves, sampling different manufacturers and models along the way. I prefer full gauntlet race-style gloves since they protect more of the forearm past the wrist. A quick check reveals that some gauntlet gloves cost as little as $50 while others can exceed $500. Price plays a huge part in choosing riding gear for most riders, so it’s fair to ask if a bargain glove is as good as more expensive one. This post explains why I recently purchased the Dainese Steel Pro gloves for $360.

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Motorcycle rides and breakfast burritos

Grabbing a Sunday morning breakfast burrito during a beautiful ride in the southern California back country

One of the essential aspects of riding a motorcycle is planning awesome food during every adventure. Whether it’s just a leisurely ride to the local coffee spot or a 1/2 day ride with a stop for amazing breakfast burritos, it makes every ride so much more fun.

Riding a motorcycle is all about enjoyment, so why not combine it with something else that’s always enjoyable, namely some great food. And don’t limit yourself to just the places where other bikers hang out. The most important thing is that you like the place and the food, and it gives you a nice rest break on your ride.

I was admittedly scared the very first time I planned a solo motorcycle ride, so I set a goal of safely reaching the local donut shop for a donut and coffee. It was only a few miles away, but for a brand new motorcycle rider, it’s a good idea to take baby steps when getting used to riding. It also helps that I f***ing love donuts. I planned it for an early Sunday morning when I knew the streets would be light, and I made it without any trouble. Donut, coffee, motorcycle ride. My life felt complete, haha.

Nowadays I like taking an early morning ride through the back roads to a charming little town about 70 miles away. Shot out to Jim & Rob’s Fresh Grill in Ojai, CA, my favorite spot to get a steak and egg breakfast burrito and a bit of relaxation.

Sportbike Tire Guide for Beginners

rear motorcycle tire
The rear Dunlop Q3+ tire during my last track day

Tires are literally the only thing connecting a motorcycle to the road, so to say they’re important is a huge understatement. But for a beginner motorcycle rider it’s hard to know which tires are best, which brands are reputable, and which style of tire they should use. This is our first ever sportbike tire guide for beginners, which will hopefully answer some of these questions.

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What does it mean when a motorcycle rider taps their helmet?

Me tapping my helmet, captured by my friend’s GoPro who happened to be riding in the opposite direction that day

If you’re riding along the road and see your fellow motorcycle riders tapping the top of their helmets as they pass you in the opposite direction, slow down and be cautious. In most of the U.S., this is a warning that the police are nearby.

This of course could be any number of scenarios where the police would typically be present. An accident, a road closure, an officer waiting to catch speeding motorists, or an officer who’s already pulled over a speeding motorist. In any case, be sure to slow down and prepare for anything when you see this warning from other riders.

Stay hydrated when riding motorcyles

Motorcycle fanny pack for holding water to stay hydrated when riding
My Kriega R3 fanny pack easily holds a water bottle so I can take hydration breaks.

Riding a motorcycle safely requires concentration and hydration is a huge help, especially in hot weather. Dehydration contributes to fatigue, impaired judgment, slow reaction times, dizziness, or worse. These are seemingly obvious things to avoid when doing something that requires concentration and balance, so it’s critical to stay hydrated when riding motorcycles.

Here are a few tips to stay hydrated when riding motorcycles, since you can’t exactly grab your Gatorade bottle from the cup holder like you can while driving your car.

  • Drink some water before your ride.
  • Stick a bottle of water or sport drink in your carrying bag of choice. That might be a tank bag, tail bag, motorcyle-specific backpack, or even a motorcycle fanny pack (bum bag for our UK mates). A good place to shop for those things is Revzilla.
  • In hot weather, sweating causes the loss of salt, potassium, and other important nutrients. Grab a Gatorade or similar sport drink to replenish yourself and stay sharp.
  • Schedule strategic stops in your ride to take a few sips.
  • Make more frequent hydration stops when it gets hot.
  • If you feel thirsty during your ride, slow down a little and find a safe place to stop and hydrate.
  • If you feel dehydrated and it’s affecting your riding, slow down, find somewhere safe and shady to stop, and take a long hydration break.

Do not underestimate the danger of dehydration, especially when doing something as demanding as riding a motorcycle. Keep yourself out of trouble and keep yourself well hydrated during every ride.

Motorcycle suspension basics for beginners

Ohlins motorcycle shock absorber
The dirty Ohlins shock absorber on my Aprilia RSV4 Factory

Often overlooked but critically important, the suspension on a motorcycle helps soak up bumps and keep the tires firmly planted. Poorly adjusted suspension makes for nervous riding, but well-adjusted suspension can make every ride better, especially in the turns. This is our summary of motorcycle suspension basics for beginners, namely what you’d see on modern sportbikes or standards.

For excellent beginner bikes like those on our list of best beginner sportbikes for 2021, the suspension is typically not adjustable except for the rear shock absorber’s spring preload. This means you have to live with the suspension as-is, but the setup is generally soft and forgiving. Adjustable suspension components are costlier, so don’t expect to see them until you buy a more expensive motorcycle. But it’s still important to understand what the components do and what type of adjustments are available.

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Check your tire pressure at least weekly

Motorcycle parked

Motorcycle tires have a rounded tread because motorcycles have to lean over in order to negotiate turns, which means the contact patch is quite a bit smaller than that of a flat-treaded car tire. The contact patch for motorcycle tires is famously compared to that of a credit card, meaning there’s very little rubber connecting a motorcycle to the road. This makes it critically important to have good tires in good condition, and part of that condition is the proper tire pressure.

Check your bike’s manual or the tire manufacturer’s website for the recommended tire pressures for your bike, and make sure to check the tire pressures at least once per week. I recommend buying a good quality tire pressure gauge with a hose; the valve stem on motorcycle tires can be a little hard to deal with sometimes, so it’s better to have one with a hose so you’re not trying to jam a big old gauge in between the wheel spokes. Here’s a search for motorcycle tire pressure gauges on revzilla.com.

A couple of extra tips:

  • Many gas stations will let you use the air inflator for free if you go inside and ask the attendant to turn it on.
  • Don’t rely on the pressure gauge attached to the gas station inflator; get your own.
  • Make sure your tires are relatively new and have plenty of tread left; if you buy a used bike and it’s been sitting for year or longer, those tires might be degraded. Buying new tires is a really cheap insurance policy.

Beginner Motorcycle Rider Guide - startriding.com