Posted On 28 May 2024
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This entry is part 24 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#33


You will read my whinging about riding in the heat in the next issue of MOTORCYCLIST, but I thought I’d get in early in this column.

Heat can be your friend. Bless the inventor who came up with hot air hand dryers; she or he has probably helped tens of thousands of motorcyclists to continue on their rides after they warmed up hands and other parts of their anatomy. And of course there is nothing like an open fire after a cold ride, unless it is an open fire in a pub. But like anything good, an excess can go the other way.

Consider Guinness; the first glass is wonderful, as is the next, but there comes a point of declining returns, and next morning you wake up in an alley with your face in something you definitely don’t want to examine more closely.

Marble Bar in Western Australia is often quoted as the place with the highest maximum temperatures in Australia or even the world, but it apparently doesn’t even make the top 10. Outback Queensland holds the Aussie record, with 69.3 degrees. And if that isn’t hot enough for you, you might like to plan a summer ride through the Lut desert in Iran, where the maximum recorded (by satellite; nobody’s crazy enough to live there) was 70.6 degrees. Death Valley comes in at a relatively benign maximum of 56.7 degrees, and it was 48.9 when I was there recently.

But hot? That’s not hot.

This is hot: my mate Charlie and I were somewhere between Meerut and Khatauli, north of Delhi, when the thermometer read 52 degrees in the shade of a rest house. It felt as if we were riding into an oven.

We subsequently discovered why so many Indian people sleep on charpoys, beds of rope twisted together like a net for giant fish. It allows some, no matter how little, air fl ow under your body.

Without that you can easily find yourself glued to your bed by your own sweat – whether you sleep or not.

Ah yes, sleep. It’s a problem in diametrically opposed ways. On the one hand, as I’ve just mentioned, it is devilishly difficult to get to sleep when you’re trying to. I’ve been through the litany – a cold shower and getting into bed wet, soaking the bed sheets in cold (or as cold as you can get) water, wetting your mosquito net if you have one and so on. If it’s hot enough, none of the above works although sleeping on a charpoy can help. There is another form of help, of course, and that’s an air conditioner. You’d be amazed how much wheezing and clattering from a superannuated air conditioner you’ll put up with when the alternative is roasting.

On the other hand, you can all too easily find yourself falling asleep on the bike. I’ve never been able to work out why heat should have these opposite effects, but I can definitely vouch for them. Coming into Las Vegas on the US trip I literally dozed off, even if it was only for a second or so.

This scared the living wossname out of me, but even so it was only enough to keep me alert for a few minutes. I called a halt and poured the contents of a couple of icy bottles of water into and over myself. The others were doing the same thing.

I also drank a small red bottle of 5-hour ENERGY.

Described on the interwebs as a “noxious little drink” which “tastes like what I would imagine the inside of a battery to taste like, and… is about the size of a D cell,” it has one major advantage over other ways of staying alert: it works. Down one of the bottles and you will be alert; be in no doubt about that. Available in groceries and service stations in the US, its slogan is “Feel it in minutes, Lasts for hours” and while it may not last for five hours, it will certainly snap you out of any tendency to sleep.

I didn’t read the contents list; I was far too keen for something, anything, to wake me up and keep me alert. There are few sounds more scary on a bike than that of the front tyre on the rumble strip, waking you from a short stay in bye-byes land.

The stay can all too easily become permanent…

You still need water, of course. It is amazing how much water the human body can lose as sweat without shutting down; GP racers lose kilos of weight during a race, which translates to litres of water. That needs to be replaced, whether you’re Rossi or, well, you out on a lonesome road in outback Queensland at 69.3 degrees.

When I found myself in Varanasi with no cold beer or even water to be had, I was advised by a local that it was better to drink something warm in the heat, anyway. Following his advice I downed a few pots of tea and found myself unable to sleep for a night or two…

To the contrary, a Columbia University study has found that cold water is absorbed more quickly by the body. It can also be useful in reducing your core temperature if that’s too high. But it doesn’t make a significant difference. It’s water that is your best friend, no matter what its temperature, when it’s hot outside. Read about it next month!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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