Photography by James Brown...
Ah, the dog days of summer. If you're like most motorcyclists, you ride primarily during the warm months between May and September, when the grass is high and the asphalt clear. It's the best time for frost-free cruising, but it also brings scorching temperatures and uncomfortable humidity, sometime amplified by the heat coming from your own motorcycle. It's not easy to find gear that's breezy and comfortable mid-season, yet still provides proper protection and versatility. Each year, we too wrestle with the perennial dilemma: What to wear to beat the heat while riding a motorcycle?
Against all logic, more is better when it comes to hot-weather riding gear. A recent British survey revealed that on a warm day (65 degrees Fahrenheit) a motorcyclist riding 45 to 55 mph experiences a chilling effect equivalent to 33 degrees. That's only one degree above freezing; especially ill-prepared riders could even suffer hypothermia. But clothes that are right for cold-weather riding are invariably too hot once you stop. In order to roll with the punches, dress in several layers so you can strip down as conditions warrant. However, even on a blistering day, you wil stay cooler with at least one layer over your skin or T-shirt. Covering up retains the moisture that helps your body cool itself, and blunts the dehydrating, fatiguing effects of direct sun and wind.
Modern apparel design has progressed and there are high-tech solutions out there. Joe Rocket's Phoenix jacket started the mesh gear revolution a few years back. These days there are a wide selection of mesh jackets. Mesh construction finally handed riders an acceptably protective yet comfortable solution to those scorching days when all you really wanted to wear was a T-shirt. With this guide, we hope to offer some other solutions to the denim and cotton dilemma, from your head down to your toes.
Nolan N100 Classic Plus Helmet: $217
Classics are classics for a reason, and the Nolan N100 flip-face helmet is no exception. This lightweight, helmet has been gracing the heads of touring riders for years, and its quick-release chin-bar system is a favorite of many motorcyclists. Flipping up the facial section at a stop allows you instant access do a qhick swallow of water or similar comforts. A polycarbonate shell keeps the helmet's weight down to around 3.5 pounds, and the durable, optically neutral face shield can be removed and changed without tools. Adjustable vents keep the helmet's shield clear and the wearer's head cool, and a DOT sticker makes it all kosher. Nolan's N100 Classic Plus Helmet is available in black, silver or yellow via Aerostich Riderwearhouse.
Zub Wear: $15
Dubbed "tubular headwear," this interesting doodad doubles as a skull cap, do-rag or bandannaand it's breathable. We're told the polyester microfiber absorbs moisture and wicks it to the top, while the Zub's surface acts like a radiator, enhancing and promoting evaporation and helping riders stay dry and cool. Zub Wear (pronounced "zoob") material expands in chillier temps to create a layer of insulation, and the elastic fibers allow a universal fit with shape retention. The Zub is available in a variety of funky designs.
Gargoyles Legends Sunglasses: $97
Summer usually means searing, blinding sun, so don't skimp on sunglasses in your gear bag. For visual clarity, Gargoyles polycarbonate eyewear is nigh peerless. The polycarbonate lenses have a patented horizontal and vertical curve that allows them to be optically perfect, and spring-hinged temples ensure a comfortable fit. A wraparound design protects your eyes from sun wind, dust and UV rays, which is far more than 90 percent of the cheapo shades do. Available in black through Aerostich Riderwearhouse.
Demon Films: $12
A great name for a simple, effective product. These easily interchangeable tinted films stick to your face shield through the miracle of static cling, offering you the versatility of sporting a dark, menacingly tinted shield for bright daylight and a clear view for the ride home simply by peeling off the film. Available in intimidating iridium or basic black via Aerostich Riderwearhouse.
REV'IT! Hurricane Hot-Weather Gloves: $60
It gets mighty sweaty in the concrete jungle, but REV'IT!'s Hurricane gloves can cool what ails ya. The mitt is designed to limit bunching and is constructed of synthetic mesh and ventilated soft sheep hide for superior breathability; leather reinforcements on the palm ensure you don't sacrifice abrasion resistance for comfort. A hardshell knuckle ups the protection quotient and adds a cool road-warrior vibe. The short-cuff gloves are available in black, gray or red mesh with black leather in sizes XS-XXXL.
Marsee Full Flow Summer Gloves: $41
On the other hand, there's the heft of the extra-thick cowhide found on Marsee's Full Flow gloves. The soft leather glove features a moisture-absorbing inner liner and perforation to keep your digits chilled while providing full gauntlet protection. A palm-placed gel pad reduces vibration, and preformed fingers supply a comfy fit. A thumb wiper blade lets you clear your shield. Available in black in sizes XS-XXL.
Harley-Davidson Fortitude Full Finger Gloves: $50
This classy, thinner leather glove sports tricot lining and a perforated topside for added ventilation as well as classic good looks for that warm weekend ride. Perforated forchettes (those little forked pieces of material between adjacent fingers) and precurved fingers enhance flexibility and offer additional cooling. A Harley medallion shows off your pedigree. Available in black in men's sizes S-XXXL and women's sizes XS-XL.
UPF Outdoor Shirt: $47
Supplex nylon makes this shirt ideal for any hot-weather travel, two-wheeled or not. The long-sleeved, lightweight garment packs up small, and yes, there's a standard collar and two chest pockets, but there are also underarm vents to keep you cool and a zippered security pocket to hide valuables. It feels like cotton, but this shirt wicks moisture and provides protection from UV light with a UPF of 30. Available in tan in sizes S-XL via Aerostich Riderwearhouse.
REV'IT! Kubix Jacket $300
Now those zany Dutch have combined leather style with the function of textile in a garment designed to limit bunching and maximize aerodynamics. The Kubix combines Italian leather and 500-denier stretch Cordura for durability, abrasion resistance and comfort. Removable Knox CE hard armor protects your shoulders, elbows and forearms, and waistband straps offer adjustability. Zip out the insulated liner to reveal perforated chest panels for extra ventilation. A back protector, zipper attachments and five pockets round out the list of trick features. The Kubix comes in black with gunmetal trim in sizes XXS-XXXL.
Kushitani Perforated K1 Jacket: $750
This black beauty feels right the minute you slip it on, living up to Kushitani's reputation for premium quality leather motorcycle apparel. Beautiful top-grade leather and a flattering, seamless fit are Kushitani trademarks, and the K1 Jacket delivers. The sleek Perforated K1 Jacket features Punch Mesh construction (perforated leather) in the body sections and rib areas and K-Foam protection in high-impact areas for terrific breathability, comfort and solid protection. The Kushitani Perforated K1 Jacket is available in black (it's also available in nonperforated versions) in men's sizes M-XXL and ladies' sizes M-L.
Joe Rocket Sahara Cooling Vest: $80
You can wear Joe Rocket's Sahara nylon vest separately, but we (and the manufacturer) recommend tucking the cooling vest under any perforated or mesh jacket to take advantage of its evaporative cooling system. It also zips into many of the Joe Rocket jacket line, including the Phoenix, Reactor, Cleo, Super Ego, Rio and Santa Fe jackets. The Sahara vest uses polymers that purportedly absorb the rider's body heat and release it through the outer surface into the passing air. The Joe Rocket Sahara Cooling Vest is available in gray or in the yellow color shown here in men's sizes S-XXXL.
Fast Wicking Underwear: $14
They're cooler and drier than cotton underwear, so why don't you have a pair yet? Fast-wicking Dri-Gear underwear is designed for comfort and microclimatic efficiency, and it is a perfect first layer. The Skinetics fabric is an advanced knit that moves moisture away from your skin, with the fastest drying time of any fabric. Durable and comfortable flat seams are shaped to eliminate bunching and wrinkling. Available in boxer or brief styles via Aerostich Riderwearhouse in black or gray in men's sizes S-XL.
Hein Gericke Mesh Cargo Overpants: $200
Hein Gericke's new Mesh Cargo Overpants may look like the height of motorcycling fashion, but on your motorcycle they're much more than thatthey are practical, comfortable and protective, too. The Mesh Cargo Overpants' abrasion-resistant poly-mesh construction boasts CE-approved armor (armor that meets the European Union's standards for motorcycle armor impact protection) at the knees, and their full-length leg zippers makes it easy to get into your pants. Two large cargo-type pockets on the front of the thigh areas and a rear pocket permit the wearer to stash plenty of small items for easy access, even on the bike. The waterproof Sheltex inner liner may be removed for full-force air cooling or popped in when a summer thunderstorm threatens. The Mesh Cargo Overpants are available in your choice of black through Fairchild Sports (formerly Intersport Fashions West) or most motorcycle dealers and accessory stores.
Set Up Pegaso Boots: $160
Match your newly air-conditioned extremities with a set of synthetic leather Set Up Pegaso boots, featuring breathable vent panels. Pegasos have an extra leather layer in the toe area and double stitching at the stress points, so you won't give up safety for a soothing breeze. The lining is a fully vented cotton/poly blend, and a softer, pleated material in the Achilles area increases flexibility. Additional protection comes from an internal nylon ankle shield and an injection-molded thermoplastic heel cup. Get them in black in sizes 6-13 from Motonation.
Marsee Full Flow Mesh Pants: $153
Yes, "Ballistics" is a nounit's the name applied to abrasion-resistant nylon that's far tougher than regular Cordura. The material in the Marsee Full Flow Mesh Pants provides abrasion strength comparable to leather, and Marsee places 1050-denier Ballistics around the waist, knees and seat of its Full Flow Mesh motorcycle pants. The heavy-gauge mesh provide crash-grade strength and durability while still allowing air to flow through to cool the wearer, and stout CE armor (that is, armor that meets the European impact absorption standard) at the knees and shins provides impact protection, too. Get your Marsee Full Flow Mesh Pants in black in waist sizes 28-42.
Draggin' Jeans: $80
For those days when you absolutely, positively have to wrap yourself in denim but still want to ride, at least slip your vulnerable legs into the tough stuff. Draggin' Jeans feel, wear, and are cut like traditional dungarees, but they feature 100-percent Kevlar reinforcements in the critical knee and hinie sections&151the areas that are most likely to end up in contact with the asphalt in a crash. You can wear Draggin' Jeans every day (the thread lines for the Kevlar patches can be interprettted as a fashion element) and still be ready to hop on your motorcycle at a moment's notice. These jeans are not padded, so they won't protect you like the pants mentioned above from the impacts you will inevitably incur in a motorcycle crash, but Draggin' Jeans are still capable of minimizing the pavement rash that afficts the victims of even low-speed urban crash disasters. The Draggin' Jeans' stonewash finish is available in inseam sizes 30-38; see the Aerostich Riderwearhouse website (linked below) for sizing and other pertinent details.
Light Weight Ultimax Socks: $7-$8
There's nothing worse than a pair of sweaty socks on a summer ride, but what's a biker to do? Well, he can minimize foot moisture and fatigue with a pair of cushioned Olefin/Nylon/Spandex Ultimax socks. These year-round tubes feature an ultra-smooth toe enclosure and a filet-stitched instep. Impressive. And if worse comes to worst, you can always wash 'em in the sink at nightthey'll be dry by morning. Available in light weight (black or white) and medium weight (gray) in M, L or XL via Aerostich Riderwearhouse.
Aerostich Sheepskin Saddle Pads: $67
When it's sticky hot, you'll sit cooler with sheepskin because the woolly stuff allows a layer of air to circulate between the saddle and your butt. These luxurious pads are laminated with a non-skid mesh base so they won't creep around, and they'll work on everything from dirtbikes to luxury baggers. The pads come with eight bungee attachment points, two lengths of adjustable bungee, and four nylon hooks to customize fit. Available in Rectangle (11 x 14.5 inches) and Tapered (13 x 18 inches) sizes.
Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad: $20
Wet cotton towels? That's so 1990. The latest innovation for cooling your jets is hyper-evaporative material, the kind found in the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad. This unique synthetic patented fabric pad retains water for a cooling effect that lasts anywhere from one to four hours while remaining dry to the touch. Simply wet the fabric, wring out excess water and in less than 5 minutes, the pad will be as much as 25 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature, depending on conditions. Simply re-wet the Pad to reactivate it. (You also need to understand that when the product is fully dry, it feels like petrified bark.) Just drape it around your neck beneath the collar of your jacket to get some serious cooling. The blue towel is machine washable and measures 33 x 13 inches. Order through the Frogg Toggs website (link below in the Resources section).
Aerostich Cool Mate Pump: $20
Aerostich has packaged a real cool solution to hot rides into this neat pump device. Equipped with an O-ring seal and an insulated jacket, the Cool Mate can be pumped up to approximately 80 psi with 15 to 20 strokes. The system finely atomizes water, allowing you to spray yourself with it and bask in the cooling effect. Featuring a 36-inch hose and a high-quality brass nozzle operated by a clip-type flow control, the Cool Mate Pump makes a perfect addition to your hot-weather riding kit. It has the advantage of being useful in non-motorcycling situations or while you have stopped for gas on a sweltering day.
For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.