Be The Camel

Published by Liane Langlois on

Carry a good supply of liquid & use it wisely!

By: R. Bruce Thomas

The human body is made up of anywhere between 45-65% water, depending on your gender. For women it is between 45-60% and men range from 50-65%. The makeup of your individual organs also varies with, for example, your heart and brain being 73% water, lungs are 83%, skin is 64% and bones are 31%. Water, in the form of perspiration, acts as our temperature control and is also important for the fluids that lubricate our joints.

The body, via the hypothalamus and kidneys, can regulate where water gets used, and a certain amount of imbalance can be handled. If you notice dizzyness, headaches, and that you aren't feeling the urge to urinate, you are likely in the early stages of dehydration. If left unchecked, dehydration can lead to high blood pressure, impaired brain function such as lack of focus or ability to concentrate, and heart attacks. A normal person can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water, and the effects of dehydration are visible within hours.

Staying properly hydrated is an important part of staying safe when you ride a motorcycle.

Whenever I go for a ride I always carry three or four bottles of water in my top box. Sometimes I'll pack an energy drink such as Gatorade. On big trips I have a Camelbak bladder in my tank bag so I can drink while riding and I refill it at gas stops. And now is a good time to mention a reliable indicator of your hydration level. If you're drinking enough you should have to urinate when you stop for gas; every 2 - 4 hrs. And if your urine is dark yellow and low in volume that is an indication that you are not drinking enough.

Water is the best thing to drink but you can also get fluids by eating fruits and vegetables. Oranges and tomatoes are great and I like to slice up an apple and have that in a jacket or tankbag pocket for a quick afternoon snack on the go.

As far as being the camel, do all you can to retain your moisture. Contrary to popular belief, camels don't have water reservoirs in their humps. Those are reserves of fat which release water as the fat metabolizes, which causes the camel to exhale moisture. And this is the part you want to mimic. When camels exhale, the moisture is captured in their nostrils and absorbed back into their bodies. Retaining the moisture they have, means they can go longer without needing more.

And lots of riders will argue with this, and I'll even admit it is a little counter-intuitive initially, but mesh jackets are one of the worst things you can wear when it is hot. Sure, the breeze may feel nice, but all that is doing is stealing away your perspiration. Recall the camel. You will get dehydrated faster when riding with a mesh jacket than if you wear full gear with all the zippers shut. If you do wear mesh gear you need to drink a lot more, and more often.

Hot Weather riding gear
A - Helmet Liner
B - Bandana
C - Neck Dickie
D - compact, dry Neck Roll with ziplock baggies for soaking
E - expanded Neck Roll after soaking
F - LDComfort Cool Sleeves
G - evaporative cooling vest

On hot days, my wife and I have some gear that we wear to help with staying cool. It doesn't matter what you call it, but start off by wearing a bandana, helmet liner, or skullcap which does a great job of keeping your head cool. Soak a neck dickie or bandana in water and put it around your neck for an amazing cooling effect. The best neck coolers are filled with water absorbing crystals that retain moisture for several hours. We like to soak ours in the morning and double bag them in ziplock bags with some water and ice from the hotel and put them in the top box until it gets hot enough for us to need them.  As it dries out you can rotate it or roll it for improved effect. Mary will also carry a water bottle in her jacket and she can pour some down our backs at regular intervals for a great cool down and to refresh the neck rolls.

We have absorbent sleeves (from LDComfort) that we put on and then soak with water. Opening the cuff at the end of your sleeve lets air in that moves the moisture into your jacket and helps keep you cool. And for really hot days we have evaporative vests that, after soaking for about 5 minutes in a sink, help keep us cool for several hours. Barring possession of a cooling vest, a bag of ice from the gas station works just as well when tucked inside your jacket, and I just l-l-love the cool feeling of a freshly filled gas tank on my inner thighs. I've ridden across New Mexico and Arizona on I-10 with the dash showing 44C with all my vents and zippers closed while wearing my wet cooling vest and sleeves and been totally comfortable. And keep your visor down to prevent the hot windblast from heating up your head.

Another reason to carry a good supply of fluid is in the event of a breakdown, accident, or crash. If your bike has a breakdown, or mechanical issue, and you are stuck on the side of the road for hours, you'll want to have some water with you. Four times in my riding years I've either come across a crash, or been riding with others when someone in the group has crashed, and having water to provide to an injured rider is essential. We had to wait two hours for an ambulance on two occasions which is why you should also carry an umbrella; they aren't just for rainy days and not all crashes happen under a shade tree.

Stay hydrated. Stay safe.

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