Summer gloves (are like no other gloves) – With Phil Hall

Unlike our riding brethren in the Northern Hemisphere, we can ride pretty much all year round here in Oz. And we can ride in conditions that are much more amenable to riding as well. Now that the racing season is officially over and the “fair weather motorcyclists” – you know who they are, everyone has at least one friend who is, have dusted off the bikes for the summer this is a good time to mention this subject. The conditions are still very different season to season so I thought that I’d just brush us up on what is needed if you are riding in summer.

First of all, it’s a good time to give your bike a good check-over. Normal servicing of the motor should take care of the basics but checking your battery’s state of health, chain, tyres and the peripherals are things that we can do at no cost. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere on a hot summer’s day is not something that is going to enhance your riding experience.

Then there is the matter of gear. As you will read in a moment I have this phobia about abbreviated riding gear worn purely on the rationale that it is summer and it’s too hot to wear the “normal stuff”.

Because it is squid season again. Here in Australia, as the weather begins to warm up, the  squids start coming out of their hiding places. Riding their sports bikes (although other classes of machinery do not appear to be immune from squiddery – I was passed on the F3 a few years ago by a squid on a Harley) dressed in the minimum amount of clothing to observe public decency but with no thought whatsoever as to the consequences of their actions should an accident occur.

Standard squid apparel here is a helmet (they are required by law in every state – only the most brainless would test out this one, a t shirt or, quite commonly a “wife-beater” singlet, a pair of shorts and joggers (no socks – this appears to be mandatory in the squid manual). You will get extra points from the squid club is you wear thongs – “flip-flops” if there are any American readers who have stumbled over my column.

Male or female, the basic rules still apply. Some will make some concession to footwear, (I’ve seen platform sandals), but most stick to the established expectations. The exemption is when the female squid happens to be a passenger. In this case the dress code seems to be a shoestring strap top, tiny denim shorts and a pair of thin, strappy sandals. I should add that nowhere in the squid manual does the subject of gloves occur so most squids do not wear these either.

Anyone who knows me will be familiar with my constant bleating about ATGATT (all The Gear, All The Time) but, it appears that my remonstrations are falling on deaf ears. So, let me explain just what is wrong with this peculiar disease called squiddery.

Firstly, and most importantly, it offers ZERO protection in the event of an accident. Now these heroes of the modern era get by that very easily by asserting that they don’t crash or plan to crash. The evident flaw in the argument is that they are often the most careless and dangerous riders out there, so I’m not quite sure how this works. Even at low speed (something most squids never experience) the consequences of an unprotected body skidding along the road does not even bear thinking about. THERE IS NOTHING ATTRACTIVE ABOUT GRAVEL RASH! And, when the nurse at A&E gets out the brush and starts cleaning out the multiple abrasions to try and prevent infection, the pain level goes off the scale. Tissue damage will often be extensive and will require skin grafts over extended periods of time. Permanent scarring is almost a “given” and a young and vibrant body can be reduced, in seconds, to a hideous caricature of what it once was. Skidding across blazing hot bitumen and lying there till help arrives introduces another aspect that really doesn’t bear thinking about.

In an accident the standard human reaction is to put out our hands to break our fall. Doing so on a hot road without gloves is a recipe for many months of inability to carry out even the simplest tasks (and I mean the most basic) without assistance.

I should also mention that riding without protective gear runs the risk not only of instant injury but also long-term damage in the form of skin cancer.

I could go on, but I fear that I am preaching to the choir anyway. And don’t get me started on scooter riders. What is it about a scooter that confers invulnerability on its rider? Is not the road on which they travel the same? Are not the obstacles which they can hit in an accident the same? Are not their riders riding in one of the most hostile environment in which a rider can ride? So how come they don’t need protective gear? What degree of protection does a suit provide? Or a short skirt, blouse and jacket teamed with high heel shoes? Like I said, I scratch my head and wonder.

But the dedicated squid sees the ability to ride in minimal clothing as a badge of courage (at least that’s what I have been told), bonus points among the tribe.

Yes, it’s hot. But the fact the temperature is rising is no reason to dispense with protective gear. The only variable that has changed is the weather; all other hazards and risks remain the same.

ATGATT. Get the message out there.

So, what should the gear we wear be like for the summer? Well, sad to say, pretty much like we wear any other time. Thankfully, gear manufacturers have made huge advances in making riding gear more suitable for the summer months. A pair of Kevlar-lined jeans is the minimum, and, yes, they do get hot, but my comment above about abrasion injuries is valid. There are some fabulous summer weight textile jackets out there now, most featuring good crash protection, armour in all the right places and heaps of ventilation. Most include a zip-out liner that can provide some rain protection as well as a bit of warmth if you happen to hit some cool weather or like to head out early in the morning before the sun starts to develop its daytime sting.

Summer gloves are available in a plethora of styles, designs and colours and there is no excuse for not finding a pair that will provide good protection as well as ventilation.

Boots are essential but even here there are summer boots available now that are lighter, provide good protection as well as being ventilated. Of course they’re not waterproof, but you can’t have both. Many manufacturers are also making shorter boots that still provide ankle protection but don’t feel like they are toasting your calves.

Despite all the advances made in helmet design I still can’t see that the sophisticated ventilations systems really do a great deal. Each to his own, I guess. The one area where the new helmets are brilliant for summer is that there are now so many that include integrated sun visors which eliminate the need to carry spare visors. And, speaking of visors, the longevity of modern visors compared to the crappy ones that I used to buy way back then is amazing.

Now, leathers. Yes, they do provide the best protection, and, yes, there are now ventilated varieties available. But my experience with riding in the summer, even in ventilated leathers, has not been a pleasant one. You pays your money and you makes your choice, I guess.

A few more notes on summer riding. Stay hydrated. On longer rides, many riders are favouring the camel back system and, while I haven’t used them myself, I can see some very positive benefits from their use. Stop regularly and drink. And I don’t mean coffee. Coffee really doesn’t help to quench your thirst and, in fact, will dehydrate you.  Added to this, both coffee and tea have a diuretic aspect which means that you will be stopping more frequently for pit stops if you drink a lot of them while on a ride. The road is hot, and glary days will dry you out quickly and lapses in concentration are a known result of dehydration.

If your helmet doesn’t have an integrated sun visor or if you don’t have a tinted visor, make sure that you wear a good pair of polaroid sunglasses. Ensure that they are Cancer Council approved and that they wrap around your head as much as you can bear. And, on the subject of cancer, smother any areas of your body that are going to be exposed to the sun (back of your neck, wrists, etc) with a good SP factor sun screen. Yes, it’s icky, but sunburn after a long day of riding is painful and I’ll take the icky over the pain, thank you.

Ride shorter stints. Back in the day, my rest stops were predicated on when I needed fuel. The VFR will do nearly 400 km before requiring fuel so that meant that my stops tended to be much more widely spaced than the recommended “Stop, rest, revive ever two hours” intervals. Don’t try to be a hero. Stop more often, hydrate and seek the shade as much as you can.

Summer can often mean a blazing hot day followed very quickly and unexpectedly by a storm and rain; it’s just the pattern of Australian summers. Be prepared by carrying a lightweight one piece rain suit under the seat. If the rain is of Biblical proportions it won’t be that effective, but, for the most part, it will keep you reasonably dry. And don’t just stop on the roadside to put it on. Press on to a bridge or an overpass (if you can) and suit up there. You will get wetter standing in the rain struggling to put the suit on than you will if you ride a couple of clicks till you find somewhere dry to perform the operation. Once the rain stops (as it usually does) the temperature and the humidity will shoot up so, as soon as practicable, get out of the suit and put it away. This will help your hydration and also help dry out your gear if it happened to get wet before you could get the suit on.

And another thing about summer riding: wildlife. Especially in dryer areas, local wildlife will come to the edges of the road to eat the vegetation along the verge as the pickings in the paddocks are too slim. At dusk and the evening and in the morning, be aware.

Summer in Australia is HOT, but you can still ride AND enjoy it as long as you adapt to the conditions. Anyone going riding this weekend?

A dry ride with Phil Hall
A dry ride with Phil Hall
  • Editor’s Note – While I agree that wearing the gear all the time is definitely preferable, it should in no way be legislated or mandated that people do so. You are responsible for your own actions and I too do not wear all the gear all the time, and I enjoy that freedom, and will wear the consequences.