The Dangers of Dehydration

With summer in full swing, every rider is out and about on their motorcycles making the most of the fine weather.  Heading out with your friends on a long ride in the heat of summer one should take care not to dehydrate.  Remember that not only can one dehydrate in summer, there is a real danger of dehydration during winter months as well.

Heat emanating from the asphalt combined with direct sun beating down on you and hot air rushing past your face could feel like an open oven for a rider.   Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke whilst on your motorcycle, resulting in dire consequences and could cause an accident if you faint/black out and lose control of your motorcycle. 

The scary part is some riders do not even realise that they are busy dehydrating before it is nearly too late.  The question raised is do you ride with your thick leather gear that make you feel even hotter and sweating rivers, losing tons of moisture or do you layer up and discard as the day go by?  Taking layers of clothing off to the point where you are wearing the basic t-shirt may feel cooler, although definitely not the best idea, be it sun exposure or safety wise.  Exposing your skin to the sun’s UV rays and feeling cooler with the air flowing around you, may feel better, but the sun is in actual fact sucking the very moisture from your skin. 

The right riding gear

Look for riding gear designed for summer riding with zipper vents, zip off panels to create mesh jackets and most allow still intact body armour pockets and comes in an array of fashionable designs.

Harley-Davidson® MotorClothes® line offers a Hydration Vest, or dual-use Cool Cooling Vest and Cooling Kit. The lightweight vest has a snug fit with stretch panels to ensure rider comfort. Hold the vest for a few minutes under water until it is fully hydrated - this provides cooling for up to 3 hours.  Cooling Kits contain cooling packs that can be iced in a fridge or freezer for 45 minutes, and then inserted into the hydration vest interior pockets for greater cooling.

Common symptoms of dehydration

Individuals may experience symptoms differently.

  • thirst
  • less-frequent urination
  • dark colour urine
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • light-headedness
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • dry mouth and mucous membranes
  • increased heart rate and breathing
  • heat cramps in legs and stomach
  • temperature elevation as high 40 degrees Celsius

What to do:

  • Pull over as soon as possible and drink water, these symptoms will not dissipate until you replenished with water.Sports drinks will balance your electrolytes.
  • When dehydration symptoms set in, soak and wring a t-shirt under water and wear underneath the riding jacket where your skin can absorb the moisture.
  • Carry hydration electrolyte replacement tablets and add to water to assist with the after effects of dehydration.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Individuals may experience symptoms differently.

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • disorientation, agitation or confusion
  • sluggishness or fatigue
  • seizure
  • hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
  • a high body temperature
  • loss of consciousness
  • rapid heart beat
  • fast breathing
  • hallucinations
  • Control of the motorcycle will steadily get worse and fainting/blackout may occur.

What to do:

  • Get the rider indoors or find shade.
  • Have the rider lie down with their feet slightly elevated.
  • Remove clothing and gently apply cool water to the skin followed by fanning to stimulate sweating.
  • Apply ice packs to the groin and armpits if available.
  • Seek medical attention; there is a possibility of brief hospitalisation for recovery.Heat stroke can lead to death in rare cases, do not take any chances.


  • Simply avoid riding during the hottest part of the day and make regular stops along the way.
  • For motorcycle riders the suggested intake is 3 litres of water per day.
  • Drink enough water especially if you had a party night the previous eve, alcohol itself dehydrate the body and more dehydration occur when riding the following day.
  • Alternative water sources:  Hamburgers, chicken, grapefruit, watermelon, fruit juice, smoothies & sports drinks.

Safe Travels!