Riding in the summer heat can be brutal, especially if you live in the southern states, and making proper preparations is essential for any ride. So how’s a biker to beat the heat? It all starts with choosing the right bike. There are few better ways to experience touring than on the back of a 2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide. As one of the industry’s most popular touring bikes, the Road Glide offers a number of advantages over its competitors when it comes to long days under the summer sun. Built to withstand the rigors of a long day on the road, the Road Glide features a low-fatigue design, responsive handling, and ample storage space that’ll allow you to bring along everything you need to keep cool and enjoy your ride. Let’s see what makes the Road Glide such a good touring companion and delve into a few tips for keeping cool on your ride.
Choose the Right Bike
Since its introduction in 1998, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide has become the go-to touring bike for riders seeking the ideal combination of comfort, style, and power. Endlessly customizable and designed with several features that go a long way in improving comfort on longer rides, the 2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide remains one of the brand’s most popular models nearly a quarter-century after it first hit the market. Part of the Harley-Davidson Grand American Touring series, the 2022 Road Glide puts rider comfort at the forefront.
While it’s powered by a powerful yet efficient Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin engine, the Road Glide’s most alluring piece of touring tech might be its distinctive sharknose fairing. Because it is mounted to the frame instead of the forks, the sharknose fairing stays in a fixed position regardless of how much the handlebars are turned, giving drivers precise control and dramatically reducing fatigue on longer rides. This design makes the Road Glide one of the most comfortable touring bikes on the market.
This focus on comfort can go a long way in making those longer rides a little easier on the body, giving you more energy to tackle the road ahead. The Road Glide also comes standard with 2.3 cu.ft. of storage space. While this will probably be enough for the bare essentials, the storage situation can easily be upgraded with any number of aftermarket accessories designed for longer touring. The bike’s low, wide frame gives the Road Glide a low center of gravity, making it easy to pack all the gear you’ll need without having to worry about the impact on control and comfort.
The Road Glide is a well-rounded option in its own right, but riders seeking a little more in the way of customization and power also have two other Road Glide models to choose from for the 2022 model year: the Road Glide Special and Road Glide ST. Designed with a decidedly sportier approach, the Road Glide ST seats one rider and features a 117 cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight engine compared to the Road Glide’s 107 cubic-inch motor. A loftier ride height gives the ST an improved lean angle, but it’s not quite as colorful as the Road Glide or Road Glide Special, as it’s only available in two hues.
Riders who prioritize their paint job will want to look into the Road Glide Special, which is available in 12 different color combinations and can be paired with either a chrome or blacked-out finish. With seating for two, the Road Glide Special offers a 114 cubic-inch engine, representing a nice middle ground between the standard Road Glide and Road Glide ST models. However, all three versions of this touring bike are well-suited for hot-weather riding.
High-Temp Touring Tips
Hydrate: Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to keep your body in peak condition, and this is doubly true when it comes to motorcycle touring. Dehydration can not only cause distractions like headaches but, if left unchecked, can lead to a loss of control, reaction time, and balance, which are all fairly important when piloting a two-wheeled vehicle down a busy road. Stopping to take a swig from a water bottle or canteen can ruin the flow of a ride, so when it comes to touring, a hydration backpack is a must-have.
These backpacks, which can usually hold up to a gallon of water, fit comfortably over your riding gear and include a drinking tube that can easily be fed into your helmet. Some hydration backpacks will also offer additional storage space for smaller items like maps, compasses, and, most importantly, snacks, which can play an important role in hydration. Salty snacks and sports drinks are vital in replenishing electrolytes, so while that trail mix might make your mouth drier in the short term, it’s actually an important part of your balanced riding diet.
Avoid Coffee and Booze: While hydration is important, not just any liquids will do. Alcohol not only presents an obvious danger for those operating a motorcycle due to its impairing effects but can also speed up dehydration. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy a few brews as part of your tour––just save them until you’ve finished riding for the day. Remember to practice moderation as it can exacerbate dehydration, and dealing with a hangover on a bike is one of the least pleasant experiences known to man. To a lesser extent, the same goes for coffee which, while not as prone to causing dehydration as alcohol, will leave you thirsty or worse yet: searching for a bathroom soon after setting off for the day.
Outrun the Sun: When touring on a particularly hot day, it’s important to limit your sun exposure. With the hottest temperatures usually occurring between noon and five, the afternoon is one of the worst times to be out on your bike. Few people like getting up at the crack of dawn, but an early start can make a big difference in hitting mileage goals comfortably. Get an early start and try to do as much riding as you can before the sun hits high noon. Stopping for the afternoon can be a great time to stretch your legs, take in some sights, or get an early start on happy hour. Just be aware that early morning and early evening rides are particularly prone to animal encounters, and take caution.
Break Time: When it comes to motorcycle touring, there’s definitely such a thing as too much of a good time. You might have been looking forward to your long-planned tour for weeks or even months, but after a couple hundred miles in the saddle, even the best-laid plans can fall victim to the unfortunate reality of body aches, cramps, and general exhaustion. When planning your next tour, make sure to factor in plenty of breaks and, on longer rides, a rest day or two. These types of self-imposed rests will not only keep you fresh, alert, and safe but will also enhance your overall enjoyment once you do get back on your ride.
Dress for Success
The proper clothing can make all the difference when it comes to beating the heat, but it’s not exactly the same as dressing for a day at the beach. When you’re riding, it’s best to keep your body covered to prevent the type of heat stroke that can turn a leisurely ride into a disaster in a hurry. Heat stroke can cause everything from nausea and dizziness to muscle weakness and cramping, none of which you want to experience on the back of your Harley-Davidson. Luckily there’s no shortage of clothing designed to keep you cool on longer rides, including moisture-wicking base layers, full-coverage riding apparel, evaporative cooling vests, and neck wraps. Let’s break these items down a little further and see how with the right outfit, you can keep cool no matter what that thermometer says.
Go Synthetic: While a light cotton t-shirt might seem like the go-to choice for a hot day, it’s a bit old-fashioned compared to some of the synthetic fabrics on the market today. Cotton retains about seven percent of the moisture it comes in contact with, while newer materials like polyester allow just 0.4 percent to absorb into the fabric. These synthetic base layers draw sweat away from the skin and into the fabric, where it can more easily evaporate away and cool you off in the process. Many of these snug base layers also provide some mild compression, which increases circulation and reduces overall fatigue.
Cover It Up: Full-coverage riding gear might seem like an oppressive choice when the mercury starts to crawl toward the 100-degree mark, but when properly configured, it offers a number of advantages over lighter-duty apparel. Full-length gloves, jackets, pants, boots, and helmets not only reduce the risk of injury in case of a crash but also play an important role in beating the heat. Summer riding jackets are often made with plenty of large mesh panels and ventilating zippers that increase airflow and allow a cooling breeze to hit your skin. Lighter colors will do a better job of reflecting the sun’s rays, so avoid your instincts and leave that all-black getup on the rack.
Accessorize: In addition to the old tried-and-true methods of keeping covered up and opting for moisture-wicking fabrics, there are a number of relatively new products on the market that make it easier than ever to keep your cool during hot-weather rides. Evaporative cooling vests are one such innovation, using the same principle that keeps you cool when sweating, but now in vest form. These vests differ in design, but by and large, they rely on two methods to do their thing.
Some vests are soaked in water which slowly evaporates thanks to their polymer-embedded fabrics. Others use a bladder that disperses cooling water across your torso. These vests offer a full day of cooling with often only one fill-up, though they’re much more effective in drier climates. Those looking to truly max out their cool factor can double down with an evaporative cooling neck wrap, which works much the same as the previously mentioned vests. The wrap is filled with water-absorbing crystals that can hold up to 400 times their weight in water, providing vital relief on hot summer days while also protecting riders from sunburn.
Hot Weather Riding Can Be a Breeze
The Road Glide is the perfect companion for riders looking to hit the roads in hot weather. Designed for touring, the Road Glide is packed with the type of rider-friendly features that make the miles pass with ease. The fixed sharknose fairing gives the Road Glide an exceedingly comfortable ride that won’t take as much of a toll after a long day on the road, while the relaxed riding position will let you cruise for miles without needing to pull over and stretch your body.
Ample storage space and endless customization potential mean there’s plenty of room to store your moisture-wicking layers, evaporative cooling gear, spare water, snack, emergency supplies, and everything else you need for your next long ride. While packing the proper gear is vital to the success of any road trip, good habits can be just as important. So get an early start, stay hydrated, save the booze for happy hour, and make sure to build in plenty of time for breaks, stretching, sightseeing, and other activities that will help keep you fresh and alert once you get back on the bike.