Hot days, be they of the muggy, sticky Deep South variety or of the dry, blast-furnace Western States variety, are the bane of motorcyclists, sapping us of hydration, energy and comfort, diminishing the enjoyment of riding. Tips and tricks for staying cool on the road range from half-baked to scientifically sound, but one thing some folks do that’s universally a bad idea is removing protective clothing, strapping their armored, full-sleeve jacket to the back seat and riding in a wind-blown T-shirt or tank top. Thanks to advancements in fabric technology, there’s a better, safer way.
Silver Eagle Outfitters makes cooling apparel designed for motorcyclists, outdoorsy types, even dogs. Faced with yet another summer of high-mileage days across the sweltering, arid deserts of the Southwest, Silver Eagle set me up with three items: a long-sleeve Repreve microfiber T-shirt, a microfiber helmet liner and a Classic evaporative cooling vest. The T-shirt and helmet liner, which form a comfortable base layer for your head, torso and arms, are made of moisture-wicking, quick-dry polyester, the sort of material commonly found in athletic apparel. The T-shirt has the added benefits of permanent UPF 30-plus UV protection, Microban antimicrobial treatment and being made of 100 percent recycled materials. Up to a point—that is, until they get soaked through—the T-shirt and helmet liner pull moisture away from the body, and the material dries quickly. Both are light and comfortable, so much so that I wear the T-shirt when I go hiking.
The most effective weapon against the effects of hot weather is the evaporative cooling vest, which uses a three-layer design. An outer Cordura nylon layer provides durability; a middle absorptive layer retains and then slowly releases water; and an inner layer coated with Teflon HT provides a moisture barrier to keep you dry. Put the vest and recommended amount of water in a self-sealing plastic bag (provided, or use your own), allow 15-30 minutes for the water to be absorbed and distributed, then put the vest on under your riding jacket. If too much water is used (ahem), you’ll need to wring out the vest to get rid of the excess, and even then gravity can pull the water to the bottom of the vest and get your pants wet.
The evaporative effect is most pronounced on unfaired motorcycles, in dry climates and when a mesh or heavily vented over-jacket is worn, but it works in other conditions as long as air can get to the jacket and the water vapor can escape. The Silver Eagle vest will keep you cool for a couple of hours or longer; on really hot, long days, resoak it at gas stops in the bathroom sink. By wearing a hydration pack, such as a Camelbak, you’ll not only stay cool but also replenish fluids.
Just as heated apparel is the not-so-secret weapon of cold-weather riders, cooling apparel can dramatically improve the enjoyment and safety of hot-weather riding: fewer pounding temples, less dehydration, better concentration and more energy. The Classic evaporative cooling vest ($95) is available in silver or black, in men’s (S-4XL) and women’s (XS-4XL) sizes. It has two outer pockets, two inside pockets and adjustment straps at the waist. And when it’s not hot, the vest’s (dry) insulation will keep you warm, or you can just pack it away in a saddlebag. The long-sleeve Repreve microfiber T-shirt ($32-$35) comes in various colors, in sizes XS-4XL. The one-size-fits-all microfiber helmet liner ($15) comes in four colors.
For more information: Silver Eagle Outfitters, LLC, 8207 Stephanie Drive S.W., Huntsville, Alabama 35802; (888) 672-6963[This Silver Eagle Outfitters Cooling Apparel gear review was originally published in the August 2011 issue of Rider]