Ah, the desert. For nine months out of the year, it offers ideal weather free from rain (most of the time), snow (most of the time), and harsh cold temperatures. As idyllic as it sounds, riding your bike through the desert also comes with its own set of requirements.
Here’s everything you need to know to prepare yourself for a ride through the hot, arid open road.
Be Ready for Any Kind of Weather
In the desert, the weather can change in an instant. One minute you’re riding through sunshine and the next you’re in the midst of a monsoon downpour and surrounded by lightning.
The desert is tricky when it comes to weather and you have to be ready for anything. If you’re riding through the desert anytime between June and October, be prepared for a sudden thunderstorm or haboob (large dust storm). If you’re riding during the winter months, be prepared for frigid temperatures in the morning and sweltering heat in the afternoon.
Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Speaking of weather, the desert has some of the most severe in the world. It’s hot, dry, and dangerous if you’re not careful.
Heat exhaustion can happen quickly, especially if you’re wearing the appropriate safety gear and riding in the heat of the afternoon. If you start to feel any of the following, pull over, take off your helmet, and take a large drink of water:
- Extreme fatigue
- Heavy sweating
It’s not worth risking a trip to the hospital just so you can power through your ride. Listen to these signs and symptoms and take the necessary precautions to keep your body safe from the harsh heat of the desert.
The Critters are Plentiful
The desert isn’t known for mosquitoes because of its arid climate, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bug and critter free zone. In fact, the desert has some of the most poisonous animals in the world.
From April through October is snake season. Snakes like to coil up in the shade wherever they can find it. Before you kick up your kickstand, take a look down to make sure you don’t have an unwelcome guest at your feet.
While on the road, wearing a full face helmet is a good idea. This won’t just protect you from the sun rays and road debris, it’ll also protect you from swarms of butterflies and bees, wasps, or other large flying beetles.
Other critters can impede your path on the bike too. Watch out for rabbits, coyotes, or raccoons that like to run into the road on a moment’s notice.
Avoid the Tar Snakes
Many states use tar to cover up cracks in the road. As the sun heats this tar throughout the day, it can become slick like a snake. Whenever you see a tar snake in the road, treat it the same way you’d treat a slick railroad tie. Slow down, don’t try to over-correct, keep your line and get a good grip on your handlebars.
Bring Lots of Water
As the expression goes, if you feel thirsty, it’s too late. Signs of thirst in the desert mean you’re bordering on dehydration, which can be extremely dangerous and lead to heat exhaustion.
Hydration on your motorcycle is key. Bring more water than you think you need. Then, schedule in your water breaks. Chances are you won’t think about drinking water until it’s too late. Force yourself to stop at a watering hole and take a few large swigs of H2O. You’ll be able to ride for longer and feel better if you do.
Keep Your Skin Shaded From the Sun
It’s tempting to try to beat the heat by letting the wind naturally cool your body but this isn’t a wise idea. Areas that are exposed to the sun are actually harder to cool down than those that are shielded by protective jackets and gear.
If you’re worried about your body temperature, wear a cooling vest to keep your torso cooler. Or, opt for mesh ventilated textiles for your riding attire.
Scope Out Your Route
If you’re making a long distance trip across the desert, be sure to scope out your route ahead of time. There are long stretches of highways that don’t have water or shade. You’ll want to know when you’re approaching one of those long stretches so you can stock up on drinks and nutrition before you’re stranded in the middle of the sweltering heat.
The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for a trip through the desert is researching your travels before you go. Research the type of motorcycle gear you need. Research the weather you can expect (but still expect the unexpected in the desert). Research your route. When you feel well-prepared, stock up on water and enjoy the open skies and fresh desert air.