The most belligerent bikers will tell you that they can wear what they want, and that flip-flops, shorts and a tee-shirt are their choice to make. But while keeping cool when riding a motorcycle is important (both physically and psychologically), you do not want to come off with any exposed skin, so you have to find a balance.
All you legally need to wear in the UK is a helmet, but when the temperatures soar, there are still ways to keep cool, so here are my suggestions for riding in the hot weather, based on my experience in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and the USA.
I’ll give you a few options to choose from, and the hyperlinks will take you to the honest, in-depth reviews. I’ll also tell you what my personal choices are, but use everything you learn to make your own decisions of what fits your riding style and budget…
While an open-face helmet will give great air-flow, many people don’t like the added risk they come with. It’s also worth noting that they rarely have any vents. Okay, there’s a massive hole in the front, but with no upper vents or exhaust, heat can still build up on the top of your dome.
A great compromise is a flip-front, or modular helmet, which can offer the protection of a full-face with the versatility of an open-face. Shark and LS2 offer very similar (courts once said too similar) flip-front helmets with a chin bar that rotates all the way back. These, and more ‘traditional’ modular lids like the Shoei Neotec and Schuberth C5 have venting built in that will keep your head a lot cooler. Look for helmets homologated as ‘P’ (protective full-face) AND ‘J’ (jet, or open-face); the addition of the J means they have been tested to stay open when riding; the last thing you need is the chin bar dropping in front of your eyes at 60mph.
Also look at some of the retro-style lids like the AGV X101 or Shoei Ex-Zero, both of which give face protection, but still have a wide opening, which will need filling with a pair of goggles. The Ex-Zero has a drop-down sun shield, but at speed you’ll likely get teary-eyed.
A full-face helmet with decent venting can work exceptionally well, and the ECE22:06 rated Arai Quantic is our benchmark here, doing an incredible job of allowing air to move through it, without being overly drafty.
My choice: The Schuberth C5 has great ventilation, but it’s also a flip-front. Retailing at £499.99, I love the fact it’s also approved to the newest, highest safety standard of ECE22:06.
Distributor’s link: bikerheadz.co.uk
The obvious choice here is a mesh jacket, which can totally transform a hot-weather ride. Many brands offer them, so look for something that fits you well and has at least an AA-rating under EN17092. With affordable jackets like the £129.99 Weise Scout reaching AA, there’s really no reason to potentially compromise safety with something that’s only achieved the lower A level. You can find out more about motorcycle riding kit safety here. Don’t be too distracted by marketing claims of AA being as protective as leather jackets, or AAA being as safe as full leathers. Good quality leather is still more abrasion-resistant than textile kit, but AAA-rated textiles are great to see, and we expect several brands will be releasing kit like this over 2022 and 2023. We’ll be reviewing them thoroughly and recommending the best to choose.
Some will come with a waterproof liner, but these generally aren’t really designed for all seasons. If money’s tight and you mainly ride in the summer, you could just buy a mesh jacket, and throw a lightweight waterproof over-jacket in your bag, popping that over when an evening ride gets chilly.
Knox has a ‘seasonless’ range that promises to be suitable for all weather conditions, but with no experience of any of it, we can’t give an honest opinion of how well it actually works. There are many, many brands offering some fantastic riding kit, so have a look around your local store.
If you want one jacket that can truly do everything, then the £299.99 Oxford Hinterland stands out, thanks to its exceptional ventilation, yet utterly reliable waterproofing. It's even got a removable thermal liner for the winter months.
When buying any non-mesh jacket, look for ‘direct to body’ venting by shining a torch through the vents. If you can see the light, there’s no membrane restricting the airflow. You’ll usually find this on laminated kit, but not all of it; the Oxford Mondial is a good jacket, but it doesn’t have the exceptional venting of the higher-spec Hinterland.
Generally, the venting on textile riding kit is getting better and better: Rukka’s Navigattor, for instance, offered superb wet-weather and winter performance, but was let down with its venting. The new top-of-the-range Rukka Kingsley, however, is a lot better.
Whatever you’re buying look for plenty of vents in places that will catch the air, like up the arms and on the sides.
Adventure jackets are designed for hot weather use due to their fully-removable waterproof linings and often massive vents. This style often compromises all-weather commuting as it tends to get soaked in the rain more easily, but it can be a good choice for riders travelling into Europe and beyond, or those who don’t ride all-year-round. We’ve tested loads of them at BikeSocial, and you can check out the reviews of adventure riding kit here.
You could also look at evaporative cooling vests, with a few options available, including this one from Alpinestars.
If you want a leather jacket for hot weather, look for perforations in the main panels and avoid heavy linings. Some will have vents in, but they’re rarely very effective, tending to be quite small. Keep in mind that you can always open the main zip a bit to let more air in. When I’m riding in very hot climates like Spain, I do still wear leather as I tend to be on fast, twisty roads, so want the best protection I can get. The Segura Stripe has served me well, looking good, while being light enough to let the air move around as I ride.
We’ve not tried it, but the Ventz Air Flow System slides under your jacket’s sleeves to hold them open and help air blow up inside.
My choice: At just £129.99, the Weise Scout is great value for money, and ideal for really hot-weather rides. If you want something that also keeps you totally dry in winter, I’d suggest the Oxford Hinterland.
Distributor’s link: www.weiseclothing.com
Look for direct to body venting by shining your phone’s torch though the panels
A cotton tee-shirt is one of the worst things to wear in the summer under your motorcycle jacket (well, apart from a big woolly jumper) as it absorbs the sweat from your body and gets you stickier (and smellier) more quickly.
Consider a set of base-layers… they don’t have to be motorcycle-specific. Skins aren’t flattering to all of us, but they do keep you surprisingly cool. They’re expensive though, and there are plenty of other options from the likes of DXR (via Sportsbikeshop) and Oxford Products, for instance. You can also get some great-value ‘technical’ tops from places like Mountain Warehouse and Go Outdoors.
My choice: Our local Mountain Warehouse is forever having ‘closing down’ sales, and I’ve got a stack of polyester ‘IsoCool’ tops from there that have proven invaluable on my hottest rides in the US and Europe.
Needless to say, avoid any gloves with a heavy lining. Even waterproof ‘summer’ gloves will be a lot warmer than normal gloves and are only really suitable for spring and autumn.
Race-style gloves (which extend over the wrist in a ‘gauntlet’) often have plenty of perforations and vents in them, but try blowing through to them to ensure they’re not just decorative.
While not offering quite the same levels of protection, a short-cuff glove is often the best bet, not least because it’ll allow air to blow up under your jacket’s sleeves more easily. We’ve reviewed many, many gloves, so check them out here, and remember that there are also mesh options, like the £49 Lyndstrands Nyhusen, which our reviewer was very impressed with.
I tend to wear leather gloves most, with the Furygan James and Goldtop Predators being some of my current short-cuff favourites, along with the Alpinestars Rayburn V2s that I’m about to review. Also look at the BKS Summer glove, which is a heavier construction than many, but the perforations and short design offset that, while the attention to detail makes them particularly safe. I’ll have a full review of them here shortly.
My choice: When it’s really hot in the UK, I like the Spidi X-Force gloves thanks to their breathability and the excellent, secure fastening. On faster rides, particularly overseas launches, I tend to wear all leather short-cuff gloves, or the Racer High Speed when I want a gauntlet.
This is a pair of lined motorcycle jeans… do they look too bulky to you?
The trousers you wear may well go with the jacket you bought, be that adventure or ‘standard’ textiles. Look for direct to body venting again, and removable linings.
In leathers, go for perforations in the main panels, which will help the air pass through, but of course riding jeans are going to be the choice of many.
You’ll likely be considering either ‘single-layer’ or ‘lined’ jeans. They’re not all created equally, but single-layer garments have an outer that does all the protective work. They should still have a light mesh ‘comfort’ liner which will help keep you cool, but is also important to reduce skin-sheer injuries.
Lined jeans tend to be heavier, typically being denim with a Kevlar or other aramid lining inside. These linings can vary a lot, with some having a thick, terry / towel construction that can get very warm indeed. Whatever you choose, there’s no real reason to go below an AAA-rating under EN17092, as there are plenty to choose from in all price ranges. Our article about motorcycle riding jeans will help you.
My choice: When I’m riding faster – and especially on bike launches overseas – I wear Hood jeans, which are lined but definitely not too hot to spend the day in on and off the bike. There are a few AAA-rated options, but my favourites are the £177.99 Hood SK11s, which are a slimmer fit that holds the D3O Ghost armour in place very well.
Otherwise, I choose the single-layer £179.99 Roadskin Taranis jeans, which are also AAA-rated and have a superb fit and style that, in my opinion, makes them a far better choice than some costing two or three times the price. I just replaced the Level 2 armour that’s supplied with D3O Ghost for an even more form-fitting style.
Forget trainers, flip-flops or Kevlar Crocs, you need to wear proper bike boots on a motorcycle, with certification to EN 13634:2017. This ensures they’ll offer not just abrasion resistance, but also crush and impact protection, which are particularly important as the foot can easily be caught under the weight of the bike in an accident.
Many race boots have vents built into the toes, like the excellent Sidi Rex, but this style – while great on track – isn’t very comfortable to walk around in.
TCX has a constantly evolving ‘Clima air’ range, like these TCX Clima Gore-Tex Surround boots, which have a clever venting system in the sole that really does work, yet doesn’t compromise waterproofing. I’ll also shortly be reviewing the new Climatrek Surround GTX, which have an even larger vent system and aren’t as long; keep an eye on our motorcycle boot reviews here.
There are now loads of street-style boots available; they might look like high-top trainers, but they can provide excellent protection while being all-day comfortable. If you're on a budget, look at the Spirit Motors Billy Winker boots from Sportsbikeshop; I’ve been impressed with their comfort and relatively affordable price.
There are plenty of brands to choose from, but if you’re never going to ride in the rain, choose boots that don’t have a waterproof membrane, as they’ll be even cooler.
My choice: I’ve long been a fan of the TCX Street range – the TCX Street 3 being the latest – thanks to the fact I can wear them all day long, walking around and riding. The new Climatrek Surrounds don’t look as casual, but they are great on the bike.
Distributor’s link: www.nevis.uk.com
Over-heating can be dangerous; a drop in hydration of as little as 1% will reduce physical performance by around 10% and produce a marked drop in cognitive function, which could lead to poor decision-making and, ultimately, an accident. Most people don’t even feel thirsty until their hydration drops by 2%.
“There’s definitely a link between motorcyclists getting too hot, and a drop-off in cognitive function,” says Dr Ric Lovell, a sports physiologist from Hull University. “There’s all sorts of data across all sorts of sports to show that technical decision making is impaired when exercise is taken in the heat, and body temperature rises.”