Neither rain, nor snow or heat keeps us off our dirt bikes.
If winter is any indicator, this summer could prove to be brutal in terms of high temperatures around the country. If cold weather doesn't stop you then the heat probably doesn't either, at least initially.
Heat stroke can drop you quicker than too much throttle through the whoops.
Preparing your body for racing is key to prevent heat stroke but if it's hot out, and even 80 degrees should be considered hot when riding, understanding the symptoms and taking time off the bike to cool down is essential in avoiding serious bodily harm or even death.
You might remember Josh Lichtle who went down in Moto 1 at the 2011 RedBud National and after trying to restart his bike collapsed and suffered heat-induced seizures. He died a day later from heat stroke. To family members watching him, it was obvious something was wrong in the moments leading up to the seizures. He was missing turns and his jumps were off. Ultimately he passed out. It was 90 degrees that day and with all the racing gear, his body was probably blanketed by 130 degree air.
According to WebMD.com , heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, is a medical emergency which causes damage to the brain and internal organs. It happens when the core body temperature is greater than 105 degrees. Lichtle's was 107. Anyone suspected of suffering from heat stroke should be taken to the hospital immediately - call 911.
Common symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Rapid heartbeat/breathing
- Dry, hot skin
Some riders liken the start of heat stroke to the feeling you get when having too much coffee. Ringing ears, weakness and disorientation. The symptoms often resemble general fatigue but even if you've just been pushing it, you're probably on your way to heat stroke if you don't take a rest.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke
Drink LOTS of water. Hydration is the #1 solution to prevent heat stroke. Without adequate hydration your body can't naturally cool off through sweat. It's also not as simple as chugging down a glass of water 10 minutes before the gates drop.
Your pre-race ritual should include hydrating your body, days, even a week prior to race day. Drink water not sugar-laced drinks or those with caffeine. Avoid alcohol. Continue drinking on race day.
If you're trail riding or participating in hare scrambles or other enduro style competitions that last several hours, wearing a hydration pack is a must. This fits snug on your back and won't hinder your riding ability. Sipping on that throughout the race keeps you hydrated and cools you off. Many hydration packs provide insulation so the water stays cold for hours.
Cool off between Motos
As for Moto, wearing a hydration pack is not necessary since the race doesn't last that long. However, if you're already dehydrated from practice, heat runs and/or simply baking in the sun you don't stand a chance. Rest your body between Motos, drink water, cool off in the shade and even wrap your head and neck with a wet towel.
If you're experiencing any heat stroke related symptoms prior to a race don't line up at the gate.
Something else to consider when racing Motocross and off-road to combat heat stroke is knowing when to relax DURING the event. Walk the track and know the route. You don't have to be "open throttle" the whole time. Work hard when it matters, but during more simple sections of the track hold up a bit, remember the phrase "Go slower to go faster." Save your strength for when you'll need it.
Wear Cooling Gear
Today's riding gear offers great ventilation but with boots, helmet, gloves and other protection your body has a difficult time expelling heat and cooling off. Several cooling vests offer unique technology to enhance your body's ability to stay cool by soaking the garment in water prior to wearing:
All vests are easy to wear and designed to go underneath your other gear.
Get out of that gear!
When it comes to preventing heat stroke know your limits. If you feel some of the symptoms noted above or just feel tired, don't chalk it up to simple fatigue. Take your temperature if a thermometer is available, but chances are you're well on your way to heat stroke. Drink up, water that is, cool off using ice packs and/or wet towels or if available get in a shower or tub of cool water. Get out of the sun and take off your gear.
If you have to, just call it a day. If you're involved with a weekend's worth of racing, even getting close to heat stroke on Day 1 will probably keep you from competing on Day 2.