Many dirt bike riders consider a cruise along trails a favorite summer pastime whether it's out in the desert, up in the mountains, on private land, during a sanctioned off-road race or through those maintained and governed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Regardless of your favorite trail system - expect hot weather.
Even moderate temperatures like 80 degrees feels warmer in the summer. Maybe it has something to do with the sun angled straight above, but add humidity for some areas of the country and all that riding gear, it's very easy to overheat when it's mostly comfortable shorts-wearing weather.
Trails generally have adequate shade thanks to an abundance of trees which helps reduce the amount of direct sunlight. However, 95 degrees is 95 degrees, therefore go prepared. Don't fall into the trap of "just a little bit longer" and don't ride if you feel ill or a headache. Keep an eye on your bike, too. Getting stranded because the engine overheated makes for a long walk home and possibly some expensive repairs.
And if it's just too dang hot wait until the late afternoon or find another day to ride. Heat stroke is all too real and if you're out in the middle of somewhere trouble brews fast.
Don't Stay Thirsty, My Friends
Sweating is good. It keeps you cool. But if you don't replenish what's lost your body can't turn on its natural air-conditioning. Drink water before heading out and during your ride. Even off-road racers use a hydration pack to sip on during their long route. Hydration packs fit easily like a backpack and allow you to drink water without interrupting your flow. It's a must have even when riding in cool temperatures.
In other words, take a break. Set a time to stop before setting out or if you're feeling overheated and drained, pull off the trail, take your helmet off and relax a bit. If you brought lunch, now's the time to snack. You'll be amazed how much better you feel by taking a 15 minute break to let your body rest while you refuel.
Obviously if you're involved in a hare scramble or other off-road race you don't want to stop. However as Ryan Dungey infamously said, "It's just a dirt bike race, there are bigger things in life."
It's hot, the sun beats on you and you're sitting on top of a burning engine. No wonder you're roasting! You can only do so much with the weather but you can counter the effects of the red hot engine near your legs with a heat shield. This goes a long way towards keeping you cooler, longer.
Use Nature's Bathtub or Bring a Cooling Vest
Nearby streams and watering holes offer great opportunities to strip off your gear and take a cool swim. If you're riding in an area where you're more likely so see a mirage instead of an oasis then bring a cooling vest. But don't wear it! Instead, bring it with you in a backpack or other bag filled with ice. When taking a break or even stopping because you feel overheated put it on during the course of your break. Remove it prior to heading out or you'll simply heat the vest which eventually works against you.
Cooling Off Your Dirt Bike
You're not the only one who overheats. Don't forget to keep your dirt bike at riding temperature. Racing Motocross poses a bigger risk of overheating but that doesn't mean boiling gas or a damaged engine doesn't happen on the trails.
Yes, it's easier to prevent an overheated engine on a trail excursion but off-road races generally last hours therefore your dirt bike needs just as much love as the Moto guys give their rides.
It's the number one thing you can do to ensure your bike doesn't over heat. Use fresh coolant from one of the industry standards. Check the hours on your existing coolant - if you're getting close and expect a hot day's ride, change it to prevent any issues.
Know Your Limits
See that hill? Sure would be fun to go up and over, wouldn't it? If you know it's beyond your limits don't take it. If you make it halfway and get stuck don't roll the throttle and burn the clutch out. Not only does this ruin the trail with an artificially made rut but it overheats the engine. Turn around and reassess the situation. Try a different approach or find another way around. Check out How to Climb Hills on a Dirt Bike
Ice Your Gas
A trick widely used in Moto is removing the gas tank (filled with gas) and putting it on ice before the gate drop. This trick is probably unnecessary for the casual trail ride but certainly works for off-road races.
You'll outlast the heat and have a lot more fun by preparing yourself and your dirt bike for the day ahead. Stay cool and enjoy the trails.
Check out these additional articles on beating the summer heat while riding dirt bikes on trails: