Rather than throw in the towel against a summer heat wave, our freelancer saddles up for a refreshing night cruise.
Ever notice how, save for students in meteorology school, motorcycle ownership is perhaps the most efficient way to become obsessed with the weather? In my off-road obsessed youth, having an extended weather forecast rarely affected my ability to go riding. My friends and I had a method much more Neanderthal-based whereby we stepped outside, stuck a hand out and then dressed accordingly.
Heavy rain? A bright orange hand-me-down poncho circa 1978 over hoodie and boots was the solution. Snow simply meant donning the automotive technician-style one-piece coveralls. Those perfect days of summer saw us tooling around on the trails in soccer shorts and T’s that our parents paid entirely too much for so we would fit in at school.
These days, the whole concept takes on deeper meaning. Sure the smarter motorcycle riders among us have rain suits in their packs for the unexpected downpour, and there are tourers out there with more clothing options in their bike luggage than most of us have in our closets and dressers combined. For me the issue isn’t about proper dress so much as being soaking wet on slippery roads or freezing cold with a fogged up visor – both of which simply aren’t my definition of fun.
The remedy, of course, is to plan rides based on the local weather reports. Plan on taking the bike in to work the next day? Watch the weather before bed. Looking to do a scenic cruise around the waterfront this upcoming weekend? Check the long-range. Of course, the downside to living this way is that forecasts of storms or even isolated showers can send one huffing, puffing and brooding like a 12-year-old. There is a sort of value to spontaneity or risking getting caught out in the elements that is lacking when you base everything on the weatherman.
All this brings me to my point: This July has proven to be one of the driest (and hottest) in my area’s history. For over a full month now not a drop of rain has fallen, and daytime temperatures begin comfortable, get warmer, then end up bordering on torturous. Just how hot are we talking here? Well, high 90s but with humidity that could drown a sturgeon. The heat index each day is up in the 110-115 degree range. “Dog days of summer” is one thing, but this isn’t the dry western heat that allowed Clint Eastwood to look good chewing on a cigar under a sombrero; this was the stuff that made your clothing stick to your flesh by the time you walked to the driveway and made it feel like somebody was sitting on your chest.
Sometimes a rider must disregard weather forecasts because the best rides can include overcoming challenging conditions.
Not unlike the nonsense that we endure for nine out of every twelve months around here with cold weather, once again the roads found themselves surprisingly devoid of motorcyclists. But rather than riders indoors huddled around a furnace, this time they were indoors in front of an air conditioner.
Suffice it to say, when word reached my desk of a biker-only cruise night being planned for the end of the month I decided I would be attending, even if I had to wear a refrigeration suit to make it happen. And apparently I wasn’t alone in my reasoning as riders turned out in droves to the bi-level asphalt parking area belonging to a greasy spoon right on the lakefront. It was close to one hundred degrees, even as the sun began its descent on the horizon, but the air was alive with the buzz of riders of all disciplines getting together to check out each other’s rides in the late July dusk. The smell of hot dogs roasting on the grill and sausage with green peppers could almost make one completely forget about the heat wave.
Even triple digit temps weren’t enough to get the V-Twin guys out of their jeans, but there were hardly a pair of chaps to be found or leather jackets to cover “wife-beater” tanks. The touring set came prepared, wearing the motorcycling equivalent of jump suits, complete with breathable mesh panels in all of the heat-collecting areas of the body. Sportbike riders ditched their racing leathers for shorts of denim or khaki that nearly met their socks and baggy t-shirts. Even the girls they hauled on back wore less than usual, apparently swapping the dental floss that passes for unmentionables in favor of lacier versions for increased breathe-ability.
In short, a great time was had by all even though the weatherman warned of heat advisories being issued by the National Weather Service. Sometimes, as a motorcyclist, it seems the best science of all has been handed down to us by the Neanderthals.