Avoiding Dehydration While Riding

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Dehydration can happen quickly in motorcyclists, decreasing your ability to ride safely and even threatening your life if not properly treated. Riding, like other sports, is a physical activity putting strain on your muscles and causing your body to release heat through sweat. In addition, most motorcycles aren't designed with a convenient cup holder, so grabbing a drink on the road can be problematic.

Fortunately, there are steps you can easily take to ensure your safety while out enjoying your ride, and we've listed some of these tips below.

Why Riders Dehydrate

Dehydration happens when you lose more water than you're taking in. In the simplest of terms, the more you sweat, the quicker you dehydrate. There are causes of dehydration that motorcyclists face in particular, which include:

  • Sun: Direct sun exposure from being out in the open air will make a rider heat up quickly.
  • Asphalt: The sun's rays beat down on the road, heating the asphalt. That heat radiates up, making you feel hot from above and below.
  • Protective gear: Helmets, jackets, boots, and other layers you're wearing to protect you during a crash can also, unfortunately, trap heat.
  • Humidity: Even if the sun isn't beating down, warm air can act like a layer of insulation, heating you up from the inside out.

Dangers of Dehydration

Some dehydration risks include dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. Dehydrated riders can also have a slower reaction time. All these factors can increase crash risk.

But that's not all—severe dehydration can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening issue. Other side effects can include:

  • Seizures.
  • Swelling on the brain.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Death.

How Motorcyclists Can Avoid Dehydration

Drinking water while riding can be tricky, if not downright dangerous—therefore, it's often not the best way to combat dehydration while on your motorcycle, unless you have the proper tools (more on that below). However, there are some steps you can take before, during, and after a ride that will help you remain hydrated and healthy.

Before You Ride

Expert riders recommend avoiding alcohol the night before and caffeine the day of a motorcycle ride. Both types of beverages are diuretics and can cause your body to force out more water than it's taking in. If you must drink coffee to wake up, be sure to drink an adequate amount of water before you hop on your bike.

While You Ride

There are a few steps you can take while on a ride to stay hydrated.

  • Carry water with you: To ensure your safety and ability to keep both hands on the handlebars, invest in a hydration pack. Backpack-style hydration systems are an easy way to drink on the fly without using your hands.
  • Stop often: Take breaks to rehydrate. In addition to water, sports drinks with electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) absorb easily. Be wary of high sugar or caffeine content.
  • Wear sweat-wicking or ventilated clothing: Take a tip from runners or snow sports athletes—wear fabrics that pull sweat away from skin or outer layers with zippers designed to release heat and keep cooler.
  • Monitor your output: If you use the restroom while you're stopped, monitor the shade of your urine. The darker it is, the higher your risk of dehydration.

After You Ride

If you simply weren't able to get some water into your system before or during your trip, make sure to hydrate as soon as possible after you reach your destination. However, you don't want to over-hydrate too quickly—this could shock your system and cause a host of different problems. Instead, slowly but consistently sip water for the rest of your day, rather than chugging down a huge amount at once.

Symptoms & Treatment for Dehydration

Self-diagnosis for dehydration isn't easy. Some severe symptoms you should watch out for include:

  • Dry mouth or extreme thirst.
  • Fatigue or sleepiness.
  • Reduced urination.
  • Headache.
  • Rapid heart rate or breathing.
  • Fever.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.

If your attempts to rehydrate with water and electrolytes don't relieve your symptoms, seek emergency medical attention. Treatment will include providing salts and fluids intravenously to help your body absorb what it needs quickly and safely. As mentioned above, it is important to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and even carbonated beverages—these will reduce your body's ability to absorb the liquids it needs.

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