We all know that in Oregon we may get a day here or there that is suitable for riding, even if it is just for a few hours. With this in mind we should be aware of how cold temperatures affect our body and our mind. When our bodies begin to shiver, it is one of the first defenses against our core body temperature dropping. We should recognize this for what it is, the first sign that hypothermia is beginning. Hypothermia is the condition that occurs when our core body temperature drops. This can be exacerbated by water, wind and exhaustion. And temperatures don’t need to be below freezing to induce hypothermia.
Conditions that lead to hypothermia are cold temperatures, improper clothing and equipment, wetness, fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, poor food intake, and alcohol intake. According to some information, any core body temperature less than 98.6 degrees can be linked to hypothermia. Some signs and symptoms of the different levels of Hypothermia are: Mild-core body temperature between 98.6 and 96 degrees, involuntary shivering, tight muscles, and difficulty doing complex motor skills. Moderate dazed consciousness, loss of fine motor coordination – particularly in the hands, slurred speech, violent shivering, and irrational behavior. This is a very dangerous condition to be in. Severe-core temperature between 92 and 86 degrees, cycles of shivering with decreasing intervals until shivering finally stops. This is now a serious medical emergency.
As you can probably figure out for your self, the mild and moderate symptoms alone can negatively impact our ability to operate our bike and make good decisions. The shivering increases fatigue, muscle tightness and consumes more energy. We need our motor skills to make decisions, provide reaction time, operate our controls, coordination, and balance and be aware of our constantly changing surroundings. (Situational Awareness) So how much does wind speed reduce the outside temperature to the human body? Here are some wind chill factors according to a wind chill calculator designed for the exposure of a motorcycle rider. These are dramatically warmer than the conventional wind chill factors. In the calculator I used some likely MPH speeds.
When we expose ourselves to a cold environment, we will eventually be in a hypothermia condition. The question is how long it will take to get to that point. The longer we can keep our body temperature from dropping, the longer we can safely be exposed to a cold environment. The more we protect our selves by keeping heat from escaping our body and cold air from contacting our skin, the longer we can safely endure the conditions. To do this we need to insulate our bodies. In other words, create a cushion of warm air near our skin. This can be accomplished by dressing in layers. And now days “performance clothing” or, clothing designed for the elements can accomplish this with a high degree of efficiency and less bulk. Our bodies lose the majority of heat through our head, neck and shoulders. So it is important we also cover these areas to reduce heat loss. Of course, electric heated riding gear is also available. There is lots of specialized gear and clothing designed for motorcycle riding in cold weather. What to choose depends on several factors, such as comfort, style, personal preference, and budget.
So, when riding in cold or even cool weather, dress accordingly, be prepared with the proper protection, and recognize the early signs of hypothermia. When your body starts shiver, stop, take a break inside where it is warm and drink something hot to let your body recuperate and your core body temperature regain heat.
Respectfully submitted by,
Ride safe, so you can ride tomorrow!