Don’t get overheated. Tips from IAM RoadSmart to stay hydrated to keep your concentration levels high!

Blog post posted on 17/06/21 |

The UK is renown for changeable and unsettled weather conditions. Temperatures might just have decreased to a manageable level, but we are only at the start of the unpredictable British Summer so don’t get caught out – stay hydrated!

In just one day we can go from thundery outbreaks, to soaring temperatures, but what is the impact on riders around the country? Area Service Delivery Manager Pete Doherty reinforces the importance of good hydration - particularly for motorcyclists. When ‘breathable summer biking kit’ still means everything from helmet to boots, gloves and a plethora of elbow, knee, shoulder, and back armour.

Pete learnt some great tips for staying hydrated from Dr. Eric Saunderson, a National Observer, Masters (Distinction), Masters Mentor and Fellow (F1RST), when he was delivering off-road motorcycle training in Nepal. He wanted some advice that he could share with his students.

However, it’s not just in Nepal he’s needed these tips. Just last week he got caught in two traffic jams, in 26 degrees heat, which meant he was on his bike for over 3 hours longer than expected. Luckily, he was well prepared with lots of water.

His advice – which, while particularly relevant for motorcyclists in relevant safety gear, applies to both bike riders and car drivers - is as follows:

Cases & symptoms

  • Dehydration is serious. One percent dehydration is significant and can cause dry skin and weight loss. Just two percent dehydration is life threatening.
  • Dehydration can be exacerbated by conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, vomiting, diarrhoea and heatstroke. Medications like diuretics or drinking alcohol can also increase the severity of the impact of dehydration on your system.
  • We lose fluids from four organs; our kidneys, skin, bowel and lungs. The severity and speed of the fluid loss is dependent on environmental temperature and humidity. In hotter, drier conditions, dehydration will be quicker and more sustained.
  • It is our kidneys that compensate for any loss of hydration, so – when dehydration occurs – we suffer reduced urinary output with high concentration and a visible orange hue.
  • Dehydration often causes a lack of concentration. When driving a car or riding a motorcycle, this lack of concentration could be catastrophic.
  • Take steps to avoid the risks of dehydration on driving and riding capability at all times.

Prevention and treatment

  • To prevent dehydration, drink water or fluids often, before any symptoms occur.
  • Frequent loo stops will be necessary, and urine should always be pale in colour.
  • All bikers and drivers should carry adequate supplies of water for each journey they take, particularly in hot conditions.
  • Thirst and dark urine should be avoided. Urine should be straw to yellow in colour. Any change in colour (darker urine) signals problems. Once you develop symptoms of dehydration, it is too late to maintain activity, as drinking at this stage takes some time to reverse the effects. Rehydration takes time.
  • The brain is particularly sensitive to dehydration and produces the initial symptoms. Be alert for early signs including:  
    • Feeling thirsty
    • headache 
    • poor concentration 
    • dark yellow or orange urine
    • feeling tired
    • dry mouth.
  • When planning journeys or rides out, give plenty of thought in advance to meeting venues or stopping points where refreshments are available. Think about refreshments at your starting and stopping points too.
  • For motorcyclists, if on a socially distanced ride out with friends or Associates, remember to maintain your hydration on the ride home as well.
  • Planning hydration breaks during journeys may be a little more difficult at the moment, with some venues still closed, but a little prior planning will make it possible for you to stay hydrated and safe at all times.

Pete added: “As motorcyclists, we really do need to keep on top of hydration – as opposed to keeping on top of dehydration, when it may be too late to make a difference. This particularly extends to any friends, family, or Associates with whom we are riding and who are new to motorcycling. They may not realise the effects of wearing all the kit, so it is important they are taught to recognise – and react - when they have not had enough fluid intake.

“So, please drink plenty and often, and carry more water than you think you may need. And in the immortal words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues ‘Let’s be careful out there!’” or as one famous Portuguese footballer said recently ‘choose aqua’.