One thing that we all have to pay attention to
and be extremely careful about this time of year is dehydration. Dehydration is a loss of water and important blood salts like potassium
and sodium which can be very serious, especially when riding a motorcycle. It
occurs when the amount of water in the body falls below normal, which, in turn,
disrupts the balance of sugars and salts (electrolytes) in the body. A lot of
us, especially those that are new to the area, don't really know that much
about dehydration in general, and certainly not as it applies to riding. I
didn't know that much about it either until about 5 years ago when Mr.
Dehydration introduced himself to me as I was riding South down
I-17 just North of Rock Springs. He made a believer out of me. It is
one of those days that I won't soon forget, and it taught me a big lesson about
not getting into that situation again. I, like a lot of other riders, had
underestimated the impact of dehydration on my body.
I was heading back to
the Valley in the late afternoon heading into temperatures
of about 109 degrees, which was of course much hotter on the Interstate.
About 20 miles North of Rock Springs I started noticing that I had
cotton mouth so bad that I couldn't have mustered up a spit for a $100
bill. A few miles later I noticed that my sweat glands were no longer producing
any sweat. My arms and face were completely dry. Shortly after that I remember
that I starting having blurred vision, almost like I was seeing stars
followed by a dizzy feeling and weakness in my muscles, like I really
wasn't in complete control. Not being an expert in dehydration, or for that
matter ever experiencing it before, I didn't know clinically what was going
on, but I had a pretty good idea that was what was happening.
My immediate problem was, I didn't have any
water with me, and I was still about 15 miles from Rock Springs where I
could get some. The closer I got to water the worse my symptoms
were getting. More blurred vision, getting more unsteady and weaker by the mile.
It was like when I started going downhill physically, it was a rapid decent and
every mile I rode doing 75 mph in 107 degree temps with no windshield just
seemed to be sapping every ounce of moisture out of my body. I was almost to the
point that I couldn't even swallow and considered stopping and letting my
riding buddy go get me some water. I wasn't sure that I was actually going to be
able to make it. But I decided to focus while counting down each
mile in hopes that I would soon get to water.
We finally made it to the gas
station next to the Rock Springs Cafe. For me, that old place had never
looked so good. It was truly an oasis in the desert. I promptly
threw down the kick stand and headed to the cooler to make my claim on the
biggest bottle of water I could find and downed it in two gulps. I followed
that with a big bottle of Gatorade. It wasn't long until I was starting
to regain some of my faculties while getting back to normal
vision and able to think straight. Needless to say, this put a little scare in
me and I learned my lesson without it turning ugly on me. Now when I
am riding in the heat I pay attention to maintaining hydration in my
Now, what should you do to avoid what happened
Here are some tips to keep yourself in good
hydration all the time and while riding.
1. Keep the direct sun off of your skin.
Wear a light colored long sleeve shirt over your arms and a
helmet or a bandanna on your head. Exposing your skin to sun and wind is a
double whammy that only increases fluid loss from your body. Wear generous
sunscreen on exposed areas. Your brain is about 75 percent water, so anything
you can do to keep your head covered is a good thing. A helmet can go a long way
in preserving fluids in your body when it is extremely hot.
2. Pour water over your shirt. A
good way to create a natural evap cooler for your body is to pour water over you
arms, neck and the front of your shirt. While you are riding this provides a
cooling sensation for your body.
3. Drink LOTS of water. You should
be drinking at least 8 ounces of water every hour when riding and probably more.
Sports drinks like Gatorade are also good as they replenish needed electrolytes
as well as fluid. Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, and soda pop, as well
as alcoholic drinks, should not be considered as alternatives for hydration. In
fact, caffeine and alcohol can actually contribute to
4. Drink water BEFORE you are thirsty. Once you have gotten to the point that your mouth is bone dry, you are on
your way to dehydration.
5. Take in more fluid than you are losing. If you are not making a trip to bathroom regularly, or your urine is a
dark color, this means you are not getting enough liquids in your body. This is
something to pay attention to daily, not just when riding.
6. A good idea for keeping you hydrated while
you are riding is a CamelBak Hydration System. This is a 70 ounce
pack that fits on your back with a tube that comes around for you to drink water
while you are riding. Click Here to view. Click Here for some more ideas.
7. Symptoms of dehydration: Thirst,
Dry Mouth, Dry Tongue, Fatigue, Dark Colored Urine, Infrequent Urination, Dry
Skin, Rapid Pulse, Dizziness, Blurred Vision. Here is a good link for Preventing Dehydration.
With the humidity being as low as 4% on a daily
basis right now. Dehydration can come upon you very quickly. Stay
ahead of it by drinking plenty of water or sports drinks. As you are taking
trips in or out of the Valley area, be sure and take water with you when you
travel and make a note to drink some at every stop. Just be aware, this could
happen to you.