Hypothermia During Warm Weather Riding
In 2009 I was riding my GSX1100G to a rally in West Virginia. The plan was to meet my riding Buddy Mike at the Lil’ Abner Motel in Slade, Kentucky near Natural Bridge State Park. We would spend the night there before heading to the rally site in Fayetteville the next day.
As is my luck, a storm front arrived, bringing rain the very morning I was to depart. I delayed leaving for a couple of hours, letting it pass (East, the direction I’d be going). This would hopefully allow for the roads to dry a bit.
I finally headed out at 10am after securing my Frogg Toggs with a bungee cord to the seat. This would allow for quick access should I find myself revisiting those clouds. About a hundred miles into the ride, I could see that I was catching up to the front and pulled off to don my rain gear.
Lo and behold, my Frogg Togg’s top section had parted company with the bike somewhere along the West Kentucky Parkway, now part of I-69. The temperature was over 70F when I headed out, so I was wearing a mesh jacket (which will come into play later in the ride). I put on the pant covers and headed into the foreboding dark skies ahead.
Catching up to the rain just past Beaver Dam, Kentucky, I pressed on. It was a steady downpour but I felt no signs of wind or lightning. I realized soon that wearing a soaking wet mesh jacket at 70+ miles per hour is like wearing your own portable air conditioner.
My hands were getting really cold by the time I reached Bardstown, Kentucky so I pulled off to gas up and change into some dry gloves. Seventy five miles further up the Bluegrass Parkway, I made it to Lexington, Kentucky right as rush hour was starting. The rain intensity had increased and the traffic was stop-go until I cleared Lexington, heading up I-64 to the Mountain Parkway.
Slade is about sixty five miles up the Mountain Parkway and by the time I took the exit off of I-64 I was keenly aware that my core temperature was dropping. I decided my best option was to cover those miles as fast as possible and get out of the wet gear. I wicked it up to 80+ in what I saw as a race against time before I succumbed to Hypothermia.
I blew past a Kentucky State Trooper doing at least ninety. I suppose he thought I was Insane because he didn’t bother giving chase. The rain had stopped which was a mixed blessing because it got cooler and I was still soaked. I finally took the exit for Slade just as the shaking began to start. I saw Mike’s bike, pulled in as he opened the motel room door and responded to his immediate “What the hell happened to you?” with a quick “I need a hot shower NOW!”
For the remainder of the weekend, our weather was splendid. After a hot shower and some pizza, I recovered nicely. Lessons learned:
- Never ride into a weather front if it’s avoidable.
- Don’t trust anything critical in your trip to bungee cord.
- Hypothermia can set in at temperatures well above freezing, especially when wet.
- Any barrier between your body and rain or wind, even a garbage bag, is better than nothing.
- When on a long ride, keep spare gloves, socks, and base layer clothing somewhere waterproof. Gallon-sized zip lock bags work nicely if you don’t have hard luggage.
How Do You Battle The Elements When Riding?
There are a lot of inclement weather products on the market. Which ones do you prefer? What do you like about them and why? Your input is invited. Post an article!