How to deal with motorcycle engine heat in traffic

Too much heat can affect a rider's judgement
by Carlo Chungunco | Nov 28, 2017

The Philippines is a tropical country, and nowhere is that more obvious than when one is riding a motorcycle on a daily basis.

Unlike driving a car, where the cabin temperature can be controlled almost to a fault, riding a bike means having to deal with the heat that comes with your choice of vehicle.

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Our climate plays only a small part, however, as any rider will tell you that one of the main sources of excess heat while sitting in traffic comes from your own bike’s engine.

As gasoline is turned into mini explosions, the heat generated by straddling an engine between your legs can, at times, become unbearable. And too much heat affects the rider’s behavior and reflexes.

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Here are five helpful tips that may help you keep cool down when your engine decides otherwise:

1. Keep moving. Nothing heats up an engine faster than sitting idly in traffic. Without flowing fresh air, a bike’s engine, whether it be air or liquid-cooled, starts heating up rapidly. Such heat then radiates around the engine and into your body. A bike is small and nimble; use this to your advantage and keep the bike moving so that the air can do its job and cool the engine.

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2. Get an RFID tag. This one is for the big bike owners out there who take their bikes out of town. Nothing is worse than a bike on the verge of overheating because you had to line up behind all the cars to pay your toll fee. Getting an RFID tag not only simplifies the payment system (no more fumbling for that P500 bill in your wallet), it also ensures that as little time as possible is spent stationary behind other vehicles, which ties to the previous tip, that of staying in motion.

3. Maintain your ride. A well-maintained engine is an engine that runs just that little bit cooler. Change your oil when your manufacturer recommends it, and if your bike has a radiator, make sure it is flushed when you start to notice that your bike’s temperature rises faster than normal. Engine coolant sometimes boils when it overheats, and such boiling makes it less effective at dissipating heat, which leads to a slippery slope whereby it is gets worse and worse over time.

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4. Choose your gear properly. Sure, that leather jacket may offer more protection and looks infinitely cooler, but there’s something to be said also about using more breathable motorcycle gear. Try checking out something with more ventilation like mesh jackets and ventilated riding pants. The small drop in abrasion resistance is worth the gain in temperature control. After all, one cannot safely ride a bike if one’s brain is on the verge of shutting down due to an impending heat stroke.

5. Spread your legs. This is actually one of the simplest ways to cool down while riding and it doesn’t entail any additional cost. It’s not just your radiator or engine that needs fresh air, your body may need it too and simply spreading your knees apart while moving means that fresh air can hit your thighs. And this, coupled with distancing your legs from the radiant heat emanating from the engine means that you yourself can cool down too.

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These tips should help you maintain your cool while riding.

Save for the unbearable heat, the Philippines is an amazing country to be a motorcyclist. That being said, every little bit helps in cooling you and your bike down.

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PHOTO: Carlo Chungunco
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