Despite the fact we’re now looking back at summer over our shoulders, recently, we’ve been out riding in 32 degree temperatures in full kit and that’s not cool – literally. We have, however, found a couple of ways to beat the heat and enjoy the ride…
If it’s too hot to wear gear, it’s too hot to ride, right? Right. So, find a way to ride in full kit, but keep your cool. Hmm, no mean trick.
In February, it takes about two minutes of traffic light hatching – sitting on a red light until it goes green – before you started shedding kilos through every pore and running the serious risk of heat exhaustion! Surely, there’s something out there to make the life of a motorcyclist a little more comfortable in the height of Summer?
Introducing the ‘cooling vest’ – well, two of them to be accurate, with enough differences between them to warrant a shootout of sorts.
Cool vest #1
The first vest – branded Macna – is a reasonably lightweight piece of kit – remarkably similar to tent or awning canvas material – with what appears to be moth holes all over it, and is worn over a shirt, but under your bike gear.
The moth holes, presumably, facilitate either airflow from the outside in, or permit venting from the inside out. Either way, they are functional rather than fashionable, and whichever way they work, they work well.
The trickiest – and coolest – bit, is that the vest itself is kind of like an envelope and you fill it with .5 of a litre of cold water before you put it on. That little bit of water fills a series of otherwise flat bladders throughout the vest and, as they fill, slowly bulking out the vest slightly, they become a cool layer under your riding gear.
As you ride, the cool will dissipate over the space of two or three hours, at which point, it’s a good idea to drain the system and start again if you plan to carry on riding.
After you’ve been riding a few hours with the vest on and you start to feel like a packet of warmed 2-minute noodles, well, it’s probably time to take a break anyway.
The Macna vest is lightweight when empty and reasonably effective when properly full.
If your riding gear is of an – ahem – form-fitting cut, you can wear the Macna at half capacity, but be warned, the vest fills from right to left as opposed to bottom to top, so if you do ride at half strength, you’re going to have the most peculiar sensation of a chilled nipple on one side and a well-poached one on the other.
Cool vest #2
The second vest – branded Hydro Cool, though there are a number of different brands around which use the same tech – is slightly different. It resembles a blue, quilted space blanket – for kids.
While the Macna vest zips conventionally up the middle, the Hydro Cool has a side zip, which means you can wear the Hydro Cool as a straight ‘slip over,’ so if you are of generous proportions and given to replacing zips on your garments, possibly the Hydro Cool is a better bet for you.
This cooling vest works differently to the Macna. In the first instance, it is bladder-free and in the second, you soak the vest completely in water, rather than pouring water into it.
Dry off the vest as best you can, inside and out and pop it on over your shirt. There’s some ‘unicorn dust’ inside the jacket that reacts with water and retains the ‘cool factor’ of the jacket, though this is hard to detect at first because, well, you have just been soaking it in cold water. Trust me, the ‘unicorn dust’ is in there though.
As with the other, the Hydro Cool is worn over the shirt and under the gear, but it seems considerably more effective and longer lasting than the Macna, though you do have a greater risk of a wet undershirt. Well, you were going to be drenched in sweat anyway…
Unlike your outer gear, the vests are effective, even if they don’t fit perfectly. Your ‘showboat’ gear goes over the top of the vests, so you don’t have to worry too much about being seen as a dedicated follower of fashion when it comes to picking the vest that best suits your sense of style and budget.
Yes, a cool vest adds to the seemingly never-ending wardrobe today’s rider shouldn’t be without, but by looking cool in your proper kit and being physically cool with a cool vest, you’ll enjoy your ride that much more.