Motorcycle riding in Arizona is an interesting proposition. During the winter months, temperatures can reach the teens in the remote desert. In the summer temperatures can get up to 120 degrees. Those kinds of differences make finding the right kind of riding jacket nearly impossible.
While there are several jackets made for riding in the cold, riding in this kind of heat is not something that many people have to endure so manufacturers have been somewhat reluctant to develop riding gear for severe heat.
Although many ride in just a T-shirt, I would rather have something on my upper body that will protect me in case of an accident. The problem is finding something that will wick away moisture while still providing the necessary protection.
A jacket is advantageous during summer riding even during hot temperatures. The reason for this is that a jacket protects the rider from the hot sun beating down on him during the ride.
To date a rider had two choices when it came to protective riding jackets. There were leather jackets that protected very well but tended to be rather warm in the desert climate. There are mesh and lighter weight leather but these still tended to trap the moisture inside causing the rider to potentially overheat.
The other choice was textile jackets more commonly known as mesh jackets. The textile jackets allow air to flow through the mesh fabric to promote the removal of moisture. Many of the brands include some type of removable body armor that protects the rider from any mishaps.
The historical problem with jackets during summer riding has been one of moisture management and body cooling. When a rider sweats, air will evaporate the moisture and cool the rider. Too much though and the rider could dehydrate making for a dangerous riding situation. Too little and the rider could overheat.
Harley-Davidson Motorclothes division came out with a new jacket to help with the war against heat. During the spring they introduced what they referred to as a hydration jacket. This is a mesh jacket with special compartments that can hold hydration pouches.
The pouches contain polyacrylite crystals. When soaked in cool water the crystals expand. The expanded pouches are then added to the jacket. During a ride, air flows over the pouches cooling the rider allowing him to retain a lower body temperature.
The polyacrylite pouches are reusable. According to documentation that comes with the jacket the pouches are good for 50 rides or one year whichever comes first. Additional pouches are available for purchase from Harley-Davidson.
I was curious whether this jacket would live up to its billing. I bought the jacket and brought it home. The temperatures have been hovering around 100 degrees so I figured this would be the perfect time to try them.
Soaking the pouches takes approximately five minutes and I used cool water from the refrigerator since water coming out of the tap in Arizona really isn’t that cold during the summer. I was surprised how much the pouches swelled.
Besides being larger they were also a lot heavier. Adding the pouches to the jacket increased the weight of the coat by a measurable amount. Unfortunately I was so eager to try the jacket that I didn’t even think to weigh it but my guess was it was four to six pounds heavier.
I got on the bike and went for a ride. According to my bike thermometer the temperature was 101 degrees. I didn’t notice the weight of the jacket while I was wearing it. It felt fairly comfortable. The mesh jacket allowed for decent airflow.
I was skeptical of the polyacrylite crystals but I have to admit they really did work. It was much cooler with the pouches in place and almost made the ride bearable. Just to test and make sure it was not all in my head, I removed the pouches and put them in my saddlebags and rode home.
While the jacket had good airflow it was just warm air blowing from the atmosphere and I was much hotter. I am going to continue to use the hydration jacket during the warmer months and I’ll try to update with longer-term usage experiences.