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13th November 2017 by Yo-yo

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Harley Davidson riders roll with the heat

ABU DHABI // Sitting in traffic, revving an engine that drums up the temperature to 60 degrees, Marcel Bode feels the beads of sweat rolling down his back, quickly absorbed by his leather jacket.

Despite the summer heat that keeps most people indoors, he can think of no better way to make his daily 20km commute than on his Harley-Davidson Road King.

"When you are in traffic standing still, you don't have the wind to cool you down, and you are sitting on all of the heat from the engine that goes straight up, so it can get really harsh, something you cannot bear for a very long time," he said. "But then you just continue the ride, and it's fine."

Hardcore "hog" riders may shed some of their gear, make more stops, or ride during the cooler hours of the day, but they won't give up the open road during the summer. "It's kind of part of the enjoyment, challenging yourself to ride in less-than-ideal conditions," said Stefan Malinowski, who rides a Harley Sportster and a Suzuki C800 cruiser.

Mr Malinowski, a local musician who has been a member of the Abu Dhabi Exiles motorcycle group for four years, said there is hardly a dip in the number of dedicated riders over the summer during their weekly evening rides.

For rides alone in areas outside the city, Mr Malinowski stops frequently to check the motorcycle's fluid levels.  He brings extra water and a fully charged mobile phone.

You have to be prepared for any sort of thing, because the heat adds an extra threat to it," he said.

While Mr Malinowski often goes out in a T-shirt and jeans, some riders opt to shed their thick leather for a mesh leather motorcycle jacket, which can include armour-plate inserts.  The tough fabric still offers abrasion protection in case of a fall but breathes easier than typical motorcycle gear.

Heavy wind flow against the skin at high speeds can limit the body's perspiration rate, even when temperatures are extremely high.  Less sweating under these conditions can increase the body's heat.

Suits with ajustable vents, or light layers, can provide a more moderate air flow around the skin.  Some riders wear hydration vests, filled with freezer gel packs, to cool down the body temperature.  Mr Bode, who is the general manager of a Harley-Davidson showroom in Dubai, said these kind of vests are becoming more popular this year.

Many riders even scale down their helmets, swapping their full-face protection for a half-face, open-face and shorter styles. More open helmets offer better ventilation, but less protection.

Local businessman, Ali Kaddas, likes to ride his Harley Fat Boy in the early morning, when there is a little bit of mist, and later in the day as the sun is setting.  He regularly rides between Yas Island and the city, and takes weekly rides to Ghantoot.

"Even if the humidity is too extreme, it is nice to find time early in the morning or even very late at night," he said, adding that the humidity usually does not bother him when he rides.

Caring for the motorcycle itself is important in the hotter summer months too, he said. Many people he knows take their bike to the Harley shop every few weeks to have the leather details maintained and the fluids, cables, tires and battery terminals checked.

Riders agreed that they should stop frequently for water and, whether they wear a T-shirt or mesh, should not forget to wear sunscreen.

Erin Conroy
Abu Dhabi Week,

N.B.: Ali and Stefan were somewhat misquoted in this article.