I'm melting, I'm melting...

[July 24, 2006]

July, soon to be August.  I swear it's hotter than hell.  I bet you Mephistopheles would run for cover if he had to stand out in the sun for 5 minutes.  What's worse? System shock.  One step pass a door and it's a blast furnace.  From 78F to 100+F in less than 3 feet.  If that's not bad enough, it's no fun having this hot air blast at you at 50+ MPH.  You would think the air flow would help things because of the wind chill factor.  Hello?  Wind chill in 100+F temperature?  That's more akin to having an overgrown hair dryer blasting in your direction no matter which way you go.  One thing is for sure, you can dry your hair really fast if it's not for that sweating business.

Am I insane?  Maybe.  I guess I enjoy riding too much to give it up.  Even for one day.  So I put up with it, or so I thought I could.  One day, while at the Pomona BMW dealer to purchase oil and a new air filter, my wife noticed some cool vests.  I heard her mention something to the effect, "...air conditioning for your motorcycle..."  I didn't think much about it at the time and wondered if it would work.

Weeks later, it was so hot that I thought I was going to keel over with a heat stroke in the middle of a ride.  Being a somewhat inventive type of guy, I came up with an idea that might help alleviate this whole heat business.  Of course I had forgotten about my wife's comment at the BMW dealer.  Anyway, I use to mountain bike so I have several CoolMax Primal Wear jerseys.  I figured a wet jersey might be able to keep me cool and make my commute a little easier.  The next day I went to work with one of the jerseys in my pannier.  Before heading off for the ride home, I soak the jersey in warm water and put it on.  The warm water help to eliminate the initial cold shock when the jersey went on.  Seconds or  minutes later it was cold.  Really cold.  Really wet, too.  Undeterred, I went ahead and put my 661 armor over the wet mop and proceeded to head out to Mr. Moto.  To my pleasant surprise, it was a little cold but at the same time it was very comfortable.  The heat didn't bother me at all.  Unfortunately it only lasted for 1/2 hour.  Once the water was all gone, it started getting hot again.  Since the back of the jersey was still wet, it helped a to prevent a complete all around heat up.

Now here's the deal.  4 of us are planning on riding to Yosemite in August (now moved to September).  Not only that, we're all going to stay at my parent's place in Fresno for two nights.  Having lived in Fresno for 20+ year, I know how hot it can get.  In some instances 110+F.  Yes, that's insane.  Not only that, it stays hot in Fresno until around late October.  The thought of riding in 110+F doesn't appeal to me.  The jersey trick works but it only works for about 1/2 hour at a stretch.  Not long enough.  I'm going to have to find something better.

When my wife saw me with the Primal Wear jersey she asked why.  I gave her the explanation and she mentioned to me again about the cool vest at Brown BMW (Pomona).  The light bulb came on in my head and something like "Oh yeah" came streaming out of my mouth.  So the next day, I looked up cool vests on the Internet.

Apparently there are several types of cool vests out there for all your hot outdoor activities.  The two that stands out are the polymer base vest, which absorbs moisture and slowly releases the water through evaporation, and the Isotherm cooling vest, which utilizes a chemical cold pack to cool things off.  Since the polymer vest perform it's cooling using evaporation, it needs air flow in order to work.  The Isotherm system utilizes a chemical cool pack that can be recharged by putting the pack in ice cold water or in a refrigerator for 20 minutes.  No air flow is needed for the Isotherm vest to work.  The chemical pack can be reused thousands of time before a replacement is needed.  In my case it is more practical to use the polymer vest since I don't have a refrigerator to cool down the cold pack for 20 minutes in the middle of a desert.  It's much easier to recharge the vest by soaking it in a Ziploc bag for two minutes.  On top of that, Isotherm Cool Vests are very expensive.  They average about $100+.  Polymer vests are really down to earth, between $35 and $45.

I took off early from work one day and headed to Brown BMW to get three polymer cool vests.  For Russell, Eugene, and myself.  Russell really needed one because of his Yamaha R1's heating properties.

How does the vest feel and work?  Well, it still get a little cold initially but nowhere near the jersey, and it does a great job of regulating my body temperature.  Does it get you wet?  A little.  It's more damp than wet.  In fact, you can determine what level of moisture you want based on how much water you let it soak up (e.g. the length of time you let it sitting in water and how much excess water you wring out of it).  It's not quite air conditioning but it does the job quite well.  The air flow and the evaporation does cool you off and make those 100+F days more bare able.

I use the vest every day that I remember to bring it.  On those days that I forget the vest and it's really hot outside, I dread the ride home.  My other plan is to have a couple of cool neck bands handy for those days when I forget the vest, but that's another story.

According to the folks at Brown BMW, the vest is suppose to be good for 4 hours at a stretch.  From my experience, I have seen the vest stay wet over multiple days because I sufficiently wet the vest and only expose it to the hot air for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  For those that are interested in riding their Mr. Moto all year round, like me, I recommend you get one or two polymer cool vests for those warm or hot summer days.  In terms of effectiveness, I give the polymer cool vest a 8 out of 10.  At $40 for the vest, it's a great deal.

Written on: July 24, 2006
Last modified: July 24, 2006