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Stay Cool and Comfortable: The Benefits of Wearing a Wicking Base Layer vs. Cotton When Riding in Summer Heat

Riding a motorcycle in the summer can be one of the most exhilarating experiences, but it also comes with the challenge of staying cool and comfortable in the heat. Many riders face the dilemma of choosing the right clothing to manage sweat and keep cool during their rides. While cotton has been a traditional go-to for many, the advent of modern wicking materials offers a compelling alternative. In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits of wearing a base layer of wicking material compared to cotton when riding your motorcycle in the summer heat.

Note: when we discuss wicking material, we are talking about synthetic compression clothing - shirts & shorts. While specialized wicking material does exist for motorcycles, any compression clothing will perform better in the heat than any cotton clothing. 

1. **Superior Moisture Management**

One of the primary benefits of wicking materials is their superior ability to manage moisture. Wicking fabrics are designed to pull sweat away from your skin and spread it across the fabric's surface, where it can evaporate quickly. This process helps keep you dry and prevents the uncomfortable, sticky feeling that comes with wearing damp clothing.

In contrast, cotton absorbs moisture and holds onto it. When you sweat, cotton clothing can become heavy, wet, and clingy, leading to discomfort and chafing. This can be particularly problematic during long rides when you need to stay focused and comfortable.

2. **Enhanced Comfort**

Comfort is key when you're spending hours on your bike. Wicking materials are typically lightweight, stretchy, and designed to fit snugly against your skin. This close fit helps reduce friction and prevent chafing, making your ride more enjoyable.

Cotton, on the other hand, tends to lose its shape when wet and can bunch up or rub against your skin. This can lead to irritation and even painful rashes, which are the last things you want to deal with on a long summer ride.

3. **Temperature Regulation**

Wicking fabrics are engineered to help regulate your body temperature. By moving sweat away from your skin and allowing it to evaporate quickly, these materials help your body cool down more efficiently. This is especially important when riding in the summer heat, as it can help prevent overheating and heat exhaustion.

Cotton doesn't offer the same temperature regulation benefits. Once it becomes wet, it loses its ability to insulate and can actually make you feel colder when the wind hits you. This can create an uncomfortable cycle of feeling too hot when you're still and too cold when you're moving.

4. **Quick Drying**

One of the standout features of wicking materials is their quick-drying properties. After a rest stop or a break, your wicking base layer will dry much faster than cotton, allowing you to get back on the road feeling fresh and comfortable.

Cotton, however, can take a long time to dry, especially if it's saturated with sweat. This can leave you feeling damp and uncomfortable for the remainder of your ride.

5. **Odor Control**

Many modern wicking fabrics are treated with antimicrobial agents that help control odor. This can be a significant benefit during long rides, as it helps keep you smelling fresh even after hours of sweating.

Cotton can harbor bacteria and odor more easily, leading to unpleasant smells that can make your ride less enjoyable and your post-ride socializing a bit awkward.

6. **Durability**

Wicking materials are often more durable than cotton, retaining their shape and performance over time. This means your investment in high-quality wicking base layers can pay off in the long run with gear that stands up to repeated use and washing.

Cotton, on the other hand, can lose its shape and become worn out more quickly, especially when subjected to the rigors of motorcycle riding and frequent washing.


When it comes to riding in the summer heat, choosing the right base layer can make all the difference in your comfort and enjoyment. While cotton has its place, the benefits of wicking materials are clear: superior moisture management, enhanced comfort, temperature regulation, quick drying, odor control, and durability. By investing in high-quality wicking base layers, you can ensure a more comfortable, enjoyable, and safe riding experience.

So next time you're gearing up for a summer ride, leave the cotton at home and opt for a wicking base layer. Your body will thank you, and you'll be able to focus on the road ahead, enjoying every moment of your ride.

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