With endless miles of dirt roads, expansive wilderness, and the sort of sunsets that make travel magazine centerfolds, riding motorcycles in Arizona is downright amazing. That said, adventure riding is all about extremes, and there are few things more extreme than riding in Arizona through our notorious summer heat.
When I packed my panniers to hit the road in search of cooler temperatures, the main thing on my mind was how to arm myself against the summer swelter. My plan was to leave Arizona before sunrise and pound some high-speed pavement until I reached Utah. I soaked a bandanna to tie around my neck, filled my collection of insulated bottles to the brim with ice, and unzipped every vent on my jacket to make the steamy trek towards higher ground.
My weapon of choice for slicing through the summer heat was an Africa Twin. With Honda’s DCT transmission and a 6.4-gallon tank, the Adventure Sports version of this bike is perfect for long-haul trucking. This particular Africa Twin, our Overland Expo Ultimate Overland Motorcycle Build this year, was kitted end-to-end with upgrades ranging from lights to tires to luggage. Of particular interest for me on this trip was the fully re-tooled seat from KonTour that has, among its many features, a “Polar Mesh” outer layer. Anything with the word polar in it sounds promising for summer riding and I saddled up and set off for a hot day of motorcycling.
From the moment I hit the road, it was clear that the folks at KonTour know what they’re doing when it comes to long-distance travel and desert riding. The aforementioned Polar Mesh is the outermost of several layers that make up this space-aged seat. The patented monofilament polyester mesh allows vapor to dissipate and fresh air to circulate. I could feel the airflow through the saddle as I headed north on the cactus-lined highway and the sun climbed higher in the sky.
Long after my bandanna had dried, the seat still circulated air and, even as temperatures hovered in the triple digits, the seat beneath me managed to keep its cool. Of course, cool is a relative term in the Arizona summer, but KonTour Seat was founded here in Tucson, and Ron Miller, the mastermind behind the seat, is committed to building some of the most cooling, comfortable motorcycle seats available on the market today.
Beneath the Polar Mesh, the second layer of the seat served as a radiant heat barrier and made for decidedly cooler riding. The aluminized, ripstop, spun polyethylene fabric beneath the Polar Mesh helps prevent the underlying foam layers from heating up (in addition to being waterproof, a feature I, unfortunately, didn’t get to test). Whether I was sitting in the saddle or off the bike chugging ice water, leaving the seat exposed to the sun, the second layer of the KonTour seat helps keep the underlying foam layers cool.
Climbing out of the desert basin and north onto the Colorado Plateau, the elevation finally afforded me some relief from the lowland heat. Despite the cooler temperatures, a new challenge began to set in: fatigue from hundreds of miles of churning tarmac. Fortunately, KonTour had a solution for that as well.
Don’t get me wrong, straight out of the box, the Africa Twin is exceptionally well constructed for long-distance touring. It’s a stable bike with a strong engine that makes for smooth sailing. It is also loaded with great features like cruise control that lets the miles fly by and Apple CarPlay to keep the tunes rolling in your helmet. Even with all the bells and whistles that the Adventure Sports package includes, fatigue from riding is a real thing.
The third and fourth layers of the KonTour seat are the fatigue-fighting part of the equation. Each is designed to mitigate a different frequency of vibration and ease the strain of long pavement rides. The third layer is a crush-resistant “spherical” resilient foam, and the fourth layer is military specification viscoelastic foam. While the 3rd layer diffuses high and mid-frequency vibration, like those coming from the dirt-oriented Heidenau tires I was running, the fourth layer dampens pronounced vibration from the bumps and ruts in the road.
Despite the fact that I was several hundred miles into my journey, the KonTour seat still felt incredibly comfortable, and the high-tech materials certainly eased some of the inevitable road-weariness. KonTour custom tunes their seats specifically to your riding style and, when they re-tooled the stock seat, they added a set of “wings” made from high-density foam. The wings allow you to change position easily– making for comfortable riding on the long stretches of tarmac that often bookend off-road adventure riding.
Once I peeled off the pavement and turned onto a forest road leading into the La Sal range in southeast Utah, the wings deflected downwards as I stood up on the pegs in the loose dirt. The chill coming off the mountains poured through the vents in my jacket, and I wound my way towards a campsite amongst the aspen trees and wildflowers.
Sitting by my campfire in the mountains that evening, I found myself thinking about how adventure riding is all about extremes. When it’s hot, you’re hot. When it’s raining, you’re wet. If it’s cold, so are you. There’s no avoiding the elements, you simply prepare to face them. Of course, all you need is a bike that runs, but having a solid motorcycle with a sweet seat sure makes adventure riding more enjoyable. As I pulled on my sweatshirt, I was feeling thankful for the bike that got me here and how the heat was something I wouldn’t have to deal with for a while now that I was in the high country… until it was time to ride home, that is.