Beat The Heat—Tips For Cycling In The Hot Summer Months
Summer in the northern hemisphere has arrived, and that means warmer temperatures and fewer flurries of precipitation. Hot, dry conditions demand a unique approach to both preparing for your ride and making sure you’re keeping yourself safe while out on the bike. Be sure to stay up to date on information and notices from your specific region’s weather experts, and pay close attention to any advisories from local officials that warn of excessive heat. Riding for prolonged periods of time in hot weather can adversely affect your health. So, as always, make sure to consult your physician before engaging in strenuous exercise, particularly when it comes to working out in hot weather.
All that said, many cyclists enjoy riding their bikes amidst bright sunshine and warm weather, and some even revel in the challenge of riding in the heat. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re not only staying safe in the hot, summer months, but also maximizing both the effectiveness of your workouts and your fun factor.
PLAN YOUR RIDES ACCORDINGLY
As with preparing for any ride, paying attention to the weather conditions is vital to making sure you’re staying safe and having fun. Elements like rain, wind, and snow can play a major part in planning a route or workout, and the same holds true for hot weather. Check your local weather forecast and take note of when temperatures will increase, while also noting any potential heat advisories from your local health officials. If your schedule allows you to ride during any time of the day, consider riding in the early morning when the daily temperature will often be the coolest. If your only opportunities to ride force you to face some hot weather, then plan a route that can be easily accomplished with a lower risk of you becoming stranded if you suffer a mechanical or bonk. Short loops around your home can be great options in case you have some sort of emergency or simply need to finish your ride quickly due to excessive heat. Likewise, riding with a group of friends offers some extra support and safety, as you can help monitor each other in the event of excessive heat, aid one another in quickly repairing a mechanical, or even share water and fuel if needed. Ultimately, when in doubt, don’t go out—meaning if the weather seems too hot in which to safely and comfortably ride, don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk. If that’s the case, we recommend riding on a stationary trainer in an air-conditioned home, which will allow you to get in your workout without any risk.
EASE INTO IT
Just like when it comes to riding at higher altitudes or in colder climates, it’s key that you allow your body to acclimate to riding in increased heat. This is especially true if the temperature in your region has suddenly increased in a short span of time, as opposed to gradually increasing over several weeks. If your available riding opportunities force you to face the hottest parts of the day, then start off slow—both in terms of riding duration and the effort you’re putting in. Plan on reducing your daily ride time by 30-50%, and keep things at an easy spin for the first few rides. This will not only make sure you don’t shock your system by overheating it, it’ll also allow your body to gradually get used to riding in the heat. As you continue to ride on a more frequent basis throughout the summertime, listen to your body and steadily increase your duration and the intensity of your efforts. If you’re able to adjust your daily schedule to fit in a ride at any time of day, we recommend riding during the early morning when the temperature is much cooler than at midday.
As with any type of exercise, riding your bike requires that you keep yourself properly hydrated and fueled. This is especially true when riding in hot conditions. Your body’s temperature will be more susceptible to overheating, and you’ll be sweating more profusely. That’s a recipe for disaster if you’re not monitoring your hydration intake. It's always best to be prepared, so carry more water with you on each ride than you think you’ll need. A good tip is to add some ice to your bottles when you first set out, which will help ensure your water remains cooler for longer. To that end, if you find that your water is heating up excessively, stop your ride at a convenience store, grocery store, or other venue with available water, so you can replace the warm water with some chilled alternatives. Drinking warm—or worse, hot—water during exercise isn't refreshing, and it can even overheat your body more rapidly. If you regularly consume a drink mix on your rides, then consult the nutrition product’s manufacturer for recommendations on serving sizes when exercising in hot weather. Many may recommend adjusting serving sizes depending on riding conditions and your training goals, and some may even have unique formulations for riding in different temperatures.
CLOTHING IS KEY
Outfitting yourself with the proper apparel can make or break a bike ride. When it comes to riding in hot conditions, make sure you’re able to stay as cool as possible. Look for jerseys and shorts with breathable fabric. Also look for lighter colors, which can help deflect the intensity of the sun. Likewise, if you have any exposed skin, always make sure you’re protecting yourself with some sunscreen. Many clothing manufacturers also offer arm and leg “coolers”—which are similar to arm and leg warmers, but are produced in lightweight, breathable, and UV-resistant fabrics to protect your skin from the sun while not overheating your limbs. Also consider using a helmet with a visor in order to give your face some extra shade. Alternatively, riding with a cycling cap underneath your helmet can do the trick—just make sure it’s a cap designed for warm weather with lightweight, breathable fabric so your head is less likely to overheat. Make sure your sunglasses are of high-quality, and feature lenses that can adequately mitigate the harsh glare of bright summer days.
Whenever you go for a bike ride, you should be prepared. And preparation can vary depending on various circumstances, including the location and duration of your ride, your specific bike and its components, and especially the weather. For bike rides in hot conditions, make sure you’re prepared in the usual ways. These include packing proper food and hydration suitable for the duration and exertion of your planned ride (paying mind to the extra importance of hydration in hot conditions); bringing along some tools to fix a flat tire and make minor repairs to your bike; and carrying a cell phone to call for assistance, should the need arise. Also, when it comes to finishing a ride in hot weather, be prepared to pay a little extra attention to your recovery efforts. Be mindful of how your body is coping once you finish your ride. Be prepared to increase your post-ride fluid intake to account for the extra sweat and nutrients you lost, and even have some beverages chilling in the refrigerator beforehand. Consider taking a cold shower or bath to cool your body down if you happen to be especially overheated. Remember, hot weather needn’t keep you from riding—it just requires a little extra preparation.