With summer right around the corner (yes I know that it’s still snowing in some parts of the country, but for us spoiled Floridians, spring is already getting broiled away by our ever present and powerful sunshine) keeping cool while riding is not only desirable, but a necessity. The combination of high heat and humidity while expending energy can lead to dehydration and more serious heat related injuries.
Hot weather cycling is quite a challenge, but luckily your body will adapt to the heat rather quickly. Within ten to twelve days of hot weather cycling, you’ll start sweating earlier, and you’ll sweat more. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling through evaporation. As you acclimatize to the heat, you’re less likely to experience heat-related injuries like muscle cramps and heat stroke when you’re cycling. Below are some basic yet very important tips to help you beat the heat while cycling:
1. Ride Times: If possible, ride in the early morning to avoid higher temperatures. However, even with lower morning temperatures you still have to be cautious. Humidity levels are higher in the morning and winds tend to be lighter. This means your sweat won’t evaporate as quickly as it will later in the day when the wind picks up and the humidity levels drop.
2. Pre-hydrate. Start your ride well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water (16 ounces) before bedtime. In the early morning top up again with 16-24 ounces. Then during your ride drink another 4-8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes.
3. Hydrate while riding. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Start drinking as soon as you get on the bike. Get in the habit of drinking at least a few big gulps of fluid every 15 minutes, if not more often. Most cyclists need about 28 fluid oz. per hour, so drink fluids while biking accordingly. If you’re drinking from water bottles, you need to refill them. Most bikes have two water bottle holders, which is enough for a little over an hour of cycling if they both start out full. You’ll have to find somewhere to refill your bottles during your ride, so be sure to map out your ride accordingly. For long rides or high intensity rides a good option is to drink a sports drink to replenish the sodium and chloride you are loosing through your sweat.
4. Hydrate after riding. Even after your ride is finished, you have to keep drinking fluids. Your stomach doesn’t empty fast enough for your body to get enough fluids while cycling. The best way to determine how much you need to drink after a ride is to weigh yourself both before and after. Drink at least 20 oz. of fluids for every pound you lost on the ride.
5. Food. It’s easy to forget to eat on hot days, and often your appetite will be suppressed. Try to nibble on high carbohydrate snacks (nuts, malt loaf, bananas, energy bars) throughout the duration of your ride.
6. Sunscreen. With our relentless sun, sunscreen is a must have for any outdoor activity. Be sure to choose a sunscreen with a high FPF factor and make sure it’s waterproof. My favorite is kids sunscreen, such as Coppertone Waterbabies. Not only is it waterproof and has a high FPF, it’s also non irritating to your eyes. Pack a small tube with you on longer rides to re-apply during a break.
7. Clothing. Loose fitting natural fiber clothing works great for casual rides, but if your a road warrior you’ll want a full kit made of high quality synthetics to wick the moisture away while riding. Stick with lighter colored kits for the summer with zippered jerseys so you can quickly unzip when stopped at a light to keep your core temperature cool.
8. Sunglasses. Eye protection is always a must while riding. Be sure to use good quality sunglasses with dark lenses and UV protection; if possible, use polarized lenses.
9. Helmet. Always a must when riding. Be sure you helmet has a good protective fit as well as plenty of ventilation holes to keep your noggin cool.
10. Don’t overdo it. The faster and harder you ride in hot weather, the harder on your body it’s going to be. Obviously such riding can’t be avoided in a race or when training, but if you’re out in the country on an all-day ride, keep the pace steady and try to keep your energy expenditure low. Cycling in the summer can be an awesome experience, whether on the trails or the road, but know your limits. You should never try to push yourself too hard in the sun. If you ever feel dizzy or light-headed take a break in the shade. Apply water to your wrists and head to cool your body down. Remember heat injuries occur when your exercise heat load exceeds your body’s ability to regulate your body temperature. Heat injuries can be serious and should be treated immediately.
11. Bonus Tip. As just about every landscaped property in Florida has built in sprinklers, don’t pass up the opportunity to ride in their watery mists. It will instantly cool you down.
Today’s hot weather ride was a run down Treeline after a week or so off for a Disney Vacation with friends and some quality time with the grandparents. I kept the ride a little shorter to acclimate to our summer-like temperatures.
Started: Apr 18, 2011 8:58:24 AM
Ride Time: 1:23:23
Stopped Time: 25:29
Distance: 23.17 miles
Average Speed: 16.67 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 22.57 miles/h
Ascent: 89 feet
Descent: 108 feet