5 Tips for Cycling in Summer Heat
Summertime is great because it’s hot, sunny, cheery and easy to get out on your bike! Too much heat, or not being used to really hot weather, can make it tough to ride your bike. Whether it’s dry or humid, the heat can sap your strength and make it hard for you to muster enough energy for your pre-tour training rides. Being aware of, and prepared for, the heat index (temperature plus humidity level) is really important, so as to not put yourself at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke during peak summer season riding. Here are five tips for cycling in the summer heat.
How to stay cool
When it’s hot out, keeping your core temperature from elevating can be a challenge. Here’s how you can stay cool in hot or humid weather and prevent overheating on the bike:
1. Wear moisture-wicking clothing & sunscreen
Your body relies on evaporating sweat to keep your temperature at a normal level. For this process to work, your clothing should be breathable. Avoid wearing cotton! It traps heat and perspiration, which will make your body temperature rise.
Instead, try a lightweight synthetic shirt and shorts. (Most cycling jerseys are synthetic anyway.) A good option for men is the Garneau Connection Jersey – it’s light and bright so you can be seen on the road. For women, check out the Terry Breakaway Mesh Sleeveless jersey.
You can also try out clothing made from natural fibers like Merino wool or bamboo blends. These are breathable, sweat-wicking materials that are also naturally anti-microbial – that means they don’t stink! A breathable helmet with lots of air vents will be helpful, too. Remember, light colors repel heat!
Protect your skin by using sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30. You can also wear UV-protection arm sleeves. Pro tip: on a really hot day, soak your sleeves in cool water before heading out!
2. Stay hydrated
While sweat rates can vary by individual, it’s common to lose 1–2 quarts of fluid through perspiration for every hour you ride. If you don’t replenish at least this amount, you can become dehydrated, and your body won’t be able to sweat.
Make sure you are properly hydrated in the days leading up to a long ride and stay on top of your hydration while you’re on the bike. Drinking two or more 500-milliliter bottles of water per hour is generally recommended in extreme weather conditions. Also try out a sports drink like Skratch Labs hydration mix that contains sodium and electrolytes to replace the salt lost through sweat – and improves water retention while you’re out on the road!
3. Avoid strenuous activity in the hottest part of the day
You can set yourself up for success by not doing your training or long rides in the hottest part of the day. If you can, avoid riding between noon and 5 p.m. Early morning rides are ideal because temps will be at their lowest, as will the UV index, which can also help prevent sunburns. Did you know that the heat starts building by noon and actually peaks in the late afternoon? So that 4pm or 5pm ride is really not the best time at all!
For more intense training (like interval sessions) in the hottest times of year, consider an indoor trainer where it’ll be easier to control your body temperature and stay hydrated. When you do ride outside, make sure your pace is conservative since your body will have to work harder just to maintain its normal core temperature.
4. Acclimate to the weather
If you’re planning for a bike tour in hot and humid weather (hello, Cuba bike tour!), you’ll benefit from some planning to acclimatize to make adjusting to hotter weather a bit easier during your trip. During your training, slowly build up to the daily distance of your tour and be aware of how you feel – what’s your body telling you about comfort, tiredness, your energy level, the heat? Pushing too hard when you aren’t used to the conditions can put you at risk for heat-related discomfort or illnesses. When we are going to ride somewhere new in weather that’s hotter than what we’re used to, we try to ride at the same time of day as our upcoming tour and at a conservative pace to see how we do. You don’t need to push too hard in hot and humid weather. Going on some regular rides in conditions that try to mirror what you might be going to experience are a great way to prepare yourself.
5. Recover right
After your ride, make sure you’re consuming enough calories and fluids. You might not feel hungry, so try something that goes down easy — like a frozen fruit smoothie or an ice cream cone! Getting something cool and liquid in your system after a ride will help lower your core temperature and help you get ready for your next ride.
On a Wilderness Voyageurs bike tour, all of our guides are Red Cross First-Aid certified and trained to recognize signs of heat-related distress. Our support vehicle is loaded with electrolyte drinks and ice-cold water to keep you hydrated, healthy and happy on your summer bike tour. If you don’t feel like riding on a really hot day, you’re welcome to jump in the van and enjoy the air conditioning with your support driver!
103 Garrett Street
Ohiopyle, PA 15470