Quick Tip: Staying cool during the heat of summer

How To

Stay Cool

Make sure to drink before you’re thirsty during those hot summertime rides.

Summer may be the best time of year to ride your bike, but it can also get a little uncomfortable and even dangerous. Cyclists who don’t plan ahead and use a little caution and common sense, put themselves at risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke or worse.

When you exercise, heat builds up in working muscles, which in turn causes your internal temperature to rise. Your body cools itself by perspiring; the evaporation of this sweat helps keep core body temperature normal. But this system is strained when it’s exceptionally hot, and is further compromised when humidity is high because evaporation doesn’t cool you as effectively.

That means your body has to work even harder to keep cool, which leads to increased sweating and more fluid loss. This sets the stage for dehydration, and can cause more significant problems if you don’t replenish liquids. Here are some tips to stay cool and properly hydrated during the upcoming summer cycling season.

Ride early or late: Skip the lunch ride when the sun is its most intense, and instead ride in the morning or evening. Also remember that the temperature can be much higher when your pedaling on pavement, especially in the heat of the day. If there’s a route that has more shade than others, pedal in that direction.

Dress the part: Wear light-colored, wicking clothing in combination with a snug-fitting base layer. This will increase moisture transfer away from the body, helping keep you cool.

Use sunscreen: Sunburns hurt; skin cancer is bad. Avoid both by liberally applying sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) before your ride. Use a waterproof version since you’ll be sweating and re-apply if possible.

Drink lots of liquids: Start drinking before your ride, and keep replenishing fluids long after your ride is done. While on the bike, aim to consume one 20-ounce bottle every 30-45 minutes. Also make sure to mix water intake with a well-fortified sports drink that will help replace electrolytes, carbohydrates and sodium lost via sweat and exertion. Remember, proper hydration starts before you’re thirsty.

Happy mountaineers (and cyclists) always pee clear: At least that’s how the saying goes. If you notice your urine is bright colored or dark, it’s a likely sign of dehydration and a signal to increase fluid intake. Symptoms include, muscle cramping, dry mouth, lips or tongue, and apathy or a lack of energy

Keep moving: Movement will keep you more comfortable because sweat naturally cools and dissipates when the wind blows. If you have enough extra water, splash your legs, arms and head to increase evaporative cooling. A jersey with a full front zipper is also a good idea, as it can be unzipped to allow air to pass over your skin. When you stop for a break, don’t stand in the sun. Find some shade.

Wear a helmet: Helmets not only protect your brain and make you more visible to motorists, they also help keep you cool. Most helmets include several vents that facilitate air movement across your head. They also offer shade from the sun’s rays. Just remember that the vents will let some sun in, so make sure to wear sunscreen.

How do you stay cool during hot summertime rides? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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