Let’s be honest: Summer is a fantastic time for cycling. But to fully enjoy it, you’ll need to take a few precautions. Use these seven tips to stay safe and be cool when the heat kicks into high gear.
1. Go early.
Extended daylight hours during the summer mean you probably won’t need your bike lights for the morning and evening commute. While not having to navigate through the darkness can be nice, it also means you’ll need to wake up even earlier to ride during the coolest part of the day.
When it’s really hot, try to ride between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., when the UV index is at its lowest. And even though the evening hours might seem like another reasonable option, keep in mind that the hottest temperatures of the day often occur during the commute home — which may mean you’ll need to find alternative methods of transportation.
2. Slow down.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can ride as fast or as far during the summer as you do in slightly cooler weather. Because the heat will make you expend more energy to maintain a speed that might normally be comfortable, be sure to pace yourself accordingly when riding during the hotter parts of the day.
If you’re training for a race, be especially careful when doing interval training. Reduce the length of each effort, and ride at a slightly lower power/heart rate output to be safe and avoid the risk of heat stroke.
3. Wear the right stuff.
Just like during the colder months of the year, what you wear when it’s hot can make a huge difference in your comfort and performance on the bike. Here are a few things to consider:
- Full-zip jerseys: Opening up your jersey when climbing at lower speeds can help to release heat and keep you cool.
- Aero helmets: A lot of heat is released through the head. Aero helmets with fewer vents will trap more heat and make it harder to keep cool. Opt for helmets with more vents instead of stealthier models during the summer months.
- Lightweight materials: Jerseys made with technical mesh fabrics designed specifically for dealing with the summer temperatures are the way to go. When temperatures are in the low 90s, you might also want to consider a lightweight base layer, too, which can create a cooling effect through its moisture-wicking properties.
4. Get wet.
Evaporation of sweat is one way to keep the body cool. When it’s really hot and you find yourself exercising for extended periods of time, you can help to lower your body temperature significantly by pouring cool water over your head to aid the evaporative cooling process.
Take advantage of rest stops or places to get a drink to lower your body temperature by splashing yourself on the neck, shoulders and chest with water when possible. The wind you create when you get back on the bike afterward will keep you even cooler.
5. Sunburns aren’t cool.
Crazy tan lines can be a kind of medal of honor for some cyclists. While they do show off how much time you’ve put in on the saddle, getting burned by harmful UV rays will make you feel more fatigued and increase your chances of skin cancer.
For this reason, make sure you always wear a waterproof sunblock, and choose jerseys and shorts that have built-in SPF protection.
6. Have a hydration plan.
Replacing lost fluids with a sports drink containing sodium is a must during hot weather. But equally important to your on-the-bike needs is a plan to ensure you stay hydrated prior to and following your workouts.
During the ride, consume at least one 20–24-ounce bottle of sports drink each hour. (You may need more depending on how much you weigh.) Following your workout, a recovery drink containing sodium and potassium will help you retain the fluids you put in and help you rehydrate faster.
7. Think about the route.
Direct sunlight will make temperatures feel hotter, sunburns more likely and hydration more difficult. If possible, choose alternate routes that offer more shade, and try to stay off roads that provide little or no coverage from the sun.
Areas with trees or city streets with tall buildings are optimal choices when available. If not, riding at night when the sun isn’t out is also an option — just make sure you use a good headlight/taillight combo to stay visible.