How to Ride During a Summer Heat Wave

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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How to Ride During a Summer Heat Wave

Cycling during the summer isn’t always pleasant, but by taking the proper precautions it can be way more bearable. From getting acclimated to timing your rides, use these tips to learn how to ride through a summer heat wave until cooler weather returns.

1

ACCLIMATIZE

Before you begin riding outdoors in the heat, you’ll need to get your body used to the heat. Low-stress activities like walkinghot yoga or spending time in a sauna get your body used to dealing with the kind of temperatures you’ll face while exercising in a heat wave.

You might also want to consider adjusting your air conditioner indoors as well. Going outdoors from a cool environment to one that’s really hot can make it difficult for the body to adjust when it’s time to exercise. If you turn the air up and make the difference less drastic, you’ll be able to handle the heat much better while saving a little money in the process.

2

WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR

What to wear when you ride is always important, but on the extreme ends of the weather spectrum, your choices become even more critical. Here are a few tips for how to dress the next time you’re riding in a heat wave:

  • Wear lightweight gear: Lightweight jerseys and shorts made specifically for hot-weather cycling wick away moisture and breathe better than other options.
  • Consider a base layer: While it might seem counterintuitive, wearing a thin base layer beneath your jersey can wick away more sweat and keep your core cool.
  • Opt for a full-length zipper: A full-length zipper on your jersey is useful during the warmer months, particularly on climbs when airflow can be limited and you want to let out some of the heat.
  • Fingerless gloves help: Wet hands make it hard to grip the bars, and the terry cloth portion of most gloves is an excellent way to wipe sweat from your forehead so it doesn’t get in your eyes.
  • Wear sunglasses: Not only do glasses help keep things out of your eyes so you can see the road, they protect you from those harmful UV rays that can be damaging during the summer.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen: Wicked tan lines might seem like a badge of honor for cyclists, but getting burnt to a crisp is really bad for your health. For really long rides, carry a little extra in a contact lens case and reapply mid-ride.
3

HYDRATE

Hydrating is not just about drinking while you’re on the bike. It’s an all-day, all-week task, especially when the weather is hot. This ensures you’re not working at a deficit when it’s time to ride. Six to eight 10-ounce glasses of water per day is recommended, but this amount can be even more if you’re consistently exercising outdoors.

While you’re on the bike, sip small amounts of water constantly to keep your fluid intake up. It’s generally recommended to take in 1–2 bottles per hour of cycling when the weather warms up. Exactly how much you need depends on how much you’re sweating and how hard your body is working.

One way to test how much fluid you’re losing during a ride is to weigh yourself before and after. If you’re 3 pounds lighter, try to replenish what you’ve lost with fluids post-ride to get you back on track as quickly as possible. Electrolytes with some sodium are also a good idea, as this helps the body retain fluids more effectively than just taking in water alone.

4

RIDE AT THE RIGHT TIME

Leaving the house just 30 minutes earlier than you normally might can make a big difference when it’s hot outdoors. During a heat wave, avoid the hottest parts of the day and ride either in the early morning or evening instead. Generally, the coolest part of the day will be between the hours of 4–7 a.m., while the hottest part of the day is around 3 p.m.

While waking up early is probably your best bet, if you aren’t an early morning riser, waiting until 8–9 p.m. is your second-best option. The temperatures at this time of night may still be warm, but at least you won’t have to deal with the sun.

5

USE PANNIERS, NOT BACKPACKS

If you’re still planning to commute to and from work, consider ditching the backpack. This only causes you to sweat more, raises your body temperature and makes it harder for your body to release heat. A better option is to add racks and panniers to your bike to take the load off your bike and allow your body to enjoy the breeze and stay cool.

6

RIDE SLOWER

In hotter temperatures, it takes more energy for you to maintain your normal pace. Whether you’re on a long ride or completing a quick set of intervals, you’ll need to dial back your pace to account for the weather. Using a heart rate monitor can be useful, as a rising heart rate can be an indication you’re working too hard and could be dehydrated. Keep an eye on your perceived rate of exertion as well, and if you feel like you’re working harder than your miles per hour indicates, back off. It’s always better to err on the side of safety than it is to push too hard and end up with a heat-related injury.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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