Summer weather can be incredibly hot, but that is not going to stop us from biking...is it? At the same time, biking in extreme heat is very different from biking during the rest of the year. You must take your precautions and be prepared in order to be safe both on your bike and off it.
Indeed, biking in hot summer weather, including bike commuting and urban cycling, effects not only your rides, but your days in general. Hydration becomes absolutely paramount as well as a few other tricks that you better observe in order to keep the side effects of hot weather away.
So here are a few tips on how to battle hot weather when cycling and keep having a nice work commute, or a good free time.
As we said, hydration becomes absolutely paramount. To keep hydrated doesn’t mean just to drink lots while biking, or right after your bike ride, but also during the rest of your day, especially when your body “doesn’t” need it. Indeed, that is the best time to actually refuel your water reservoirs and help your body clean up from toxins and whatnot. In fact, being thirsty means you already are dehydrated and you should never get to that point.
So the trick is to drink more water than you would. Some people use smartphone apps to help them remember and calculate how much water they had during their day. Some other always bring a reusable water bottle with them and know that they have to drink a full one within a certain amount of time, multiple times a day. In general, it’s always good to keep track of how much water you had and never improvise or go with the flow.
Also, the kind of water you drink is very important. If it’s not good, too full of calcium, or not very healthy in general, it will actually work against your body and it will dehydrate you even more. This doesn’t mean you have to buy it, spending a lot of money every day and using way too many plastic bottles. A water filter will be perfect for the job. They have many kinds of them, according to the use you make: just pick the one that suits you best.
Also, heat can use a very copious amount of your electrolytes and essential salts. So using energy powders and mineral salts can be a great way to keep your body components well balanced and your body healthy.
Fruit is too a very good to hydrate your body not just in terms of liquids, but in terms of all the other little components that help it to function properly. This is important because a body that functions well will need fewer liquids to purify and get rid of toxins.
So for example, rice can be a great source of hydration, as it retains a lot of water, as well as vegetables and soups. Also, try not to eat too salty.
This refers to many things. First of all, sunscreen. Make sure to put sunblock on in order to protect your skin and your lips. Your sunscreen should be waterproof as it will have to resist the sweat and the wet clothes that you will be wearing (we’ll see this in a moment). Use a high factor in order to protect properly and bring it with you in case you need to apply it again, maybe on your way back to work, or if your bike ride is too long.
A good hat and a good pair of sunglasses are too very important. If the hat doesn’t fit under your helmet, there are some specific ones for biking, or you can use a bandana. This way, you’ll be safe from heat strokes.
Sunglasses are particularly important, as riding in the bright sun can be very tiring for your eyes and damage them in the long run. Lenses, of course, do the most part of the job, so make sure they are good and that they will be vital in protecting your eyes from UV rays.
Last but not least, your clothing: nowadays, many t-shirts and technical gear is highly transpiring, but also a protection against UV rays, in order to protect you from both sunburns and radiations, which are very dangerous for your skin and get stronger during the summer.
Allow yourself even more time
One of the best tips for bike commuting is to take your time. Allow yourself enough time to get from one place to the other to be safer and get less tired.
During summer time, you should allow yourself even more time. This is vital to take it easy and to not have to rush and struggle too much in the heat. Keep the pace steady and don’t push it, or dizziness will be right there waiting for you, and you could even get into sight problems. Indeed, fatigue and extreme heat lower your capacity to see and to stay focused.
Also, try to look for routes that don’t involve too much uphill and always try to ride in the shade. Look for alternatives to the route you usually take during the rest of the year, as there might be better options. Also, avoid the hottest hours of the day. If you can shorten your commute by using some public transportation, do that especially during the hottest days.
If you are going mountain biking or biking during the weekend, choose your trail wisely and stay away from areas that are too hot.
Make it lighter
If there’s something you can leave behind, leave it. This is actually a general rule when biking, so we realize that if you are already observing it, then it won’t be that easy to cut even more stuff, but always try to stick to this rule as much as possible.
Lightweight gear is very indicated in this case, every libra counts.
Many people think that eating is not good on hot weather days, as it will slow down the body even more and make it heavier. But actually this is not true at all. Eating is vital in extreme weather conditions. Of course, a summer diet is better than a winter one, so plenty of fruits and vegetables, fresh food and juices. Avoid salty and fried food, also try to stay away from aged cheeses and alcohol. Keep it light and healthy: your body will need a lot of help to get through those hot days and it will need to keep the electrolytes up, and the fats low, even the good ones.
Eating is like drinking: never get to the point of hunger, as it means you already have a lack of energies and your body is already suffering from it. Even if your appetite is suppressed, eat. One trick could be to eat less and more often, nibbling of nuts, energy bars, honey, ginger bits and fruits, both during your day and during your bike ride if it’s a long one. Avoid spicy food, fried food and chocolate, whilst milkshakes, smoothies and ice-creams are good for you.
As soon as the heat hits, it always feels a lot hotter than it actually is. This is because your body is not used to it yet and it needs to acclimatize. This is even more important when you are playing any sort of sport: you will have to give to your body enough time to get used to the new temperature in order to reach the same performance as always.
Of course, don’t expect it to be at its top the first few days of summer, as it surely won’t be able to do the same stuff it dis at the end of last summer, when it was finally acclimatized and well functioning.
Training, besides eating habits, is crucial here: to know how to prepare properly for summer both physically and mentally makes a big difference in how you are going to face the hardest, hottest days. Don’t play superhero and give it time: you will be grateful to yourself after.
Last but not least: get your clothes wet, especially your bandana/hat and your t-shirt. However, one thing you should never do is to use ice cubes against your skin: the strong temperature difference will actually work against you and it will give your body a hard time to acclimatize properly and develop resistance to the heat.