Cycling is a joy in summer, but with July temperatures hitting 30°C in the shade and 40°C in the sun, who would dare to bike without the fear of melting on the pavement? For those of us who cycle every week of the year, changing some habits and taking extra precautions during July and August is a must.
Based on our experience, here are some tips to combat the heat on your bike, whether you’re commuting to work or climbing a mountain pass.
How Does Heat Affect Cyclists?
Intense heat presents significant challenges for cyclists, such as dehydration and heat stroke. Understanding how your body reacts to these temperatures is crucial to prevent health issues and enjoy summer cycling. Below, we address some key questions and tips to help you better manage these conditions.
What is the Best Time to Exercise on a Bike in Summer?
While it may seem obvious, it’s important to avoid the midday hours. Getting up early for a bike ride doesn’t feel like a chore, especially since the early morning hours are the best for cycling in summer. If you head out at 6-7 AM, you’ll be back home relatively early, avoiding the midday sun.
Riding from 7-8 PM and carrying a powerful light for when it gets dark is also a great option. You’ll find roads and paths less crowded. Night rides have a special mystique. Regardless of the time of day, it is not advisable to go out when temperatures exceed 38°C.
How Do You Lower Heat Stroke When You’re on a Bicycle?
If you’re enjoying a bike ride and suddenly start feeling unusually hot, dizzy, or uncomfortable, it might be a sign of heat stroke. It’s a situation cyclists must take seriously, especially on very hot days. Here are some steps to handle it properly:
- Stop Immediately: If you start experiencing symptoms of heat stroke (such as dizziness, headache, nausea, confusion, or an increase in body temperature), the first thing to do is stop and get off the bike.
- Seek Shade or a Cooler Place: Find a shaded or cooler spot to rest. This could be under a tree, a nearby building, or any area that offers protection from direct sunlight.
- Cool Your Body: If you have cold water with you, use it to wet your body, especially in areas where blood vessels are closer to the surface, like the neck, wrists, and temples. This will help lower your body temperature.
- Hydration: Drink water or a sports drink containing electrolytes to rehydrate your body. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as they can worsen dehydration.
- Remove Excess Clothing: If you are wearing multiple layers of clothing, remove the outer layers to help reduce your body temperature.
- Call for Emergency Help if Necessary: If symptoms are severe or do not improve with initial measures, it’s vital to seek medical attention immediately. In some cases, calling an ambulance is necessary.
- Avoid Riding Again Immediately: Even if you feel better after cooling down, it’s important not to ride again until you are completely recovered. Heat stroke can have lasting effects, and re-exposing yourself to heat and exercise could be dangerous.
What Can I Wear to Protect Myself from the Sun on the Bicycle?
Wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself from the sun. This includes light, light-colored garments, and high-efficacy sunscreens. Also, don’t forget your helmet, sunglasses, and a method to carry water with you.
Carrying two water bottles on your bike or a hydration backpack is essential. The night before, you can fill a bottle with 3/4 water and put it in the freezer. The cold water will last quite a while. If you carry a hydration bag on your back, it will also cool you down.
Ideally, drink between one and one and a half liters every hour. In addition to water or energy drinks, eating fruit is also a source of hydration for our body. If you are going on a multi-day bike trip, a good way to be prepared is to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables a week before departure. Eat grapes and watermelons as if your life depended on it.
2. Get Wet
Take advantage of any fountain to wet your nape and forearms. Do not put ice cubes in your jersey, as ice causes blood vessels to contract, leading to an increase in body temperature. Your jersey has a zipper, and it can be fully unzipped to cool down more quickly. Don’t be shy.
3. Protect Your Skin
Although not a measure to mitigate the heat, it is extremely important to protect your skin with a cream or sun spray. There are even small containers that fit perfectly in the pockets of the jersey to replenish the sunscreen throughout our route.
Don’t expect not to have touched the bike for 4 months and then go on a 70-kilometer route on July 15th. You will probably take longer to complete it, get more tired, and be more exposed to suffering heat stroke. Take it easy, you have 10 other months to go full throttle.
Preferably wear light-colored clothing and a cap under the helmet to avoid sun rays on your head, and also to absorb sweat. Sunglasses too, obviously. If they can be photochromic, to see perfectly in all types of conditions, even better.
Additional Tips to Beat the Heat on a Bike
- Keep Your Bike in Good Condition: Ensure your bike is well-maintained. A mechanical incident under the scorching sun can quickly become a serious problem.
- Wear Appropriate Clothing: In addition to sun protection, choose breathable clothing that helps you stay cool.
- Plan Your Route: Consider routes with more shade or that offer places to rest and rehydrate.
- Carry Light Foods: On longer routes, carry foods that provide energy without being too heavy.
- Listen to Your Body: Don’t ignore signs of fatigue or dehydration. If you feel the heat is too much, there’s nothing wrong with shortening your route.
Finally, adapting your habits and being prepared for summer conditions is essential to enjoy cycling in these hot months. With these tips and precautions, you can continue to enjoy your passion for cycling, always keeping safety as your top priority.