Warmer days are upon us! Even though it’s heating up out there it’s still possible to enjoy some of the best riding days of the year. Here are some important things to remember to stay safe while riding in the heat.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Make sure to take in plenty of fluids on the day before a long ride, and have a drink (8 - 16 ounces) about 30 minutes before heading out for your ride. It’s recommended to drink a 20-ounce bottle every hour you ride for a 150-pound rider but everyone has their own unique hydration needs depending on your fitness, health, age, medications and more. Pay attention to how you feel, and it’s also important not to overhydrate.To keep your water cool longer, freeze one bottle half full (lay it down on its side so you can still squeeze the bottle) then top it off when you ride. Pack the second full of ice and fill (that should be good for about a half hour). Insulated water bottles are great in the heat.
Sodium helps your body hold on to the fluid you're drinking, so sip an electrolyte beverage during your ride. We like to carry one bottle of plain water and one with electrolytes. If you are going to be riding more than 4 hours, you should think about additional salt in your food and fluids. After you ride, a recovery drink with protein will rehydrate you faster than one with carbohydrates only, and will help your muscles recover faster too. There have even been studies proving chocolate milk is a great recovery drink, so enjoy some guilt free after your workout! Steven’s has a great selection of nutritional products, let one of our experts give you a tour of all the options available for your style of riding.
Get an early start
Aside from the getting up early part, this is probably the easiest and best way to enjoy your ride. Depending on how long you plan to be out there, a start time of 7 or 8 am will get you back before the real hot stuff hits. Riding after the peak heat times is also good since the sun’s scorching power decreases quickly late in the day. Don’t forget your lights!
Sunscreen is your best friend this time of year. A sunburn not only does damage to your skin but also causes fatigue and increases your need for hydration. Sun protective clothing is another great way to protect yourself from the sun since the protection will never wash or sweat off. Look for a UPF rating (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of 30-50. Choose from jerseys, arm and knee protectors, and a cap to shield your head. Look for clothing with cooling technology to help you beat the heat and fabrics that wick sweat away from your body. Stay away from cottons and other fabrics that absorb moisture.
Keep Your Cool
Bring extra water on your ride and when you start to feel the heat (or before) pour cool water over your neck and forearms, and soak your jersey and arm protectors. Some people like to wear a wet bandana or cooling towel around their neck. It’s also a good idea to squirt water on your head through the vents in your helmet every 15 minutes or so. Not only will all that the water feel great, but as you ride the evaporative effect will continue to help keep you cool. Make sure you don’t use all your water, and refill those bottles whenever you stop if possible. Loop your rides around convenience stores, water fountains, or a handy faucet so you never run out.
Start out easy with shorter rides at first, and add distance as your body becomes acclimated to the heat. It’s best not to try to maintain the same pace or power you'd put out on a cooler day, so don’t go for that new PR while riding in a triple digit scorcher. Ride with a buddy so you can keep an eye on each other, and both get home safe.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
You are your own best guardian so pay attention to how you’re feeling. As the body temperature climbs there are signs to watch out for, such as excessive sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, goosebumps, faintness, dizziness, dry mouth, labored breathing, loss of coordination, and body tingles. If you start to feel any of these symptoms, the best thing to do is get off of your bike as quickly as possible. Find a shady place or a building that has air conditioning and drink cool fluids such as water or sports drinks. Don’t be afraid to call and get a ride home.
If it's crazy hot out there, or if the air quality keeps you indoors, you can still get a great workout in the comfort of your own living room. Pull out your trainer, plug in a fan, and enjoy a good movie. A lot of riders have been loving interactive apps like Zwift, which can be paired with interactive trainers for an even better experience, and there are also lots of great training videos on YouTube. Get that heart rate pumping - riding on a trainer is a great way to work on your cadence and endurance.
Just because it’s heating up outside, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until the seasons change to ride your bike. With a little prep and knowledge you can safely cycle all year!