Summer is here, and temperatures are soaring. While many Canadians spend our long winters dreaming of hot, dusty days on the bike, we’re not all that great at dealing with the heat when the mercury really starts to rise.
There are ways to beat the heat, though. Take a few key steps to stay one step ahead of the sun, and you can enjoy the best parts of summer rides. Here’s a 11 easy ways to stay cool when riding in hot weather.
How to stay cool when riding in hot weather
1) Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
Drink early, drink often. This is always good advice, but especially important on hot days. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’ve probably waited too long.
Hydration doesn’t stop when you put away the bike. Even if you drink regularly during your ride, you probably sweat more than you replaced so keep hydrating throughout the rest of the day.
1.a) Ice is your friend
If it is blazing hot out, filling bottles or a hydration pack with ice water can help ward off overheating and keep you hydrated at the same time. For shorter rides, it’s a good idea to have a cool bottle with liquid that you can drink right away for hydration and a colder one to help with temperature as the ride goes on. Nothing is more frustrating than being overheated while waiting to drink from the giant ice cube in your water bottle.
1.c) Don’t just drink water
Clean, pure water is great, but it’s not enough to keep up with the heat. When the summer sun is beating down, you need more than water. Whether that’s a sports drink or something natural, you need electrolytes to help your body absorb the fluids. These drinks will keep you ahead of dehydration and keep fluids from passing right through you. Athletes invest in proper sports drinks for a reason, and it’s not because they taste great.
2) Get wet
Stop for mid-ride swims, dunk your helmet or jersey in a fountain, pour water over your head – whatever you can do to keep yourself cool, do it. Though being mindful to keep your chamois dry if your a long pedal from home is also a good idea (how you do that, we’ll leave up to you)
3) Search for shade
If you’ve ever stood in a hot parking lot, you know asphalt radiates heat. When it’s really hot out, riding in the shade can dramatically improve your ride. Whether that means tree-lined streets, backroad gravel routs or singletrack, it’s all good. If you’re hitting trails, stopping in the trees – and especially near a creek – can be much cooler than waiting in the open at a trail head (Strava time be damned) and definitely don’t linger if you’re trail passes through a recent cut block.
4) Ride Early (or late)
The best and easiest way to beat the heat is to avoid it altogether. Ride early in the morning before the heat settles in for the day. Canadian summers mean early dawns, so you don’t have to worry about starting with lights if you’re chasing that cool dawn breeze.
If your work, family or internal clock don’t agree with sunrise outings, waiting until late in the day will help avoid the worse of the mid-day heat.
5) Eating is still important
It can be difficult to keep eating when you don’t feel like it, especially since hot weather tends to reduce your appetite. But waiting too long to snack is a one-way road to bonk-town. Eating before you get too warm makes snacking easier. So does adjusting your nutrition to match the temperature. You’re much more likely to actually eat something appetizing than you are to try to choke down a dry clump of energy bar.
If you have trouble eating anything in hot weather look into super-concentrated hydrogel-style sports drinks that toe the line between a drink and gel.
6) Ride near water
If you can’t find shade or can’t avoid the midday heat, plan a route that stays as close to the water as possible. That can be a lake, river or even frequent streams. It can be a few degrees cooler in the shade next to the water, even if you don’t get in.
It’s easier to dip your toes, helmet or whole body in the water if you know it’s nearby. Any canine trail buddies will also appreciate the chance to cool off.
7) Dress for the weather (and wear sunscreen)
Lighter fabrics and brighter colours are the name of the game. Now is the time to break out that pristine white kit you’ve been saving for a sunny day. Choosing the right material and colour is key—leave that fashionable, all-black kit for another day.
Keeping covered can help avoid sunburn. Wear sunscreen where your skin is exposed, and reapply regularly. A sunburn can rapidly speed up your risk of heatstroke.
It may seem counterintuitive, but tight fabrics like spandex can actually help regulate temperature better than exposed skin. The fabrics help wick away moisture, instead of letting it pool on the surface of the skin. Anywhere sweat pools, it prevents the body from dissipating more heat.
8) Cold treats beat coffee stops in summer
Trade in the espresso for gelato, ice cream or at least an iced coffee.
9) Watch your heart rate
It is easy to overexert yourself in the heat and it’s harder to recover. If you train or ride with a HR monitor, manage your effort and make sure you don’t go too deep in the red zone.
10) Cool down after your ride
A cold shower or swim can help bring your body temperature back to normal after a hard effort. The refreshing water will make you feel better and it will kick start your recovery for your next workout.
Training in the heat doesn’t just feel harder, it is harder. Especially as your body is adjusting to the temperature change. Extra rest will help you stay fresh and recover better from rides.