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Keeping Cool In The Summer Heat

In the summer, heat can place additional demands on your body’s natural cooling mechanisms. Heat stress occurs when high humidity, radiant heat from the sun and elevated air temperature combine to impede your body’s ability to dissipate heat.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive thirst, profuse sweating, muscle cramps, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue and fainting. The skin usually feels cold and clammy to the touch. To help avoid heat-related illness and survive the heat, here are a few tips for keeping cool on the trails.

  • Drink before, during and after your ride. Begin drinking even before you get on the bike or start your ride.
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Drink a few ounces every 15 minutes. It is better to drink small amounts frequently to avoid stomach discomfort.
  • Carry more fluid then you think you’ll need. If you cannot carry enough fluids in your water bottles, wear a hydration system. Smaller hydration packs are available for children. Some have added compartments for storing snacks, light jackets or other trail necessities. Such systems also keep fluids colder, so you are likely to want to drink more.
  • Sipping carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages during the ride helps to replace lost electrolytes and boosts energy levels. There is also evidence that carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages replace lost fluid in the blood slightly faster than pure water.
  • Make Gatorade ice cubes and use them to chill the water in your hydration pack or water bottle. You’ll get a cool mix of both without having to chug a heavy energy drink.
  • In the hot summer sun the water in your hydration pack or water bottle heats up quickly. Try filling just 1/4 (don’t over do it!) of the water bladder of your hydration pack and keep it in the freezer the night before your ride. When you are ready to set out on your ride, fill up the remaining 3/4 with water. You can do this with a water bottle too.
  • Keep the sun off your head. Not only is a bicycle helmet fundamental to safety, but when that bright summer sun shines brightly down from above, it also protects your scalp from sunburn and provides shade.
  • Replace your older clunky helmet. The redesigned ventilation system and lightness of today’s helmet materials make them cooler in the heat of summer. You should also replace your helmet every three years.
  • Do not keep your helmet in the trunk of your car on hot summer days.
  • Don’t wear a T-shirt. When a T-shirt gets wet, it stays wet and clammy. In hot weather, wear light colored clothing designed for summer riding. For example, a white or light colored jersey will deflect a large portion of the sun’s rays. New materials made of a wicking material will transport perspiration and enhance cooling by evaporation. Mesh panels can increase comfort by allowing more air to reach the skin.
  • Protect your skin. Remember to use plenty of sunblock on your face, arms and legs. Do not use oil-based sunscreens. The oil on your skin impedes sweating and acts as a magnifying glass to the sun’s rays.
  • Take breaks: If you feel you are getting too hot while cycling then stop. Make sure you pull over to the side of the trail safely, away from possible oncoming riders or other traffic.
  • On a hot summer day, a shaded bike path going through a forest may provide a welcome, cool relief.
  • Start your ride early in the morning and finishing up your ride early before the hottest part of the day between noon and 4 pm.

If you use common sense and prepare properly for the heat, nothing should stand between you and an excellent ride.


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