The summer weather permits more time to ride your bike, but the HOT temperatures can also have a negative impact on your health and performance. Here's how to combat the summer heat so you can enjoy your ride.
Lights. Gloves. Mirrors. Action. Whether you ride on a trail or on the road, safety is the number one precaution to take as a cyclist. Bright lights, reflective clothing, and flags are must haves for being visible to other cyclists, drivers, or pedestrians.“A helmet is non-negotiable protective wear for anyone riding a bike, no matter what speed,” demands Dr. Jana Morse, Internal Medicine practitioner at PartnerMD and cycling enthusiast. “I have seen patients with minor concussions, as well as some with serious brain injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. These can happen at very low speeds and when you least expect them. No ride is exempt from the helmet recommendation. Most other injuries will heal in time, but the brain can be permanently damaged.” Wearing protective outerwear like a helmet, sunglasses, gloves, mouthpieces, and full body armor (dependent on the type of ride and intensity) can make all the difference for a safe, fun summer ride. Don’t forget the sunblock either. A good sport sunblock that is resistant to sweat is part of your essential safety gear.Get more safety tips here.
Added heat strain during your ride typically does not occur, with the exception of when you ride in high temperatures and/or high humidity, or if you ride very hard. Your body temperature can increase, especially when dehydrated, creating a potentially high risk situation in the midst of your ride. “Evaporation of sweat can help to keep core body temperatures normalized, but it is easy to underestimate the amount of fluid and electrolytes that you lose in the summer heat,” shares Morse. Be sure to focus on pre-hydration of 8-16 ounces of water before riding, regular hydration at least every 20-30 minutes during your ride and do not forget the electrolytes. The faster you ride, the faster you burn through your fluid and energy stores. According to a 2007 published study on the Influence of Hydration Status on Thermoregulation and Cycling Hill Climbing researchers found that “Exercise-induced dehydration in a warm environment is detrimental to laboratory cycling hill-climbing performance.”
Going on a long ride can be one of the most enjoyable parts of a summer morning or evening, until you experience muscle cramps, brain fog, or fatigue. So long as your ride is under 60 minutes and you are fueling normally throughout the day you should be okay, but a longer ride than that, you better pack a snack. For a long trip Morse recommends fueling “at least one day before you plan to ride. Your body stores carbohydrates and fluid in your muscles as glycogen.”
Avoid these symptoms or worse by following the protocol below. How to Fuel Medium-Length Rides
- Ride Duration: 1 to 3 hours
- Primary Concern: Carbohydrate replenishment
- What to Drink: 2 bottles low-carb, electrolyte hydration drinks, at least
- What to Eat: 30 to 60g of carb per hour from food that is easy to digest.
Bonus Tip: Don’t wait until you’re hungry or thirsty to eat and drink. Take small nibbles and sips from the get-go.How to Fuel Long Rides
- Ride Duration: 3 hours or more
- Primary Concern: Carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment; food boredom or palate fatigue
- What to Drink: 1 bottle per hour low-carb, electrolyte hydration drinks, at least, and more if you sweat more heavily than average
- What to Eat: 30 to 60g of carbs per hour, total. Digestion can get harder as rides get longer, so eat more solids at the beginning of the ride, and switch to blocks, chews, and other easily-digested foods during the final part of the ride. Just be sure to drink plenty of fluid to chase down gels, so you don’t get GI upset.
A few other tips:
- Aim to ride mornings or evenings when the weather is the coolest.
- Try finding a group ride or invite a friend to join.
- Be sure to pack extra tires, repair kits, CO2 cartridges, etc.
- And even more here.
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– CASEY EDMONDS, CHWC, CPT, CMS
Health Advisor | Email Casey