6 Ways to Stay Cool while Biking in the Heat

Given that it’s only June and temperatures have already been registering above 100 degrees F, it looks as though we will have a hot summer ahead of us. But, high temperatures needn’t stop us from our bike rides and bike commutes, which is why we want to share with you how we stay cool.

Stay hydrated

Every bit of water you consume will help your body temperature remain low. Increase your intake of watery fruits and vegetables like watermelon and tomatoes. Sodium helps your body hold on to fluids, so drink something with electrolytes while you’re riding. To prevent your drinks from getting warm, freeze one bottle at half full and another at almost-full before topping them off. Aim to drink one 20-ounce bottle every hour.

After your ride, drink something with protein, which will hydrate you quickly because protein brings water with it when it travels to muscles. If you choose to drink water, also eat a snack or meal that contains protein and sodium.

Remember, caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which means drinking them will make you urinate more and lose more water. When it’s hot out, stick with water.

Get wet

It may be tempting to toss ice cubes down your clothing, but don’t. When you put ice on your skin, the blood vessels constrict directing hot blood back toward your core, ultimately making you feel hotter. Instead, bring an extra water bottle and a small towel to pour cool water over your neck and forearms, or wipe them with a cool, damp towel. Consider putting a wet bandana around your neck at the start of your ride.

Bike at a reasonable pace

Leave yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush. Heading out 15 minutes early can make the difference between a sweaty, draining hustle and a pleasant, breezy ride. It’s also worthwhile to budget a few minutes at your destination to splash water on your face and catch your breath.

Ride when it’s cool(er)

The coolest hours of the day fall between 4am and 7am, while the evening commute tends to be the hottest time of the day. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, like a filled TAP card to take transit, or a friend you can call if you get partway home and start feeling symptoms of heat stroke (see below).

Prevent sunburn

A sunburn can be more than just painful. Fatigue and an increased metabolism are some symptoms of sunburn, and while the latter might sound good, it will be a problem on hot days as a faster metabolism increases your body’s need for liquids. So, do everything you can to prevent sunburn: wear sunscreen, choose clothing with built-in sun protection, and wear a hat under your helmet to shield your face and neck.

Wear the right clothes

Lightweight natural fibers are more comfortable, while lightweight polyester prints won’t show sweat. Loose fitting clothing will help you feel the breeze created as you bike. If you need to look professional at the end of your ride, a quick sponge bath and change of clothes will work wonders. And, don’t forget to wear your sunglasses!

Remembering these six precautions can help you avoid overheating. But, even if you follow these suggestions, heat stroke is a possibility, so make sure you can identify these symptoms:

  • Body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher
  • Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, or seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache (source: the Mayo Clinic)

If you or someone else shows signs of heat stroke, medical attention should be sought out ASAP. While waiting for emergency treatment, get the person in shade or indoors, remove excess clothing, and cool them with whatever means available. You can put them in a cool shower, fan them while spraying them with cool water, or place ice packs on their head, neck, and armpits (source: the Mayo Clinic).

Lastly, when it is hotter outside, people tend to drive more aggressively and impatiently. So, be extra careful out there and stay cool!

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