Cycling in summer brings its own challenges. We know avid cyclists like you take pride in your ability to adapt to any weather conditions and do not easily want to give up riding even in peak summer. But, the gruelling summer heat can become very taxing for cyclists. Apart from excessive sweating, the humid and hot weather and dry heat in some places can lead to serious health problems like hyperthermia and sunstroke. However, you can take necessary precautions while going out summer cycling in the heat.
Sheer unpreparedness resulted in Sarah falling unconscious on the road while she was cycling on one fine summer morning. This was her first riding workout. She was lucky nothing serious happened to her. Pedestrians helped her get back on her feet and she happened to get away with a few bruises. Preparedness and knowledge will help you avoid such incidents. Follow these tips from cycling pros so that you can remain fit for your next ride in the heat!
8 Tips for Summer Cycling from Pro Cyclists
Time of the Ride
Try to avoid the hottest parts of the day which is between 11 am to 4 pm. Ride early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the sun and stay cool. The early morning sunlight is good for you because it helps generate vitamin D in the body. Exposure to harsh midday sun is harmful to the body.
So try and avoid cycling during this time of the day. Ensure your bike lights are in working condition in case you plan to ride in the dark and wear clothing suitable for cycling in the night.
Slow Down Your Cycling
Don’t make the mistake of riding fast during the summer with the idea of completing your targeted mileage sooner and heading back home. The faster you try to cycle, the faster you will expend your energy and the harder it is on your body because of the heat. You can avoid long-distance rides and take shorter rides with a lot of rest periods in between.
Make sure to acclimatise yourself to the environment if there are major differences in temperature and humidity. You can start out with shorter rides and progress to more challenging routes. Be sure to pace yourself according to your ability and don’t push yourself too hard.
Cycling uphill is challenging , follow these tips and don’t push yourself to exertion when going uphill.
Hydration and Nutrition
Stay hydrated to prevent overheating and dehydration by drinking water or a sports drink at frequent intervals during your ride. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water or fluids, chances are that your body is already dehydrated when you feel thirsty.
Summer cycling in the hot weather results in a lot of sweating, so replenishing lost fluids at frequent intervals is essential. Plan your route in such a way that you can stop by roadside cafés for a quick bite or drink. A sports drink not only quenches your thirst but also provides with the much-needed electrolytes and is a must when cycling in summer.
Electrolytes can replenish the nutrients you lose by sweating and prevent any muscle cramps from cutting your ride short.
It is important to include carbohydrates in your diet before cycling because the foods you eat before your workout can improve your performance. Also remember to chew on some little snacks every now and then throughout your ride, particularly ones containing high carbohydrates and potassium. So, irrespective of the time of your ride, pay attention to nutrition and hydration.
Livingit Tip: Stocking your backpack with bananas, energy bars, and isotonic sports drinks can be a great refuelling strategy.
Right Clothing and Accessories
Wearing the right clothing and choosing the right accessories can make a huge impact on your body while cycling in the heat. Opt for correct clothing, there are many brands of cycling attire that breathe or absorb sweat. Tops with a zipper can help you cool off or cover up.
Look out for materials with sweat-wicking properties that pull away sweat from your skin and keep you cool. To aid your hands, wearing fingerless mitts instead of gloves is recommended.
Applying sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn by applying it on all the exposed portions of your body likes legs, arms, back of the neck and face. If you are wearing shorts, make sure you apply sunscreen to your thighs as they will be exposed.
Wear sunglasses with 100% ultraviolet filtering lenses to prevent damage to your eyes and prevent dust and flies from getting into your eyes. Wear a white helmet that has plenty of air vents and try to avoid black colored clothing. If you are cycling in the dark, opt for reflective clothing and accessories that will make you remain visible to others and prevent accidents.
Keep Your Body Cool
Evaporation of sweat helps you to keep your body cool. You can also help lower your body temperature significantly by stopping at regular intervals and pouring cool water over your head and splashing yourself on the neck and shoulders with water. Don’t forget to sip water frequently all through the ride. All these aids in the evaporation of sweat.
Be careful of heat-related stress or heatstroke that you could experience if you don’t keep cool. While riding if you feel a breeze but don’t feel the cooling effect that comes with it, then consider taking a break to cool down for a while as this may be an indication of heat stress.
Choosing the Best Route
Opt for a route which has lots of trees or tall buildings as they offer shade and protection from direct sunlight. Cycling trails could be a good option if there is one in your area. If possible, stay off busy roads. Picturesque cycling routes can have a wonderful impact on your mind.
A familiar or regular route gives you the option to shorten the ride if you are feeling uncomfortable. Always be careful on rides and keep an eye on the road at all times. In summer the tarmac on paved roads could melt causing patches of sticky hot melted tar and uneven roads. Make sure to slow down on these paths or try to avoid them.
If you have the liberty to pick the location of your ride, then this can come to your advantage. For those of you that live inland, try to head out to a coastal area where the sea breeze can cool you down. And since it is colder at higher altitudes, you can climb or drive to a more hilly or mountainous area, and then begin your ride.
If you plan to hit the city streets with your cycle, here are 6 Skills to Survive Urban Cycling.
Livingit Tip: Plan your route in advance or pick a familiar route as knowing where the nearest shops and restaurants are can be handy.
Sodium is Important
Sodium is the most important electrolyte for sweating riders as it helps to maintain blood plasma volume and plays a key role in normal muscle and nerve function. Summer cycling can make you lose most of the sodium in your blood through sweating. It becomes imperative that the drinks you buy contain sodium so that it is retained by the body. Remember that sweat contains sodium so the more you sweat, the more sodium you lose.
You will need to recover from the intense workout as summer cycling in the heat can actually drain you out. A recovery drink containing sodium and potassium will help you retain the fluids and help you rehydrate faster. A cold bath or shower will help you cool off. Include a lot of carbohydrates and proteins in your diet after the ride. Keep hydrating yourself throughout the day and you will be ready for the next day’s ride!
You face many challenges by cycling in the heat and humidity of summer. Now you know how to be better prepared for summer cycling and protect yourself from the harsh effects of sunlight. Preparation for the ride is vital if you don’t want the summer heat to come in the way of your daily cycling workout. So, make the best of our tips and share your summer cycling experiences with us. Enjoy your summer bicycle rides! Have fun, be safe and keep your adventurous spirit up.
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