In the world of outdoor sports, it’s not unusual to hear the phrase: there’s no bad weather, only bad equipment. This holds true most of the time, but some days can be just plain intolerable. With a heat-wave of damp, heavy air sweeping across America’s Midwest and temperatures already rising well over a hundred in parts of the country, people used to training outside need to take extra care when staying under the sun. It can suck the moisture and the life right out of you if you aren’t adequately prepared.
Of course, the Tour de France is happening right now and it’s not a summer well spent for cyclists if we aren’t on our bikes. Despite the heat, we need to get out and ride. PlanetGreen recently posted a list of tips to help you stay cool while you’re out riding, randonneuring, and touring this summer, and most of them are just plain common sense. They suggest drinking a lot of liquids – before, during, and after your rides. You’ll be creating more sweat than usual, as well as breathing heavy during the intervals. You lose moisture both of these ways, and with the sun literally sucking the water out of you, staying hydrated is key to a safe, productive ride.
PlanetGreen also suggests basing your riding times around better work hours. Leave or train earlier in the morning, before it gets too hot, and on your ride home, wait until after the hottest part of the afternoon. Ride in the night, if you have to. Especially if you’re touring across the Great Plains (or the great deserts), stick to times when the sun is down. PlanetGreen also suggests taking frequent breaks, which may or may not be good for your regime. But if you’re getting tired or light-headed, a break with a carb refill or electrolyte charge could do you well.
The one bad point of advice from PlanetGreen is their suggestion to avoid Lycra. They suggest loose, light clothing. These are both extremely bad ideas, as anyone who has ever seriously ridden on a bike can tell you. Wearing loose, cotton-based clothing on a bike, especially on a hot day, will gather sweat like a sponge and keep the heat trapped under your clothes. Furthermore, along the saddle where your thighs rub, especially if you’re sweating, you will chafe. This can ruin a day, or even a week of riding, and is bad news for the randonneur. A proper riding kit, or a shorts/jersey/socks combination, can make all of the difference on a hot day.
Not all Lycra is created equal. If you’re going to be out on your bike a lot, investing in a professional-quality riding kit is one of the smartest purchases you can make. Do the research on different kit technologies and chamois paddings, and buy something light-colored and reflective, to deflect the sun’s oppressive rays.
Helmets are important too. Something breathable, light, and well-ventilated doesn’t come cheap, but will last you years if you never have to put it to use (*knock on wood*).
Follow these tips, stay stacked on carbs and electrolytes, and enjoy the summer on your bike.