August 8, 2009
August is a huge month for the bike industry, and for consumers as well. Manufacturers everywhere are starting to hint at their 2010 lineups, and closeouts on 2009 gear mean incredible deals for you. This leaves many cyclists asking themselves, what's the hottest item out there? Well, sit back and let me tell you. It's not a sleek, lugged steel frame, or a bombproof set of touring wheels. It's far from puncture proof tires, or an indestructible helmet. It just so happens that the biggest thing going on for cyclists right now is the weather.
In many regions of the country, August is a hot and dry time of the year, so you need to be well prepared when hitting the road and/or trail. Here are some tips that should help you stay cool throughout the remainder of the hot summer cycling season.
This is the most obvious solution to beating the heat, but it's amazing how many cyclists suffer from dehydration. Packing enough water for the ride isn't enough, you need to make sure you use it efficiently. It's easy for people to start drinking when they are thirsty, but the trick is to drink before you reach that point. Once you're thirsty, you have already lost too much water.
In addition to drinking often, it's important to make sure you're hydrated before you set foot out the door. The better hydrated you are before the ride, the better job your body will do absorbing fluids. Electrolytes contained in many energy drinks are also a great way to help your body absorb fluids. There are countless drink mixes out there, so choosing one over the other can sometimes be intimidating. My advice is to find one that tastes good, and is easy to take down. This will help encourage you to drink more often.
Ride Time Selection:
Try and avoid riding during the hottest time of day. If you head out in the early morning, or late evening, you'll experience cooler temperatures, and in some cases, less traffic. Be aware of daylight at these hours, and make sure you're visible to other vehicles on the road. When the sun is low at dawn and dusk, it can often set a sharp glare on the windshields of cars, making it harder for them to see bikes on the road.
Find roads or trails that provide natural shade from trees. This might not pull the air temperature down a great deal, but it does fend off the sunlight. Bike trails can be a great option, as the trees often creep up close to the path. Parks and mountain bike trails also provide excellent opportunities for shade.
If you live in or near the mountains, head upwards. While a long uphill grind doesn't promote much airflow, you will be sure to cool off on the return trip. If you reside in the flat lands, find large body of water or river to ride near. The breeze coming off the water is usually a little cooler, and sometimes the simple sight of water gives you a mental boost to help combat the blazing heat. Bonus points are awarded for finding summer snow in the mountains, or taking a dip in the water mid-ride.
Fortunately, most cycling clothes are already designed to deal with warm temperatures. Full zip, or sleeveless jerseys are always a good pick. Definitely reach for some light fabric cycling socks, as hot spots on your feet can make any ride miserable. One piece of clothing that isn't so obvious is a cooling vest. They won't stay cool for long days in the saddle, but they can keep your body temperature down for a few hours.
There are a few little things you can do that will go a long way when it comes to staying cool. Always wear sunscreen. Not only will it prevent sunburn, but it also keeps your skin from drying out, which improves water retention. If you live in a city, head for the countryside. Buildings, roads, and traffic contribute to elevated temperatures in congested areas. Not only will you find cooler temperatures outside of the city, but you will also get much better views. Lastly, never underestimate the power of a haircut.
Ultimately, you'll find yourself dreaming of these days when the mercury drops into the single digits, so be sure to take advantage of them. If you have your own tricks to escaping the heat, feel free to throw them out there!
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack, a part Adventure Cycling's Member Services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.