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Sweat and sprinklers: Thoughts on sultry cycling survival

Hottest Day of the Year Ride
How will you beat the heat?
(Photos © J. Maus)

If you’re out and about on two wheels today, remember to respect the heat. It’s hot out there (as if you didn’t know already) and it can make riding not only uncomfortable, but downright dangerous if you’re not ready for it.

We hear a lot about how the dark, cold, wet winters keep folks from riding, but the other day a friend of mine said showing up at his destination dripping in sweat after a bike ride was almost just as much of a deterrent. (I can relate. Last week I realized after riding home that the back of my shorts had two huge sweat spots on them. I’m O.K. with my bike identity, but I realize how butt sweat might challenge someone’s social self esteem. I thought of sharing a photo but thought better of it (you’re welcome).)

Like the dreaded (for some) helmet hair, sweat is a deal-breaker for some folks. But come on, does it really keep you off the bike?

Hopefully the heat won’t have you grabbing the car keys just crank up the AC because there are definitely some ways to help beat the heat on the bike. Joseph Rose from The Oregonian shared a couple this morning. My favorite among them was to freeze a water bottle.

These girls, taking a break at
Salmon Street Fountain, have
the right idea.

If you can, make your bike trips before or after the hottest part of the day (about noon to 6:00). If you can’t avoid being in the heat, swing by and ride through a fountain or water feature at a park. The City of Portland’s Parks department has a full list of places you can get wet on their website.

It’s also worth paying attention to what you wear. I’ve become a true believer in lightweight merino wool lately. It keeps your body dry and cool, and some stuff, like my awesome shirt from Icebreaker (yes, that’s a blatant plug), doesn’t even get smelly (which is great, because I couldn’t afford one for every day of the week)!

Tonight at the Short Track Mountain Bike races out at PIR, event organizer Kris Schamp says he’ll have the sprinklers on full-blast to “give racers some relief from the heat and to add another interesting element to the course.”

If racing a mountain bike in 90-degree heat isn’t your thing, a group of folks will head north for a dip in the Columbia River this evening (the air-conditioned MAX can take you most of the way). Their destination? Ricky Point, a small beach on Hayden Island (more details here).

I hope you beat the heat this week. Stay tuned to the forecast and share your tips and suggestions below. Also, I’d love to know… does fear of sweat keep you off the bike?

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