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Take the no-sweat challenge (and other tips to survive the heat)

Posted by on July 1st, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Splash Dance Ride-5-4

If you see water, ride through it.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)


It’s hot out there and it doesn’t look like we’ve got much relief in sight.

weather

To cope with the high temps, I’ve started doing something new this year. I call it the no-sweat challenge. I figured now was a great time to share more about that and all the other tricks we know in hopes of keeping more of you — comfortably — on the bike. (Because there’s no reason to stop riding in the heat. And besides, MAX is unreliable over 90-degrees and auto traffic has been hellish in Portland lately.)

OK. Back to the no-sweat challenge: The challenge is to not break a sweat while riding or when you get to your destination. How? Simple! Just don’t pedal hard. Shift into a very easy gear and just spin easily as if you are dawdling through the park on a Sunday afternoon. Not only will you stay cooler, but you’ll find that by going slower you’ll have a much more enjoyable and safer experience overall (as will the people you share the road with). It’s a win-win of stay cool and creating a more courteous biking culture.

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Splash Dance Ride-11-10

Dan has the right idea.

Here are some other quick tips culled from my own experiences and reader comments over the years:

Ride through fountains and other water sources whenever possible: Portland has water in parks, in plazas, in rivers, and so on. Adjust your route to ride through water and get soaked!

Carry your bags on your bike, not your body: Wearing a backpack in the heat is the worst. If you can, plop your bags on a pannier rack or in a basket.

Adjust your schedule: If at all possible, try to ride early in the morning or later in the evening to miss peak scorching.

Freeze your bottles: Oldest trick in the book.

Soak your shirt or other items before heading out: Lots of folks swear by wrapping a wet bandanna around their neck or under their helmet. Other variations on this tip include wearing a wet t-shirt and/or wrapping a sock full of ice around your neck.

Chill out when you’re done: As you ride, the wind keeps you cool and evaporates your sweat. But don’t let your guard down when you get to your destination. Make sure you take several minutes to cool off and gather yourself or you could get dizzy and queasy from heat exposure.

Drink a lot of water: ‘Nuff said.

What are you best tips for riding in this heat?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Dan
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Dan

I always carry small bits of cash so I can buy from lemonade stands, when I can find them. I rode over the west hills on Monday without a water bottle (forgotten!) and the usual houses didn’t have any stands out, though, so it’s a hit-or-miss strategy!

Mossby Pomegranate
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Mossby Pomegranate

Why does our public transit have so many deficiencies?

AndyC of Linnton
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AndyC of Linnton

Usually power through on my particular route home down ol’ Dirty30, but yesterday I took a book to the air-conditioned bar near work. I found that there was a little less traffic and a slight bit more shade on the highway at about 6:30, as opposed to 5. Heavy headwinds don’t seem to let up though these days. Strip bare and a cold shower when I get home.

Paul
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Paul

Break a sweat? LOL, I will break sweat standing still in this weather.

Electric Mayhem
Guest

If money is no object, check out this vest that circulates ice water: http://www.veskimo.com/cooling-hydration-backpack-system.html

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

I rode last night around sundown using my lights and had a glorious time.

In fact, I wanted to comment the driver of the Hawthorne bus #4 (already wrote to TriMet). I was approaching Grand traveling pretty fast, trying to make the light.

The bus was completing a pickup and was preparing to move across my lane.

I worried that the bus would hesitate then cut me off, or force me around to the right, or otherwise not be able to judge my speed.

In fact, the driver judged the speed precisely and correctly. She veered left, gave a little gas, got across Grand, and was well clear of the bike lane by the time I approached Grand (and also got across).

I ran her down on 5th and Yamhill and thanked her. She gave me a big smile.

rick
Guest
rick

Take a route with a general downhill descent on the way home.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

These little bad boys work like a charm. I use them at work from time to time (welder – usually outside – lucky I’m between jobs right now). Doesn’t seem like much, but they do cool the blood on it’s way to and from the head, they usually stay cool about an hour or so.

http://www.amazon.com/JellyBeadZ-Cooling-Scarf-Bandana-Black/dp/B004XX4X9E

Oh yeah, ride slower.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
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Steve Hoyt-McBeth

I rode (slowly!) through the Salmon Springs Fountain last night and got thoroughly soaked, refreshed, and relaxed. As I recalled from year’s past, I was completely dry by the time I got home in inner NE.

Indy
Guest
Indy

Can I make a small, unpopular suggestion?

Love the heat?

Take it in? On a bike, the heat isn’t so bad.

Sweating isn’t so bad.

Heat + wind in your face + sweating, really isn’t the worst thing out there.

Take breaks, drink 4x the amount of liquid you’d normally take in…. But heat and ranges of temperatures can be experienced without dread. Just “shift” your perspective to one of “I’m experiencing this sensation” rather than one of dread because you aren’t used to it.

Try it?

Reza
Guest
Reza

If you live on the west side and frequently have to take the lane on downtown streets, this type of advice (go as slow as you can!) is NOT PRACTICAL. And yes, I inevitably end up at my destination drenched in sweat. But the way my body works, I end up with a sweaty back after walking a 1/4 mile in these temperatures.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Use the throttle instead of pedal assist. Seems like drivers have an even harder time judging speed when your feet aren’t moving though.

Beth H
Guest

Honestly, the heat in Portland isn’t so bad. I just came home from a month in the Midwest. Temps near 90, humidity about the same. Returned to Portland last week and the humidity was around 35 %. I can feel the difference. No complaints here.

Clark in Vancouver
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Clark in Vancouver

Often if you freeze the entire bottle of water, it doesn’t thaw enough early enough. What you can do though, is fill it half full, then freeze it at an angle in the freezer, then fill up the rest when you take it out. That way you have something to drink sooner.
Another thing you can do is freeze coffee or tea or juice. I’m thinking of when you do long trips where you’ll be out all day.

Tait
Guest
Tait

I wish I could do this. I try, but I just cannot seem to maintain a low enough exertion to not sweat — no matter the weather. I’ll have to try ditching the backpack, but I can’t help but feel there’s some secret everybody else knows to low-exertion riding that I’ve never been able to figure out.

DaveM
Guest
DaveM

I wanted to give props to CityBikes for putting out their water spraying hoop for riders on Ankeny. Thanks guys!

Alexandra
Guest
Alexandra

I’m four months pregnant, so biking home in 95 degree weather has not worked for me, especially since my trip is 11 miles. But I will defend the public transit system and say that I am very grateful that you can take your bike on any bus or MAX (provided there is a space!). I have been leaving work a bit earlier to make sure I get one, but not every city has this option. The morning rides in 65 degree weather are pretty glorious, though. Stay hydrated out there, folks, and wear sunscreen!

MeghanH
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MeghanH

Wet a bandana, roll it up like you were about to tie it around your neck, stick it in a plastic bag and freeze it during the day. It makes a difference to me. Drinking water at every single opportunity helps. But I have to say, the prospect of a TriMet bus with A/C grabbed me today, when it’s forecast to be 99 degrees.

invisiblebikes
Guest
invisiblebikes

Here is a suggestion from a long time dessert rider;

Step 1) soak all the pads in your helmet with water (either on the helmet or off)

step 2) put your helmet and pads (installed) in the freezer over night.

step 3) 15 minutes before your ride pull helmet out of freezer and let (pads) slightly thaw so they won’t be a shock to your skin when you put it on. then put it on for a much cooler head during the rides entirety.

The closed cell foam of your helmet will hold the temps from the freezer internally (towards the core of the foam) for a pretty long time, it’s insulation 101 the foam is such a good insulator that it slowly releases the cold temps from its core to create a cooling affect around your head. The heat from your head will not heat up the foam because it’s a 2 way shield. resists heat while releasing cool until it reaches air temp which is usually still cooler than what your feeling from the suns rays.

Most people think wearing a helmet makes your head hotter, which on very warm days above 90 it’s actually the opposite. The foam is insulating your brain from the sun and heat. The excess heat that you feel under your helmet from your head is mostly your skin not being able to breath and release heat fast enough. But in a helmet your brain is able to stay at a consistent temp (in the core of your head) while your skins releases the heat and builds up a little of its own.
To counter act your skin from building heat just poor water over your head (with your helmet on) and it will cool your skin while the helmet protects and insulates your brain from over heating from the sun.
Much of the symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion start at your brain due to being unprotected from heat and sun beating down on your head. This is why you should always wear a hat (or helmet) while in the direct sun for periods longer than 15 minutes.

SEPDXRider
Guest
SEPDXRider

This is great, and I apologize that this post is slightly off topic but I agree with the folks who point out that riding slower can actually get you into more trouble sometimes and more conflicts with other road users.

Weird, I know, but it’s really true from what I’ve experienced. There’s a happy medium there – and definitely you have to take where you are riding into consideration.

That said. I try to ride slow. I really, really do, but there’s just this DNA strand in me that demands I hammer. Before I know it I’m cranking again. It’s a lot of work and repetitive mantras for someone like me to learn to slow down. 🙂

“Easy, easy, not a race, let him go. I know he looked back. It’s ok. Ride your pace. OK fine you can ‘pace’ the hill and pass him if you want. Deal? Good stay slow…”

OR

“Slow, slow, slow… hey look at that sweet bike… I would totally lock it better than that… oh DANGIT! Slow remember? Ok, slow, slow, slow, slow….”