Ride the heat wave with these 10 proven tricks

Splash Dance Ride-15-14
This guy has the right idea.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s coming. A collective flip-out has begun because several days of triple-digit temperatures are about to hit Portland.

That means unless you love being hot, biking during the day will be nasty. But there are ways to beat the heat while you bike.

The List


  • Ride slowly
  • If you see water, ride through it
  • Get bags off your back
  • Helmets can help
  • Shade matters
  • Timing is everything
  • Freeze your drinks
  • Soak your shirt or a bandanna
  • Mind over matter
  • Carry cash

We recommend riding through the heat if you can. Here’s why: TriMet’s transit system will likely be delayed because it doesn’t do well in extreme heat or cold. And because people will opt for the most comfortable option it’s also likely we’ll see more single-occupancy motor vehicle trips than usual (which also leads to transit delays). So, like always, riding a bike will still be the most efficient way to travel for shorter trips.

But if you bike, please heed some warnings and tips. We don’t want anyone getting woozy out there and we always want you to have the most enjoyable ride possible. On that note, we’ve collected our best hot riding tips. The list below was gleaned from post posts on the topic and from the collective wisdom of our community. Please add your secrets so we can refine the list and make it even better next time. (And you know there will be a next time, because of the warming climate caused in large part from all those single-occupancy motor vehicle trips I mentioned above, but I digress.)

Here’s how to ride — and survive — the heat wave:

Ride slowly: I’m a huge advocate of riding slow regardless of the weather; but when it’s hot there’s even more reason to not race through the bike lanes. I like to think of it as the “no sweat challenge”: Shift into just the right gear that allows you to keep an efficient pace without working up a sweat.

If you see water, ride through it: This is fun and smart. From rivers to creeks, fountains and front yards — embrace every opportunity to ride through water. Being wet = being cool (and it’ll dry quick, so you don’t have to worry about showing up at your destination looking like a wet dog).


Shade is your friend.

Get bags off your back: You’ll be less sweaty and much more comfortable if your bags are on your bike.

Helmets can help: Soak the pads in water and if you’re thinking of ditching it to stay cool, remember that the foam not only protects your head it also keeps the sun off.

Shade matters: Seek routes with big trees and abundant shade. About one-third of Portland’s streets have a complete tree canopy, many of them on neighborhood greenway routes.

Timing is everything: If possible, ride early or late to avoid peak sun exposure.

Freeze your water bottles: It’s always a bummer to suck down warm liquids. And it should be obvious to hydrate more than usual.

Soak your shirt or a bandanna: Like I said above, having something wet around your neck or your head significantly lowers your core body temperature. Some readers swear by these JellyBeadz cooling scarves available for about $7 on Amazon. One BP reader swears by the wet shirt trick and finds that properly soaked it will last for a trip of two miles before drying out.

Mind over matter: Chances are you won’t experience any ill effects, so why not embrace it? Tell yourself it’s an enthralling sensation, not a dreadful sacrifice.

Carry a few bucks in cash: If you ride through a lot of residential areas, kids with lemonade stands might be your best last resort for an emergency refresher.

And finally, if money is no object, buy a Veskimo: For just $1,116 you can get a “complete personal cooling system.”

Hopefully these tips help you get through the week.

Do you plan on riding any less because of the heat?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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