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Get ready to roll through the heat with these tips

Posted by on July 24th, 2020 at 1:29 pm

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As if we didn’t have enough on our plates, now a heat wave is coming.

Given that we’re in the midst of a surge in biking and many of you might not have been through a hot summer season before, it’s worth thinking ahead about how to stay comfortable when cycling gets sweaty.

Biking in the heat is no joke — especially if you’re wearing a mask or some other type of face covering that could make you even hotter. Before I share a few of our best hot biking tips, I want to share a story I heard from a reader this week.

Doug H. was biking toward the Springwater path in Sellwood Riverfront Park on Tuesday when he saw a man fall over while biking. According to Doug, the 68-year-old man suffered from a heat stroke and then later died of cardiac arrest. It was 90-degrees at the time of the incident.

I share this story to underscore how heat can impact your ride. So before heading out in the next few days, check out our tips below:

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Ride slowly: If it’s super hot I play the No Sweat Challenge game with myself. Using my gears, I adjust my speed and cadence (the rate at which legs spin the cranks) 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 sprinklers — 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).

Get bags off your back: You’ll be less sweaty and much more comfortable if you don’t use a backpack. Attach a basket to your bike, use panniers, hang grocery bags from your bars — whatever you can do to avoid a big heavy thing draped over your back.

Helmets can help: It may seem counter-intuitive that something on your head can cool you down, but try soaking the pads in water for a refreshing sensation. Also keep in mind that a helmet can act as a shield against the sun — especially if it has a built-in visor.

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 a water bottle: Freeze one, fill one. By the time you get to #2 it’ll be melted and cold.

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 neck scarves. You can also soak your t-shirt before heading out.

For more great tips from BikePortland readers, check the comments in the “Related Posts” posted below this story. Enjoy the weekend and stay cool!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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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Granpa
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Granpa

When you freeze your water bottle only fill it 1/3 full and freeze it on its side. Then fill it the rest of the way before you head out

Bicycling Al
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Bicycling Al

Extra water is key and soak your head and neck liberally. This is why I recommend riding with only water in your bottles rather than sports drinks. If you need the electrolytes, then carry a gel or two.

Don’t pass up opportunities to top off your bottles.

Hot days are not the time to push your training. As a young man, I passed out on a long climb during a very hot day with no recollection of how I got off the road to lay under a tree.

Finally, riding with someone is important if you’re going into remote areas.

dan
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dan

My approach to hot-weather exercise has always been “go as hard as you can, and accept that you’ll be slower than you would be in cooler weather.” But I’m probably at the age now where that approach is no longer safe (sigh), so thanks for the tips.

Racer X
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Get an e-bike!…with optional AC.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

In hot humid climates like where I live, carry as much water as you can. If you start to get headaches or muscle cramps, you probably aren’t drinking water frequently enough. Don’t ration your water, drink as much as you need and refill (or don’t go as far.) And if your packing space forces you to choose between more water or a rain jacket, dump the jacket; if it suddenly looks like rain, seek shelter (thick trees work for me) and any rain that does hit you will soon evaporate (hot rain is an odd experience). For long rides, bring an energy bar or two. If you use sweat bands or dew rags, bring several extras.

Chafing and related discomfort of the unmentionables in the crotch area is more frequent the hotter it gets. Lotion helps a lot, plus chamois cream on the butt. Shorts and underwear are fine for short rides, but those padded lycra shorts really help for longer rides.

If you stop at fast-food places for pit stops, bring a good lock for your bike – it’s where your friendly local bike thieves hang out between jobs.

Steve Scarich
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Steve Scarich

Not trying to disrespect Doug H., but I doubt it was heat stroke. It takes a long time, at least a couple of hours, at temperatures well over 90 to happen. The guy probably had existing health issues to just keel over riding on the streets of Portland. Having raced for three hours in 100 degree weather, and getting heat exhaustion, I can tell you it is no fun. But, let’s not get carried away with worry. Unless, of course, you are already at high risk.

chasing backon
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chasing backon

My favorite heat buster is to wet my hair before leaving the house. This acts as a giant cooling radiator

Pat McManus
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Pat McManus

For riding on hot days some folks recommend wearing cotton, which is cooling when wet/sweat soaked (which is why not advised for cool weather). I suggest, whatever the fabric, wear a very loose fitting one!

Roger Geller
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Roger Geller

I learned a trick from a colleague in Arizona: wear long cotton pants, long-sleeve cotton shirt and a bandana on your head (under your helmet, if you wear one or a hat). Drench yourself completely, like walk in the shower fully clothed drenching (remove wallet, shoes, etc before doing that). Riding on 100-degree days will then feel perfectly comfortable. I’ve even felt chilly at the start of such rides. It’ll feel like a day in the 60s/70s–at least for a little while.

I usually reserve that for upper 90s/low 100s. You’ll be dry in about 20-25 minutes, at which point you’ll need to find more water…

chris
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chris

On really hot days i put ice cubes in my pockets before i head out.

Pete
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Pete

I’m now subject to atrial fibrillation after an initial episode with dehydration (and recurring a-fib episodes related to cycling/exertion). Regarding water, what I’ve learned is to start hydrating well before the day you head out into the heat. Rest, electrolyte balance, jet lag, limiting alcohol and stress, these are other important factors but heart health centers around good old fashioned H2O.

I also once saw a recommendation on Dr. Oz TV show saying to drink in approximately 10 gulps at a time. To this day I struggle drinking as much water as I should (I simply don’t like to), but have found this technique seems to leave me more energized than sipping away slowly.

Opus the Poet
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I guess it comes down to what you’re acclimated to. I took a walk yesterday of over a mile in 90°F+ temperatures and when I logged the walk I noted how much cooler it was and very comfortable. But we get Feels Like temps of around 110 on the regular so “just” 90 does feel almost cool.

chris
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chris

Is there someone here who logs in just to give every comment a thumbs down? These are all positive, useful ideas, except for the e-bike with AC joke. Why you gotta be so negative?