Summer is a great time for cycling. It does not matter if you are riding a mountain bike in the woods or down your favorite country road. It is important to remember that on these bright and sunny summer days, when the humidity is low you can still be in danger of dehydration. On those searing hot summer days, heat stress can occur when high humidity, radiant heat from the sun and elevated air temperature combine to prevent your body’s ability to dissipate heat. It is important to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion. One of the first clues is a headache or nausea. Other symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive thirst, profuse sweating, muscle cramps, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue and fainting. The skin usually feels cold and clammy to the touch.
Here are some of my tips to keeping cool in the summer.
- Drink lots of fluids. Even if you are not thirsty. It is always a good idea to drink not only water, but products that replace lost electrolytes due to loss of salt caused by sweating
- Recognize the signs of dehydration
Bikers and hikers need to recognize the signs of dehydration. Listen to your body it knows when you are thirsty. You may not be in immediate danger, but it can be dangerous to ignore the message. Try to drink at least 8 to 12 ounces by sipping fluids every 20 minutes. It is better to sip the fluids in order to avoid stomach discomfort.
· Carry more fluid than you think you’ll need
If you cannot carry enough fluids in your water bottles, wear a back or hip-mounted insulated hydration system. They are sold in different sizes and usually hold 70 or 100 ounces of fluid. Adults can buy the same hydration systems made specifically for children. Some are available with places for keeping snacks, extra clothing or emergency kits.
- Keeping it cool
In the hot summer sun the water in the best hydration pack or water bottle can get very warm quickly. If you fill it ½ way the night before and put it in the freezer and then fill the rest in the morning, you can keep your water colder longer. When using water bottles, fill them all the way and freeze over night.
Water is sometimes not enough. With that in mind, carry along a sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. There are many great products on the market to choose from. Low sodium levels can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. Symptoms are similar to those of dehydration (headaches, nausea, confusion, cramps and fatigue). Some people don’t have any symptoms. Carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages have the ability to replace lost fluid in the blood at a slightly faster rate than pure water.
· Don’t burn your head
Always ride with a helmet. It will not only keep your scalp from burning, but it will also save your life. Since most of your body’s heat is lost through the head, old helmets might not be your friend during the summer. Newer helmets are light and well ventilated, more appropriately made for hot weather.
· The right bike clothing
Even though those cycling shorts might look funny and those bright colored Jerseys not stylish. They are made for a reason. Cycling shorts with padding in the crotch make for a more comfortable ride. Cycling shirts are made of wicking material that pulls perspiration and aid in cooling through evaporation. The bright colors deflect the sun and also make you very visible to automobiles. Cycling gloves are a must and fulfill three purposes. They add relief to your hands while holding the bars, if you happen to ride over glass they allow you to wipe your tires with out getting glass in your hand, and if you happen to fall they protect the palms of your hands. Look for gloves that have a vented mesh backs and open fingers for ventilation.
- Protect your skin
There is no hiding from the sun while riding. Apply plenty of sun block on your face, arms, and legs. Remember that you are going to sweat so do not put sun block on above your eyes. It will be sure to drip. Try to stay away from oil based sun screen, as this might impede sweating and is reflective.
- HAVE FUN
Cycling is a great sport. Don’t forget to have fun, take in the sights and smell the roses. Happy riding!