Wrapping up the month of May, here in the Upper Midwest, if the combination of heat and humidity over the last couple days is any indication to what’s ahead here are some suggestions. Hot weather can make a normal ride more difficult. Then, throw in the humidity and you may want to stay off the bike altogether or cut your ride short. But that’s not necessary when you use these simple tips to keep cool on your bike. You can beat the heat, stay safe, ride longer and still have fun with the following.
1. Squirt Water on Your Head
During hot weather riding, a second water bottle can be a bonus for squirting water on your head through the vents in your helmet. Depending how hot every 2 to 5 miles will really help cool you down. First, the water itself will be cooler than your head and so that will be an initial and immediate blast of temperature relief. Next, the evaporation effect will continue to help keep you cool as the water dries by carrying heat away from your body as you continue riding.
Just make sure you have access to water along the route, so you can replenish your supply as you ride. If that is questionable and you have a way to carry several bottles, a few extra pounds will be well worth the extra effort it causes. You certainly don’t want to dump all your water on yourself, with nothing to drink and no place to refill?
2. Wrap a Wet Bandana or Towel Around Your Neck
If you don’t like getting your hair wet wrap a water-soaked piece of fabric around your neck. This old and proven method can do wonders to keep your body cool while riding your bike, hiking, paddling, etc. Here the moist coolant (H2O) in the loose fitting fabric wrapped around the base of your neck will help lower the blood temperature flowing between your heart and head – Allowing you to handle the warm weather with less chances of a heat stroke.
If you’re not inclined to do-it-yourself towel wraps, so-called “Neck Coolers or Wraps” are available at many local bike shop or department store.
3. Freeze Your Water Bottles Overnight
For colder water longer, consider freezing one of your water bottles overnight. The ice will melt as you ride, offering you cold water along the way instead of the too warm stuff that’s not so refreshing.
This may be a little bit trickier than the other steps, as you want to make sure the water will be melting so that it is available for drinking as you need it. Experiment with this until you know what is right for you. If you carry two water bottles, maybe freeze just one of them, saving that to be the second one you drink, after it has had the chance to melt, some.
Remember, if you plan to freeze one of your water bottles, fill it only to the 3/4 full level. Any more than that and the water may burst your bottle(s) as it expand while freezing.
If you use a water bladder device, verses a water bottle, add ice then fill with water. If you can add ice outside the bladder, in the pack, this will also help keep the contents cold, melting and dripping onto your back.
4. Wear the Right Kinds of Clothes
Choose clothing, in lighter colors, that allows perspiration to evaporate quickly and cools you down better. That’s going to mean materials like cotton and silk are totally out since they absorb and hold on to sweat. Look for “technical” fabrics instead, like spandex and lycra. If you don’t want to look like a bike jock, all decked out in gear that makes you look like you are ready to race in the upcoming Tour de France, you will be glad to know there are other options. Many golf and tennis-style cloths are now made in technical fabrics that look normal, feel comfortable and perform well.
5. Wet and Shady Heat Relief
When road temps near or exceed 100 degrees, schedule breaks often where there is water and or shade. When you need a drink from your water bottle or to rewet your neck wrap look for shade under a tree, on the north side of a building or under a overhang to make the stop more enjoyable. If you see a water park, lake or even a lawn sprinkler to run through, be a kid again and cool off.
So drink lots of liquids, stay cool and have fun riding!