Generally speaking, summer is the BEST time of the year to ride. We’ve got LONG days, great weather, and many of us get time off work to enjoy our passion for cycling and riding in some amazing events and places. There is just one problem it’s HOT!
That it’s a problem for a lot of cyclist is reflected in the number of articles, posts, blogs, tweets, and various other means of communication from the EXPERTS on the dangers of and how to beat the heat. You may consider yourself one of the “fire retardant” – “heat resistant” cyclists who categorically state, “The heat doesn't bother me.” That’s cool, but it’s a different statement than, “The heat doesn’t affect me.”
Finding and using effective solutions for beating the heat isn’t just for cyclist’s “bothered” by the heat, it’s for every cyclist who wants to perform better, fatigue less, recover faster, and just enjoy more time in the saddle.
Solutions for beating the heat aren't for WEAK cyclists, it’s for SMART cyclists. Ever hear a serious cyclist say, “I don’t carry water because thirst doesn't bother me?” Or someone saying, “I don’t carry food because hunger doesn't bother me?”
So what do the experts tell us every year? The advice falls into three broad categories:
All sound advice but is this really beating-the-heat?
AVOID THE HEAT – A simple “no-duh”, no brainer strategy but you can’t always avoid it, especially on those long centuries. Sooner or later “the heat is on” and if you've spent all your training time avoiding it, you won’t be prepared. This is almost a sure fire set up for “blowing up” on the course, cramping or at the least a miserable end to an otherwise great ride. For riders in the southwest like Arizona it’s almost impossible to avoid the heat any time of day.
GET USED TO THE HEAT. Absolutely sound advice – acclimatization can be critical for safely easing into hot weather riding and for a planned event known for high temperatures and / or humidity. Generally 10-14 days of lower paced riding will provide sufficient time for physiological adaptations preparing you for the higher temperatures. There are a still a couple of very important factors connected to staying cooler while acclimatizing. One is the acclimatizing phase itself, giving your body some safety and assistance while training in hotter weather can be an enormous help and add to your margin of safety zone. Second is that even after adapting to cycling in hot weather, race or training day circumstances can still throw you a curve. Having an edge on thermo regulation capacities can be a huge advantage for beating the distance, the time or the competition. Cooler heads do usually prevail.
PREPARE FOR AND DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES.
Planning and preparation is CRITICAL for hot weather training and racing. Adequate hydration and electrolyte replacement can not only mean a successful race, it can mean the difference between finishing and a great memory for the books or the lasting memory of a painful experience.
The key to preparation for hot weather rides is carry lots of water or hydration products [if you’re riding longer than 60-90 minutes]. What for…for drinking! Dehydration is probably THE biggest threat to endurance cycling in the heat.
Water is a precious commodity on your bike. It’s scarce and heavy. Each 24 ounce bottle of water weights about 700-750 grams. So if you’re carrying 2-3 extra bottles for drinking and to dump over your head in case of overheating – that is a lot of extra weight.
So unless you are committed to AVOIDING THE HEAT at all cost and while acclimatizing and preparation are sound strategies – you will still be HOT. And that alone can take a lot of the performance and fun out of the ride.
What you REALLY need is a solution that actually does keep you cooler. Something that lowers your skin temperature, is easy to use, and lasts for rides of any length. You need, “A Cooler Way to Ride.”
In the next post we will take a look at the science behind how your body cools itself, the mechanisms of thermo regulation, what overheating does to you, and the performance, recovery, and perceptual benefits of a sustainable cooling system for the bike.