Tips to stay safe while riding in the heat

Health, June 28, 2022

Set yourself up for success by making sure you are prepared to ride in the summer heat.

 Riding in the heat of summer can have it challenges. Not just performance related, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke are all very real threats to your health. When the outside temperature starts to reach the high 20s°C preparing yourself for riding in the heat can keep you safe and still enjoying getting outside to ride. 

Keep reading to learn some tips to manage the heat this summer.

Start your ride well hydrated

Sip water all day and drink .5-1L of water immediately prior to your ride to top up before you start.

Keep cool 

Keep your body temperature down before you start your ride or ‘warm up’. Have a cold shower, get out of an air conditioned car, get dress and warm up in the shade. 

Wear light coloured clothing

Light colours absorb less heat, one less heat challenge for you to deal with.

Apply sunscreen

There has been some debate whether sunscreen helps reflect the suns heat away from your skin. I won’t get into wether it does or not, but sunscreen has been proven to help avoid a nasty sunburn and reduce your risk of skin cancer later in life. 

Plan your ride

Lots of climbs are on exposed gravel roads. Plan for spots you can rest in the shade.

Consider planning a route with laps back to your car so you can reload your hydration and nutrition.

If the heat is really bad choose a time early in the day or later in the evening when the suns heat is not as intense. If necessary choose a shorter route to limit your heat exposure.

Now that you are well hydrated and prepared for the heat. The following are strategies useful to utilize during your ride.

Drink more water than usual

A general recommendation is to drink 8 cups (2 Litres) of water per day. On average, you lose about 1 Litre of water/hour through sweat while exercising. Extreme heat can increase that rate to 3 L/hour. 

Carrying enough water to drink 3 litres of water every hour may not be practical. Drinking 1-2 L/hour during your ride as well as having your pre-ride and post ride hydration dialled will be able to make up for any excess fluid loss while you ride. 

Add electrolytes to your water.

Electrolytes are salts you lose in your sweat such as Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Magnesium, and Calcium. Sodium is the most important one of these since you lose the most through sweat. 

With the higher sweat rate when riding in the heat you will need to replace these electrolytes to avoid an imbalance or a medical conditioning known as Hyponatremia (Low Sodium) from occurring. 

There are many commercially available sports drinks available that include electrolytes in them. Look for one that has 1,500mg of Sodium/litre to ensure adequate Sodium replenishment.

Splash water over your head and body. 

Wet skin and hair increases heat loss. Bring extra water with your for this or find a stream and splash the water on yourself during a rest break.

Pay attention to your pee. 

The darker yellow your pee is the more dehydrated you are. Use the graphic below (℅ Precision Nutrition) to determine if you’re dehydrated or not. A quick strategy to reverse dehydration is to drink 500mL (2 cups) of water if your pee is bright yellow (mild of the chart). Quickly drink 1 litre of water if your pee has become dark yellow (right side of the chart).

Continue to re-hydrate after the ride

It is very hard to completely meet your hydration demands during a ride or race. Especially if the race is non-stop without aid stations such as XC racing and some marathon races. Many times your stomach just can’t process so much liquid.

After you ride, a general guideline to follow is to drink 1-2L of water with supplemental electrolytes after your ride. 

If you weigh yourself pre and post ride, drink 500mL (2cups) of water with supplemented electrolytes for every pound of body weight lost during your ride. 

I hope these tips help you endure the summer heat from your lunch rides to epic rides and races you have planned.