Now that the summer (and the heat and the sun) are upon us, it’s time to advise or remind cyclists of things they need to do to protect themselves. So here goes.
Start Off Easy
Heat-related illness is a serious concern for cyclists and can still occur even with the right hydration and sun protection. To stave off heatstroke, it is best to ease into hot weather riding. Start out with short and easy rides and, once you begin to acclimate, gradually increase the length and intensity. After a couple weeks of hot weather riding, your body will learn to cope with the additional heat-related stress.
Staying adequately hydrated is essential in the heat. On the hottest rides, you may need to drink as much as 32 ounces an hour. When you drink large amounts of water, it is important to keep the minerals in your bloodstream balanced (when you sweat, your body loses water and electrolytes. Having a little bit of electrolyte mix along with your water helps with everything from muscle cramps to brain function. To take electrolytes, you can use a powder to mix with your water, you can dissolve tablets in your water, or you can take capsules (it’s personal preference; they all work). The brand I use is called Endurolytes, sold by Hammer Nutrition (www.hammernutrition.com); I use the capsules. Another popular brand is NUUN. Performance Bicycle says they are big fans of Scratch and Tailwind hydration mixes for great tasting flavors that are easy to digest. Whatever brand you use, it’s important that it contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
A number of factors determine how quickly dehydration sets in. Among these factors are how much you sweat, how hot and humid it is outdoors, how hard you’re riding, how long you’re riding, body weight, fitness level, acclimatization level (is the day unusually hot and/or humid, given what you’re used to), and physiological predisposition. So on a given ride/day, you may have to adjust the amount of electrolytes that you normally use.
Some warning signs of dehydration: cramps, dry skin, nausea.
Other tips: fill a water bottle ¾ full and put it in the freezer. In hot weather, you’ll have a perfectly chilled bottle to drink from after around an hour of riding. Put ice cubes in your Camelback and water bottles. Use insulated water bottles.
Seeing and Being Seen
When you wear sunglasses while you are riding (which you should, because it reduces glare, among other benefits), be aware that when you ride through a shady area, you probably won’t see as well as you would without wearing the sunglasses. This is particularly true if your sunglasses let in relatively little light (meaning they have very dark lenses). So you really need to be more careful in the shade. In addition, the glare from the sun can adversely affect the vision of drivers, which means they are less likely to see you. So consider using lights—front and back—that have daytime flashing modes. Some people mount two back lights, so the flashes are out of phase and even more visible. Given the latest advances in lighting technology and batteries, the best models on the market combine outstanding visibility, rechargeable batteries, long battery life, and light weight. A good rear light should cost no more than $30-40 and a good headlight should cost $40-90. Consult www.thewirecutter.com for good models.
Obviously, sunscreen is super important. Make sure it’s water-resistant and choose a high SPF rating such as 50+. When sunscreen alone is not enough, sun blocking arm and leg sleeves are a great way to stop the sun’s harmful rays. There are fabrics today that block the sun very well and are advertised as SPF rated. Bring a little tube of sunscreen with you on your ride, in case you need to apply more. Wear a bandanna; it shields the back of your neck from the sun. Remember that the sun (UV rays) is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Therefore, try to ride as little as possible during that period. Leaving for your ride early in the morning has the additional advantage of it being cooler at that time of day compared to mid-day.
Taking steps to cool down on a hot ride can make a huge difference. Simply planning a route with more shade can be helpful. If there are lakes or streams along the way, a quick dip in the water will provide a much-needed temperature reset. Wear a bandanna and dip it in ice water as often as possible. Stop when you are feeling like you’re overheating: get into a cool/cold place, pour ice water over your head, and rest a few minutes. And if it’s really hot, plan a shorter ride, or ride fewer miles than planned.
You cycle because you like the outdoors and you like the exercise, but do so safely. That’s always the bottom line.
Article – by Howie Wiener