Right as you begin pedaling, a battle between your cycling muscles and your skin commences. Your cycling muscles start to demand oxygen and nutrients they need in order to keep the cranks turning. On the other hand, your skin requires the blood in your body to help radiate heat produced by your muscles. When the outside temperature rises on your ride, so does the battle between your skin and muscles. However, when the threat of heat illness rises, your skin will always win the battle and ultimately take away energy from your muscles. Unless you can keep yourself at a cool temperature, your body will slow you down.
When riding in high heat areas, this is always a constant issue. We’ve laid out a few strategies you can use on your next ride to keep you at that optimally cool temperature.
If at all possible, drink something really cold before your ride. Research has shown that athletes who drank an iced slushy before their run ran 10 minutes longer than athletes who just drank cold water. Even beverages like fruit smoothies work just as well.
If you happen to have access to a cold pool, taking a plunge in the cold water is also another great way to cool your body down before a ride. Unless your only option is a nearby creek or you are in a race, that might not be the most practical option.
In order to produce enough sweat on a hot ride, you have to keep your blood volume high enough to maintain an optimal amount of plasma (the watery part of your blood). It’s actually possible to boost your blood volume by hyper hydrating the night before a ride (and the morning of) by drinking sodium rich fluid like chicken broth or miso soup. You can also find commercially available pre-loading drinks like The Right Stuff and OSMO Preload.
If you are one of those riders who might look down to see two full water bottles sitting in their cages after riding for over an hour, be sure to make a mental note on your next ride to take a few gulps ever 15 minutes to stay on top of your hydration. It’s best to drink ¾ to a full bottle per hour of riding, however, this amount varies slightly between each person based on the heat and a rider’s state of pre-hydration.
Try to keep the drinks on your bike as cool as possible on your ride. Sports drinks aren’t the tastiest after they get lukewarm or soupy hot. This may lead to you being less inclined to drink as much of it as you might need. These warm fluids also don’t do a whole lot to keep your core body cool. On the other hand, cool drinks help you ride more comfortably on a hot ride. In a study done by British researchers, drinking cold fluids on a hot day can lower your heart rate by five beats per minute. On the other hand, heat and humidity can elevate your heart rate on hot days.
When riding on a hot day, choose light colored jerseys that absorb less heat. It’s also best to wear clothes that are sweat wicking and allow maximum airflow to help you cool down.
Sometimes you can get caught riding during the hottest time of the day. If you can, check the heat index before your ride to find the best ride times. Usually, the early morning time period is the best time to ride if the day is expected to be extremely hot.
Sweat can only keep you so cool on a very hot and humid ride. Pouring some nice cool water on yourself can cool your skin down and make you feel better relatively fast. Be sure to save some of your cool water, not just for drinking but also pouring it on your body.
Getting sunburnt on a ride is the worst because it certainly amplifies your heat stress. Be sure to cover yourself in sunscreen and maybe consider wearing UV protectant arm skins. These not only protect you from sunburn, but you can also pour water on them to keep you cool.