For many of us, summer is the best time of year to ride. It has reliably warm weather and long days, which means more opportunities for cycling on and off-road. We suggest the following tips for staying safe and having fun during your summer pedaling excursions.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Staying hydrated is often the biggest challenge of summer riding, particularly for those who live in hot and/or humid climates. It’s common to consume at least one bottle of fluid per hour when it’s hot, but exact amounts will vary per person and with temperature. If you will need more water than you can carry with you for any given ride length, plan a route that passes a convenience store, spring, visitor’s center or other location where you can refill bottles and/or purchase a cold drink.
Proper electrolyte balance of elements like sodium, potassium and calcium is important to keep your body functioning properly. You sweat out electrolytes during exercise, so it’s a good idea to take your favorite electrolyte-rich beverage along in one of your bottles during hot rides. You’ll be able to replace those electrolytes as you ride and will be less likely to cramp.
Beat the heat by riding during cooler times of the day. Set your alarm and get up early and ride so that you’re done before the heat starts to build, or wait until the heat wanes in the evening. If it’s hot until really late, charge up your lights and head out for a night ride.
If you have no choice but to ride when it’s hot, consider choosing routes with more shade. If you start to overheat, take breaks in the shade. Simply being out of the direct sunlight while exerting yourself can make a hot day feel much cooler and reduce the likelihood of getting heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
Sun exposure damages skin and causes sunburn, and we all know that too much time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer. The best protection is to cover yourself up against the sun. For example, consider wearing sun sleeves or a lightweight jacket to cover your arms, a bandanna to cover your neck and a cycling cap to cover your head under your helmet vents.
If you have to ride in the sun but it’s too hot or humid for extra layers, apply sunscreen and try to avoid sun exposure during mid-day hours when the sun is most intense. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen frequently as you sweat it off.
Bring the Essentials
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it will always be hot. If you’re riding in the mountains, it can be cooler at higher elevations, especially in the mornings and evenings, and if you’re riding in some climates, you may have to deal with frequent summer thunderstorms. Bring a jacket so that you’re prepared for rain or cooler temperatures.
As with any ride, don’t forget a spare tube, tire levers, pump, patch kit, multi-tool and snacks. If you’ll be riding somewhere with mobile service, also bring your phone so you can call for assistance in the event of an emergency.
Watch Out for Bugs and Snakes
Snakes like summer, too, so if you’re riding somewhere they are prevalent, keep an eye out, especially for poisonous varieties – you’ll want to give them plenty of space. While it’s more common to see snakes in the woods, they sometimes hang out on warm pavement as evening temperatures cool, so you’ll want to look out for them on the road, too.
Bee, wasp and yellow jacket stings are more likely to happen in the summer, so if you’re allergic, bring an oral antihistamine like Benadryl and/or an Epinephrine Auto-Injector so that you can manage an allergic reaction. If you’re riding in a climate with ticks and/or mosquitos, consider using bug spray prior to your ride, and check for ticks afterward to reduce your chances of contracting tick-borne illnesses.