When The Going Gets Hot, The Serious Cyclist Keeps Going : “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is an Old English proverb that has weathered the years, inspiring John F Kennedy and Knute Rockne among countless others. Come to think of it, change a couple of words, and it could serve as a hot weather mantra for bikers who are determined not to let temperatures of ninety degrees or higher keep them off a road that may be even hotter than the air.
This doesn’t mean you have to enjoy riding in temperatures of ninety degrees or higher. It means you have to prepare your body, so it can weather the temperature… and the fatigue……and the dehydration. However, it doesn’t call for Herculean efforts if you take the time to plot your course, in more ways than one.
Gradually Get Used to The Heat
Ever notice what happens if you drop a cold egg into boiling hot water? It cracks. Now while this may be an exaggeration, your body will similarly be more prone to injury if it has not been exposed to incrementally higher temperatures. So when you put those miles in, schedule your riding time during the cooler morning or evening hours and use your downtime to get used to the heat. For example, if you want to acclimate your mind and body to what you know will be a hot ride or race, spend some time in the sauna or take a Bikram (hot) yoga class.
Pre-Hydrate then Keep it Up
In the days preceding a big ride, add extra helpings of watery fruits like grapes and watermelon to your diet. During the ride, keep your hydration levels up in proportion to your body weight. For example, a 150 lb rider should drink a 20-ounce bottle every hour. If you think this sounds like too much, consider that more than one racer in the fabled Tour de France where the temperature radiating off the road has been known to rise as high as 141 degrees Fahrenheit, makes sure he downs 50 ounces of water every hour during the race.
Remember, Heat Rises
If you’ll be riding on asphalt, you’ll be getting an extra dose of heat. That’s because asphalt or blacktop absorb the heat quickly. Ofttimes the surface temperature has already reached temperatures of 120 degrees F before the race gun has been fired. And by the time the middle of the pack passes through it can be as hot as 180 degrees F in places like Adelaide in Southern Australia where the Tour Down Under race starts.
But that’s only half the problem. Hot air rises and so riding through the heat radiating from the road can feel like being in a clothes dryer. But here the cyclist has it over runners in that the very act of riding generates a breeze. And while it won’t cool you off, it will cause the heat on your skin to evaporate, and this will have a cooling effect. Wearing a mesh jersey mesh will allow the flow of air to pass through and with it, some of your body heat.
Drinking cold fluids will not only keep you hydrated but will also keep your body temperature down. To prevent your fluid of choice from becoming tepid, freeze half the bottle overnight and top it off when you set out in the morning. If you’ll be carrying a hydration pack, fill it halfway and freeze.
Keep Your Core Cool
If your core temperature gets too high, both your health and performance can suffer. Should you feel overheated, try to cool down quickly. If you have water handy, pour it on your neck or wet a towel and rub it over against your neck and arms. Just to be safe, you may also want to invest in riding gear like performance headbands and neck tubes specially designed to regulate riders’, runners’, and hikers’ body temperatures.
Some Like It Hot…
Some don’t. Not everyone is cut out for hot weather riding. Some people are more prone to heat-related illness than others. So it’s best to know the signs of heatstroke. And should you feel any of them, remember when the going gets tough, tough people aren’t afraid to say enough is enough — for today, anyway.
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