Summer heat can make bicycling uncomfortable and downright dangerous. Below are some suggestions for coping with summer weather. Most of this advice is fairly common-sense, but it never hurts to hear it again.
Plan trips well ahead of time, and give yourself enough time to ride and recover. Know how long you can comfortably stay outside and therefore how far you can safely ride (generally under an hour; ideally under 30 minutes). Select routes that allow you to keep moving with fewer or shorter stops. Try to locate and follow shaded routes, or routes traveling through cooler areas (i.e. flood-irrigated neighbourhoods). Check for public pools, stores, streams, lakes or other potential cooling points along your route. Carry emergency bus money, and research where and when bus routes are available.
Acclimatise. Start out riding slowly and avoid the hottest parts of the day (10 am to 4 pm). If you’re just getting started with commuting by bicycle, you might want to make the switch gradually instead of trying to dive in during the summer heat.
Consider whether dry-wicking clothing and sunscreen work best for you, or if you’d prefer light, loose, long-sleeved cotton for sun coverage. (see Proviz cycling shirts here)
Hydrate. ”Eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty”. Drink lots of water before, during, and after riding, beginning up to a day ahead of your ride. Always carry plenty of water and don’t be afraid to ask businesses to refill water bottles and hydration sacks. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you are usually not drinking enough and it may already be too late to avoid heat exhaustion. A good indicator of good hydration is the need to urinate once an hour.
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Avoid Heat Exhaustion
Learn to recognize your body’s signs of heat exhaustion, which are similar to signs of fever. Initial signs can be subtle, so know them and pay attention. At the first signs of heat exhaustion: back off. Relax your pace, and increase your fluid intake, especially if you have stopped feeling thirsty. If you do not recover within 10-20 minutes, immediately find air conditioning or shade, and be prepared to call 999. Heat stroke can occur quickly and it is potentially fatal, so don’t try to tough it out, even if you only need to travel a short remaining distance. Lastly, if you get a flat tire or have mechanical problems, be sure to seek out shade or a place indoors for repairs.