During the heat of summer, especially when you’re planning on riding for several hours, it’s important to do what’s necessary to stay cool. It will make the ride more enjoyable and help you avoid heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is a real risk for anyone who is dehydrated and exposed to high temperatures for an extended period. It can be caused by salt depletion as well as water depletion. Therefore, it’s important to restore electrolytes that are lost through sweating as well as replenishing fluid. Stay hydrated by wearing a hydration backpack and bring salty snacks or sports drinks to help replenish electrolytes.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
It’s still debatable whether caffeine contributes to dehydration, but consuming plain water (plus an occasional sports drink) is the best way to avoid dehydration. Additionally, you should wait until you’re finished riding for the day before consuming any alcohol – as it not only accelerates dehydration, but it impairs your ability to ride.
Wear the Right Base Layers
Our bodies regulate temperature by sweating. As sweat evaporates, it cools the surface of the skin. Choose synthetic base layers that wick moisture away from your skin, increasing the evaporative cooling efficiency of your body. Additionally, snug-fitting, stretchy base layers that provide light compression provide for better circulation and less muscle fatigue.
Full-Coverage Riding Apparel
No matter how strong your desire to wear a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops is, wear all your gear – all the time for your safety. No one plans to wrack up, but it happens, and the proper gear can reduce the severity of your injuries. If you want to wear flip flops when you get to where you’re going – toss a pair in your saddle bag.
Get an Evaporative Cooling Vest or Neck Wrap
Boost the power of evaporative cooling with a special vest that is worn under you riding apparel to help keep your core cool. Choose one made from polymer-embedded fabric that you soak in water, or the type you fill like a bladder. You can go a step further by adding a neck wrap made using the same water-absorbing polymer crystal technology or simply soak a neck gaiter or bandana (but they dry out a lot faster).
Use Common Sense
In addition to the aforementioned tips, take common-sense precautions like avoiding riding during the hottest part of the day. Take frequent breaks, and don’t try to “tough it out” if you begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy, your skin starts to feel unusually cold or clammy, or you experience muscle cramps or a headache. These can be signs of heat exhaustion which can lead to heat stroke – a serious situation that can be fatal.
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