Flashback Friday: Cycling in the Heat

The weather has been a bit up and down the past few weeks, but maybe summer truly is starting arrive. It was a lovely 27 degrees in Christchurch this afternoon, with every likelihood that it might be even hotter on Sunday. So how do you cope with biking when the mercury is rising? Fortunately, I decided to suggest some advice around this, originally back in Feb 2017

It’s getting hot…

Some might say it’s a nice problem to have, but when the mercury is pushing 30 degrees (or even a sunny 20), sometimes it’s just hard work to hop on your bike. I guess we should be thankful that it doesn’t tend to reach the 40s that our friends in Australia and many other places encounter. But how do you cope with getting around by bike when the temperature rises?

  • Ride slower: It might seem obvious but, unless you’re in a rush to get somewhere, why not just slow down a bit? The difference between, say 15 km/h and 20 km/h is quite a bit in terms of energy expended; 25 km/h even more so. Or take a break or two along the way where you can rest in the shade. If you do have a particular deadline, try to leave earlier so that you can cruise to your destination.
  • Get the clothes right: just like cycling in the cold, it’s all about layers – in this case taking them off! Brought your jacket along for the formalities of work or activities later? Why not roll it up in your bag to put on later. Unbutton your shirt a bit, ditch the tie, and roll up your sleeves (if you’re going to be out in the sun for a while, don’t forget sunscreen – including that strip on your lower back that always gets missed!). Wear a head scarf or bandanna to catch the sweat before it drips off your head. If you are able to manage it, choose light airy clothes for the ride; there are lots of good fabrics out on the market that help to ventilate and draw sweat away from the body.
  • Refresh at the other end: It will depend on how far you’re going and how much time you have, but if looking presentable at your destination is important then think about what you can do to cool down and smarten up once you’ve finished riding. If you have access to a (cool!) shower then you can wash off the sweat and get yourself into some fresh clothes. But it may just be as simple as a quick refresh with a flannel and towel over a basin and changing clothes in the bathroom. Throw in an anti-perspirant deodorant and you’re good to go.
Water is crucial on a hot day (c/ icebike.org)
  • Keep that water bottle handy: If you are going any reasonable distance, make sure you keep your fluids up; otherwise your body could start failing quite quickly in the heat. Fill up a bottle (perhaps throw some ice cubes in it to keep the temperature cool) and have it handy while riding. Keep taking regular sips (not just when you’re thirsty); you may not realise that you’re getting dehydrated. Keep drinking well after your ride too to rehydrate.
  • Use baskets and panniers to carry stuff, not backpacks and shoulder bags: You can tell the backpackers; they have that dark patch on the back of their tops… Ease the load and aid ventilation by investing in a good basket or pannier bags – let the bike do the hard work!
Or you could take the shade with you… (c/ ucmmuseum.com)
  • Look for the shade: If you have a choice of routes think about where you might get a bit of relief from the sun. Parks are often a great option; think of those lovely tree-lined paths through Hagley Park. In the central city, certain streets might be better because they are shaded by tall buildings.
  • Get some motorised help: We’re starting to see electric (e-)bikes pop up a lot more around town and of course a big advantage to them is the much reduced effort to pedal them. It can feel like you’re pedalling in bottom gear but you’re getting top gear speed! Another way to beat the distance is to make at least part of your journey by bus; put your bike on the front rack and off you go.
  • Save the ride until later (or earlier): If your ride is not time-critical (e.g. a recreational ride for some exercise or socialising), why not postpone it until later in the day when the temperature drops? A ride during the evening instead of the day can also have the advantage of a lot less traffic around. Alternatively, if the forecast is for scorching later, get out there earlier than normal before the temperature really starts to crank up.

In Canterbury a hot day can also mean that a strong nor’wester is in action. So you may also have to contend with cycling into the wind as well – luckily we have a few tips for that too.

What are your tips for riding on a hot day?

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