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Tips for Hot Weather Cycling

This summer, through our “Drive Less, Bike More” challenge, we’re asking you and your bike friends to spend as much time outdoors (and outside cars) as possible by turning your short trips for transportation into fun bike rides and logging those trips to help us reach 2 million miles of bike trips by 2023. Should be easy right? 

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There aren’t many things that feel as good as cycling in the summer. The days are longer, leaving more time to take your bike out for a spin and enjoy the beautiful scenery of nature the season often has to offer. Not to mention it’s one of the most active, environmentally-friendly, and cost-efficient ways to get to and from your everyday destinations. 

While cycling in the summertime can be really enjoyable, it can also be hard to do if the weather is too hot and even the most experienced bicyclists may feel unmotivated to ride. To help you make your summer short trips #bikePossible, we asked our education director Alison Dewey to share her Smart Cycling tips for biking in hot weather.

#1: Stay Hydrated 

Just because it’s fun choosing to go places by bike doesn’t mean it’s not exercise — and like any form of physical activity, it’s important to stay hydrated. Because you often don’t realize how much you sweat while biking, it’s essential to replenish fluids and regain strength by maintaining your fluid intake. Doing so can help you avoid dangers such as heat stroke and exhaustion. 

We suggest carrying at least two bottles of water (or your favorite electrolyte beverage) on a bike trip no matter how long or how far you plan to ride and NEVER start a ride dehydrated.  

#2: Find Optimal Times to Ride

Try to find time to ride in the early morning or late evening. Even on the hottest of summer days, temperatures tend to be cooler during those time frames. Bonus for early-morning riding: there is usually less traffic too! 

Even with short trips, don’t be afraid to make accommodations that will reduce the time and distance spent in the heat i.e. finding a shorter bike route or combining your bike trip with transit. Shorter bike miles are better than no bike miles at all!

#3: What You Wear Is Key

Dress as cool as possible by wearing material that is short-sleeved, breathable and quick-dry (often labeled as dry-wick or sweat-wicking). Make sure to also wear UV filtering sunglasses and sunscreen to protect your eyes and skin from the sun’s rays. Fingerless cycling gloves are good for maintaining a grip on the handlebars with sweaty palms.

If you’re worried about spending the rest of your day in sweaty duds, bring an extra pair of clothes to change into once you reach your destination or add a small towel or wipes to your bag. 

#4: Travel Light

Carry stuff on your bike instead of your body. Say your short bike trip is to the grocery store or the local library. It’s easier to ride with a few groceries or books on a bike rack than to carry the weight on your shoulder or back. If you travel light, you can go faster and farther.

Think about your bike’s tires too. The air pressure in tires increases as the temperature goes up so use slightly lower inflation when you know you will be riding on the extremely hot pavement to prevent a flat. 

#5: Know Before You Go

Be aware of the weather conditions and plan routes that will accommodate staying as cool as possible. For example, know which routes offer more shaded areas and where facilities like public restrooms and drinking fountains are located along your route. Parks and trails are usually a go-to for facilities. Also, know the routes to any nearby gas stations and convenience stores where drinks could be purchased. 

#6: Be Prepared For Bike Emergencies

No ride is 100% predictable. That’s why it is important to be prepared for whatever your next bike trip throws your way, whether it’s a flat tire or a broken chain. Always carry whatever you deem to be essentials i.e. water, money, and a phone in case you are stranded somewhere. If there is room, bring basic bike tools so that you can repair your bike alongside the road or at your destination if needed.

An easy way to make sure your bike is in good working order before hitting the road, dirt path or wherever you travel is to do an ABC Quick Check.

#7 Park in the shade

If possible and safe, find some shade to park your bike when you reach your destination. Most saddles are black and can attract a lot of heat when parked in the sun. A cooler saddle is way more comfortable to hop on than a hot saddle after your errand, day at work, or break. 

The League’s Smart Cycling program offers a catalog of tips to help you ride safely and confidently through resources like our Smart Cycling video series and Quick Guide.