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Tips for Cycling in the Heat

Very few, if any, of the people that will read this article are professional cyclists that have top-level team support that allows riders to push their limits without fear of passing out or becoming stranded after a crash. For those of us mere mortals, when it comes to cycling in the heat there are a lot of precautions that must be taken. Avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke, avoiding tires sticking to pavement and coming undone, the list goes on forever. And all of them are real concerns -- which can be broken down into three categories: The body, the bike, and the environment.

Physical considerations

Heat conditions can and will cause the body to react, in one of three ways -- heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. The latter being the more fatal conditions. Aside from knowing tips to prevent the conditions from arising, it is also important to understand the signs our bodies try to tell us, that it is becoming too hot and something needs to be done.

Knowing when to stop and cool down is crucial during the hottest times out of the year.

Knowing when to stop and cool down is crucial during the hottest times out of the year.

Heat cramps. Heat cramps are a type of muscle pain that can happen during strenuous activity in hot weather. The person may feel a sudden, sharp pain in their muscles, as well as cramping or spasms. The condition is similar to regular cramps, except that it happens at a point in the ride wherein a rider would normally do well, this is an early sign of a heat condition.

Heat exhaustion. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. Someone with heat exhaustion may also have a fast heartbeat and low blood pressure. Those using a heart rate monitor during their training will notice that their heartbeat is still high even after resting for a long period of time. Also note that cramps are one of the symptoms, trying to toughen through these conditions can become fatal, this is the best point to stop and drink water in the shade.

Heat stroke. The symptoms of heat stroke are high body temperature, red hot and dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. If someone has these symptoms they should seek medical attention immediately. Heat stroke is a condition that occurs when the body overheats beyond its capability to cool down through natural methods. The body's temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C) or higher, and the person may experience symptoms such as confusion, delirium, seizures, and coma. Individuals concerned about this condition should be cognizant of becoming confused and incoherent, it is a sign that the brain is not getting enough oxygen. If you notice someone experiencing heat stroke, it is too late to just use shade and water, in addition to both temporary treatments the person must seek medical attention.

Assuming you would like tips for avoiding heat-related illnesses while cycling in the summer.

With the warm weather finally here, many of us are dusting off our bikes and taking them out for a spin. However, when temperatures start to climb, it’s important to take some extra precautions to avoid becoming overheated. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are all real dangers when exercising in high temperatures, but there are some simple steps you can take to stay safe.

Here are some tips for avoiding heat-related illnesses while cycling in the summer:

  • Stay hydrated. This is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent becoming overheated. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids before heading out on your ride and bring a water bottle with you to drink from regularly throughout your ride. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they will actually dehydrate you.

  • Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that will help wick away sweat and keep you cool. A wide-brimmed hat will protect your face and head from the sun’s rays. And don’t forget sunscreen to avoid sunburn.

  • Ride during cooler times of the day. If possible, avoid riding during the hottest hours of the day (generally between 10 am and 3 pm). Get out early in the morning or wait until later in the evening when the temperature has cooled down somewhat.

  • Take breaks. If you start to feel overheated, take a break in the shade and drink some water. Don’t try to push through it – it’s not worth risking heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

  • Know the signs of heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that can occur during or after exercise in the heat. They are often accompanied by heavy sweating. If you experience heat cramps, stop what you’re doing and rest in a cool place. Drink plenty of fluids and replace electrolytes with sports drinks if necessary.

Remember that heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps. If you think you may be suffering from heat exhaustion, stop exercising immediately and find a cool place to rest. Drink lots of fluids and seek medical attention if necessary. Heat stroke is the most serious condition and requires medical attention. If someone appears to be suffering from heat stroke, call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately – this is a medical emergency.

By following these simple tips, you can help prevent your body from becoming overheated while cycling in hot conditions.

Bike considerations

Just as the body can overheat, so too can certain parts of the bike. Electronics can behave erratically, tires can melt on the asphalt, water stored in their cages can become sweltering hot, and so on.

Bicycles are often thought of as low-maintenance vehicles, but that doesn't mean they're immune to the effects of extreme heat. While a bike can technically be ridden in almost any temperature, extremely hot weather can cause some serious problems for both the rider and the bicycle itself.

Electronics and metal components are typically not immune to the heat.

Electronics and metal components are typically not immune to the heat.

When it's hot out, bicycle tires can suffer from a few different problems. The air in the tubes can expand, which can cause the tires to feel softer and give you a slower ride. Additionally, the rubber in the tires can start to stick to hot asphalt, making it hard to pedal and turning your bike into more of a trudge than a fun ride. To avoid these issues, try to keep your bike in the shade when it's hot out or take shorter rides during peak heat hours. If you do find yourself dealing with soft tires or sticking, give yourself some extra time to cool down and make sure you have plenty of water on hand.

To avoid this problem altogether, try to avoid riding during the hottest part of the day on very hot days; if you must ride then make sure to keep an eye on your speed and keep your tires inflated to their maximum pressure rating.

Finally, metal components on a bicycle can become incredibly hot in direct sunlight; this includes things like rails on saddles or handlebars as well as chainrings or spokes. When metal is heated to high temperatures, it can weaken and cause problems for bicycle components. The heat can cause the metal to become brittle and break more easily. It can also cause the metal to expand, which can cause parts to become loose or not fit together properly. In addition, high heat can damage paint and finishes on metal components. Also, a word to the wise, Dura-Ace cranks are made of metal, not carbon fiber. Be careful not to burn yourself when touching these parts of your bike after being out in the sun as even one touch can cause burns.

High heat can cause problems for electronic bicycle components such as electronic shifting, power meters, and bicycle computers. Electronic shifting uses a small motor to move the chain between gears, and high temperatures can cause the motor to overheat and fail. Power meters measure the amount of power that is being generated by the rider, and high temperatures can cause the sensors to become less accurate. Bicycle computers use a variety of sensors to track speed, distance, and other data, and high temperatures can cause the sensors to become less accurate or stop working altogether.

Environmental considerations

When the temperatures outside are high, there are environmental concerns beyond just the body and bike. Staying in the shade can help protect against overheating, but it’s also important to be aware of when it is too hot outside. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, both of which can be extremely dangerous. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, headache, nausea, and fatigue – if you experience any of these, it’s important to get out of the heat and into a cooler environment as soon as possible. Heat stroke is even more serious, and can cause convulsions, unconsciousness, and even death. If you see someone with these symptoms (or suspect they may be suffering from heatstroke), call 911 immediately and cool them down with whatever means you have available (cool water, ice packs). By taking simple precautions like staying aware of the temperature and being mindful of how long you’re exposed to the heat, you can avoid potentially serious health problems.

Sometimes it is just too hot outside, anything above 90 F (32 C) should be taken with caution.

Proper planning is crucial, particularly when most of the world is experiencing a heatwave.

Proper planning is crucial, particularly when most of the world is experiencing a heatwave.

High temperatures are considered unsafe for exercise outdoors because they can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than it takes in and can not function properly. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dark urine, dry mouth, fatigue, and dizziness. If you experience any symptoms of heat stroke during exercise in the heat, stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are signs that the rider needs to cool down their body before continuing.

Staying safe while riding in the summer, or under any high temperatures means taking additional precautions and doing proper research and planning. The reason that professional teams can continue to train is that they have a large amount of staff, supplies, and even support vehicles.

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