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Bike Commuting In Hot Weather – Stay Cool When The Heat Is on

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Many people don’t enjoy cycling to work in cold weather, but when the temperatures soar it can be just as daunting. Bike commuting in hot weather presents its own challenges.

In this article, we give you 10 top tips on how to make bike commuting stress-free in the heat.

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1. Carry Water

Cyclist Drinking Water From a BidonPin
Courtesy: Viktor Bystrov

Okay, if you only have to ride 15 minutes to work, you may find this unnecessary, but you never know when your journey may be delayed through a bike problem or other circumstances beyond your control.

If the temperatures are high when you need to bike commute, always carry a 500 ml bottle of water at least that you can fall back on for hydration. Obviously, the longer your commute, the more imperative this becomes.

Keen cyclists who ride a long way into work may want to drop an electrolyte tablet into their water to replace minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium. Those who sweat a lot of salt should pay particular attention to sodium content.

2. Wear The Right Clothes

Whether you opt for the casual look or the athletic one, your choice of clothes on a summer commute makes a difference to your comfort. The material is particularly of interest. Here are three common choices:

  • Cotton – highly breathable and doesn’t smell much after exertion, but it absorbs a lot of sweat and is therefore poor at wicking away moisture. That also makes it slow to dry, so it’s often a bad choice for a hot commute.
  • Polyester – not as breathable as cotton by nature and smells more after exercise, but it retains almost no sweat and dries quickly. Polyester is usually blended with other fabrics in sports clothes and engineered to wick moisture.
  • Merino wool – though we think of wool as a winter fabric, Merino wool is finer than standard wool. It’s excellent for breathability, moisture wicking and temperature regulation. It smells less than polyester but is pricier.

3. Look After Your Skin

UV radiation, a common cause of skin cancer, isn’t as predictable as one might think. It can be higher on a partly cloudy day than it is under a clear blue sky. It’s measured by something called the “UV Index”.

Since UV radiation is at its strongest in the warmer months when the sun is high in the sky, you should always protect your skin during a bike commute. Use either sunscreen or sun sleeves (the former may be best in extreme temperatures.)

4. Take Your Time

If it’s unusually hot and you’re not used to riding in the heat, don’t push yourself too hard. Though illness is unlikely if your commute is short, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke are a risk when temperatures soar.

Anyone that works a 9-to-5 job will probably be okay on the morning commute before the sun is high in the sky, but the return journey is often warmer and your body will be more depleted after a day at work. Leave fast riding for another day.

5. Wear Sunglasses

Protective glasses are always a good idea when cycling, because they stop dust and grit from getting into your eyes as well as bugs. In the summer, polarized sunglasses are a good choice for their ability to reduce reflection and glare.

Red or pink lenses in cycling sunglasses are a good all-round choice for their ability to enhance definition and contrast. You might want to avoid yellow or orange lenses in sunlight as things can appear way too bright.

Sunglasses also protect the skin around your eyes from overexposure to sun, thereby further reducing the risk of skin cancer.

6. Let The Bike Carry Your Stuff

Many bike commuters like the simplicity of a backpack, but there are a few potential drawbacks. The main one during warm weather is the likelihood of ending up with a drenched back because your sweat has not received enough air to evaporate.

Installing a rack on your bike enables you to carry your gear in a pannier, leaving your back free to take the air.

7. Choose Shaded Routes

On any bike ride, it’s often possible to pick shaded or shielded routes. Sometimes you might do this to block a headwind or a crosswind, but in the summer you can also do it to feel cooler.

In fact, the air temperature is not cooler in shade than it is in sunlight, but it feels cooler because the sun’s radiation is no longer actively heating your skin. Under those conditions, you may start to cool down.

8. Choose Flat Routes

If you have a choice between climbing steep hills on your way to work and taking a slightly longer, flatter route, of course the latter will be easier. And the easier you can make your bike commute, the cooler your body will stay.

The heat your body accumulates climbing a hill is not entirely dissipated on the descent, because you spend far less time going downhill than up. If you must climb a long hill, stop occasionally and allow yourself to cool.

9. Wear An Ice Sock

In pro bike races, soigneurs sometimes give ice socks to racers in hot temperatures. You can do this on a hot commute, too, though you may need a change of top or time to dry off at your destination.

Ice socks are wrapped around the neck or placed down the back of a tight jersey. They are made out of stockings cut in two with ice cubes inside. The idea is to keep your core temperature in check by cooling the blood at the skin’s surface.

Video: Making Ice Socks

10. Ventilated Headwear

Commuter bike helmets vary considerably in the amount of ventilation they provide for the rider. For instance, aero helmets tend to have few air vents, so they’re a good choice for winter commuting when you don’t want your head exposed. 

In summer, you want the opposite to the typical aero helmet, meaning numerous vents and a design that promotes good airflow (e.g., Bell Stratus MIPS, Kask Protone, Scott Centric Plus).

It’s Getting’ Hot In Here… Conclusion

Bike commuting in hot weather can be tricky, what with trying to keep cool and stay presentable for work. But it’s easily doable if you dress suitably and prepare well.

Did you enjoy our ten top tips? Please feel free to add your own or share this article.

Bike Push - Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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