Thermal Regulation

Yes, there are things you can to do combat the heat. Being safe on your bike should be your number one priority. Overheating can be deadly. “I’ll push though it” doesn’t work. The human body is air cooled and water cooled. Here are the top five things to do while riding in the heat:

  1. Drink enough fluids. This has to be done before your ride, as well as in the ride. Hydration does not start at the beginning of the ride. You’ll never catch up. Another big problem is actually running out of fluids. Emptying both bottles and just reaching the halfway point happens often. Also, not wanting to be empty, and conserving your fluid is just as dangerous. Plan your route in conjunction with the heat. Know where a source of water is located. Refill. Consume water every 3-4 minutes in extreme heat and heavy bodily exertion. Just a mouth full ever time. Don’t guzzle.
  2. The zipper on your jersey should be treated like a thermostat, constantly moving up and down in your ride. Just the act of moving on a bike stirs the wind and can be a great aid in cooling your body. You must remember not to unzip all the way and leave it flapping throughout the whole ride. When riding in elevation, zip back up when starting a descent (or at least a partial way up). You don’t want to cool down too quickly, all the same.
  3. Just as well, placing fluids on the outside of your body can assist greatly in cooling. A shot of water on your neck, top of your head, chest, and wrists can work with the wind in dropping temperatures a few degrees. “But I don’t want to waste my water!” is often said of new riders. It’s not wasting if you’re cooling your body; that is why you’re drinking it in the first place. It can a bit sticky if you’re drinking a sports drink, so use the refill time to do the outside treatment. Remember that you have planned your ride in conjunction with places to refill.
  4. Don’t have excess movement. Stay seated as much as possible when climbing. The act of standing in a climb causes a huge amount of caloric burn, upping the body temperature. A death-grip on the handlebars also burns quite a bit of calories. Talking too much to fellow riders can also aid in dehydration because of the humidity in your breath. Speaking of breathing, don’t pant. Keep how you are breathing in your thoughts. Slow and deep. Have a long exhale every now and again, pushing out carbon dioxide.
  5. Watch your heart rate often. Have you ever noticed that your heart rate stays lower when you cycle in the fall and early spring? That is because the daily temperatures are cooler, and the body has less of a struggle. The heart rate increases when the body is fighting to stay cool. Also, the amount of sweat you are producing is crucial. If you stop sweating and your heart rate continues to climb, find a cool shade on the side of the road and give yourself a break. Yes, even if the group is pedaling away. It is better to be smart than dead.

As you’re staying cool on your next ride, watch for fellow riders as well. Don’t be scared to speak up, if you see someone struggling. Sure, someone might get snappy, but that is just the heat and his manhood talking. Oh, don’t forget that when you’re taking in food on your ride that your body uses a lot of fluid for digestion. Keep that in mind.


3 thoughts on “Thermal Regulation

  1. I was lucky enough to find myself riding in France early in July where the temperature hit 38 Celcius on the hottest day. I love riding in the heat, but when it gets that hot it’s hard to think of anything else, as if the heat is just enveloping you. We found a well placed mountain stream and a bottle of ice-cold water pored over the head and neck worked wonders. Amazingly, a storm broke over night so that the next day we were rising those same roads in hailstones! Give me heat any day of the week!

    1. Wow! As you may or may not know, that is on my bucket list (see home page) to do. I admit it. I’m jealous. Yeah, here in the southern United States it gets real hot, and mixed with the oppressive humidity, it’s downright horrible sometimes. Most of us ride early early or right before sunset. Thanks for the comment, RC!

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