Tips for biking in the heat

Well, it’s hot again, but with a little preparation you can still get where you’re going on your bike in relative comfort.

Here are our tips for riding in the heat:

Give yourself some extra time. 

This gives you a chance to do a few things:

  • Take it slow. Exertion can make you feel even hotter. Vary your speed and find the balance between keeping up a nice breeze and not pedaling too hard.
  • Take an extra five minutes at your destination to cool off, have an iced coffee, wash your face, change your shirt, and whatever else you need to do get back to comfortable.
  • Find a flatter, shadier route if you can. Seek out trails and side streets that offer a break from sunbaked concrete and hot exhaust.

Protect yourself from the sun.

A little shade and breeze can go a long way toward making you comfortable, even when the forecast calls for airborne swamp.

  • Seek out a shady route.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Light-colored, loose-fitting clothes that let some air flow around you and keep the sun off (even long sleeves!) can sometimes be more comfortable than a t-shirt or tight-fitting bicycling clothing.

Hydrate!

Drink whatever works for you: water, fruit juice, sports drink, (sorry, beer is not recommended), but make sure you’ve got some with you when you’re riding. DC Water has a network of partners across the city that will let you refill a water bottle for free. Details are here.

Sweat: it’s fine.

Really, it’s more than fine, it’s good! Sweat cools you off as it evaporates. The thing we mostly don’t like about sweat is being sweaty once we get off our bikes. Here are our perspiration management tips:

  • Time! As we mentioned above, giving yourself a little extra time to take it slow, finding a less exerting route, and cooling off when you get to your destination all make it easier to not feel like a sweaty mess when you get to your destination.
  • Many employers offer showers, or access to a gym with showers. If not, don’t despair. If you carry a change of clothes and a washcloth, it’s pretty easy to get tidied up.
  • If you can, carry your stuff on your bike, not your body. A backpack is a sweat trap—it prevents air from flowing around your back and keeps all that sweat from evaporating. Carrying your stuff on a rack or in a saddlebag or basket lets your sweat do its job.

We also like this suggestion:

Know what trouble looks like.

Take a moment and make sure you know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Keep an eye on yourself and those around you. We’re all a big bike family!

Take it easy.

With these tips, you should be able to have a still-pleasant ride even in unpleasant circumstances. But if you’re not feeling it, that’s OK. Metrobuses are air-conditioned!