Cycling Deep in the Heat of Texas

By Contributor – September 5, 2012
Brian Fitzsimmons

Old School Video

Jacques Anquetil was a renowned French cyclist during the '50s and '60s. He was the first cyclist to win the Tour de France five times. Scan the QR code to see an interesting video on Anquetil. Take note of some of the past cycling gear—no one is wearing a helmet and riders are using cages on their pedals! It’s easy to get out and ride in the spring when the bluebonnets have exploded in all their glory. We truly believe that Texas has some of the best riding in the country, and those beautiful flowers, rolling hills, and the sweet temperatures of spring are just right. However, the flowers fade as the thermometer rises with summer. And in central Texas, summer heat can last well through September. Here are some tips to help you manage the heat on your rides as best as possible.

Tip #1

When should you start your ride?

It doesn’t take too long after sunrise for temperatures to start climbing, so do yourself a favor and get an early start. We know it’s tough at times, but this is the number one thing you can do to help yourself stay cooler. Not too mention that, if you start early, you’re done early, and this gives you more of the day to do those other things you love to do. Some more tips for timing your ride:

>> Get out just after the sun comes up (during September, sunrise ranges from just after 7 a.m. to as late as 7:23 a.m.).
>> Aim to be done before noon.
>> If you are an earlier bird and ride before dawn, be sure to have adequate bike lighting on both front and rear.
>> Pay attention to the direction of the sun and be aware that it could affect drivers' ability to see you.

Tip #2

Take a look at apparel.

What you wear has a big impact on how you get the heat and moisture off your body. Try to wear lighter fabrics. Cycling apparel has come a long way from the days of Jacques Anquetil. The newer technical fabrics help to pull moisture off your skin and, as that moisture evaporates, it helps to cool the skin. Some general rules that we follow are:

>> Stay away from all black clothing.
>> Pick summer-specific jerseys. These tend to have more mesh and lighter material to help facilitate airflow.
>> Wear something to help wick sweat from under your helmet (headbands, cycling hats, bandanas, etc.). This helps trap and redirect sweat from dripping into your eyes and keeps your sunglasses from getting caked in dried sweat. An old trick some of us use is to cut the top off of a cycling cap. And an extra bonus is that the visor helps with keeping the sun off your face.
>> Try a pair of arm “coolers.” Several companies are making these sleeves and they seem to make a noticeable difference, not to mention that they are SPF rated as well. These are also great for layering when temperatures start off cooler and then warm up as you ride.
>> Invest in a decent pair of sunglasses, which can make all the difference. They help to protect your eyes from sun, debris, and the occasional bug.
>> Find a good sunscreen. Put it on before you ride, even if it is still early when you start. Then, reapply every time you stop to refill your bottles.

Tip #3

Hydration is key.

The most important thing to remember here is that staying properly hydrated is a lifestyle. You can’t just drink water on the bike and expect to stay hydrated, especially during hotter temperatures. It is a good idea to carry a bottle around with you during the workday. Fill your bottle with a diluted mixture of your favorite sports/electrolyte beverage and, when you’ve emptied it, refill it. When you are on the bike, here are some things to follow:

>> Find a specific electrolyte/sports drink to use, preferably one you think tastes good. In the heat, it’s not enough to replace water alone, and you need to supplement with something that contains sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium.
>> Carry enough fluids. When the temps really start to climb, plan to drink one and a half to two bottles per hour or so. This means multiple stops; one solution is to plan rides around convenience store locations.
>> Experiment with other ways to carry larger amounts of fluids. Two methods riders use often are the Camelback pack hydration system, which is carried on your back, and aero bottles, which sit between your aerobars.
>> Know the signs of dehydration and over-heating. If you start to feel tired or clammy, find some shade. Along the same vein, it is always best to ride with a friend and, when this is not possible, be sure to tell someone where you are riding, an ETA, and carry your cell phone.

Tip #4

Take it indoors.

Often the heat can hold you back from having the optimal workout, especially if you're trying to hold paces and push your efforts. In times of excessive heat, or if you cannot ride until the afternoon, it may be best to take your ride indoors. Several options include using a bike trainer at home or taking a spin class, as well as utilizing the Pedal Hard Training Center at Mellow Johnny’s, which incorporates fans in front of each trainer. Regardless of whether you ride at home, in a gym, or in a center like Pedal Hard, make sure you have adequate air movement to help keep you cool.



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