MTB In The Dead Of Summer: Conquering The Heat
We are in that time of year. July and August for mountain bikers equals heat, humidity and a sun that just doesn’t want to let you get nice cold air into your lungs that generates power. It is one of the hardest times of the year for mountain bikers as we struggle to hit the trail during times of increased daylight.
In the southeast US, you can multiply this effect with a humidity that makes you feel like you need to take a shower just by stepping out your front door.
So what do we do? Just stay off the bike while mother nature attempts to completely cook us? That really isn’t an option…
8 MTB Tips To Conquer The Summer Heat
In an attempt to make the best out of the situation, we have to make some adjustments to our riding style and mountain biking habits to conquer the heat and keep the wheels rolling through July and August.
- Start Riding Earlier In The Morning – Weekends are for sleeping in right? Well if you want to beat the heat in the summer, you are going to have to get up a little bit earlier to start your rides. While I wish later in the afternoon was an option, it is often not any cooler at those times of the day other than the sun is not beating down on the top of your head. By starting earlier in the morning, you can beat some of the suns warming effect and get a good ride in before it becomes unbearable.
- Drink More Water Than Usual - In high humidity, you get a glaring reminder that you need to drink more from the amount of sweat you see rolling off your body while on the trail. In drier climates, it takes more of a conscious effort to remember to rehydrate more than usual. As the heat index rises, so does your body’s need for more hydration. When riding in climbing temperatures, be sure to bring extra food and water over what you would usually pack. Your body will need it. Also, drink early and often. If you get dehydrated…you are already way behind the eight ball.
- Ride The Road Bike – For those of you that are pure MTB junkies, it may be time to get the skinny tire bike out for some miles. While I will always pick dirt over road when given the option, in the hotter summer months it is easier to deal with the heat when you have the constant breeze from speed. When you are tucked in behind trees or out in the wide open with not enough forward movement to cause airflow, the heat can seem much worse than it really is. By getting on the road bike and averaging a higher speed, you can use the breeze from riding the bike to help cool you down. Road riding is better than not riding at all.
- Increase Warm Up and Cool Down Times - If you are going to be riding longer rides during the summer, make sure you increase your warm up and cool down times. Your body will be able to assimilate to the change in temperature easier and you won’t blow up as fast. If you hit the trail clipped in and hammering, expect your body to give up even quicker when subjected to higher temperatures.
- Decrease Heart Rate and Speed - This is pretty self explanatory…decrease the intensity and you decrease the load on your body. Do you remember that feeling of the first, crisp spring day? Well…the middle of summer is the opposite. Your body is not getting as much usable oxygen, so with less air to the carburetor…you need to keep the RPM’s down.
- Think About Trail Selection - There are certain trails in our area that are hot even when there is snow on the ground. As you can imagine, those are not our top pick when the heat index is 108 degrees in our area. Proper trail selection can mean everything in really hot weather riding. You need to pick mountain biking trails that you know are not as brutal as others.
- Take Advantage of Weather Fronts - After a nice summer thunderstorm moves through, the pressure drops and so does the humidity and heat. The two days following these storms are probably your best riding days with the better conditions and tacky soil. You have to be sure to take advantage of these when you can.
- Plan Your MTB Clothing - Just as you plan your clothing before you head out for an afternoon that isn’t riding, you have to plan your clothing accordingly on the bike. By including items like sleeveless jerseys, lighter shorts and more vented, lighter helmets, you can do a lot to shed heat from your body on the ride.
Even when it is so muggy outside that you don’t even want to take the trash out, it is still possible to get out and ride. You just have to keep several things in mind as you hit the trail so the ride doesn’t turn into a diaster.
Are there any other tips you use to beat the dead heat of summer?
What do you think?