90-degree+ days, 70%+ humidity; the annual DC summer sweat sesh is not far off now. For many, summer is an invitation to add a daily bicycle commute to work or to dust off the old helmet for a weekend ride out the C&O. After all, bicycling is a great way to beat the bulk of long winter months.
But before you jump into a 15-mile ride or even a 15-minute commute, here are some great tips to keep things cool and stay safe on every ride this summer.
Plan It Out
Plan your commute or route ahead of time. If it’s a commute, find the bike lanes from your house to work that will keep you safe and calm while riding along with heavy downtown traffic. If it’s a family weekend ride, pick a route with convenient stops to refuel or refill water bottles. (You can find maps of all the bicycle routes in the area by visiting WABA.org.) Take breaks to stretch, grab a snack, and check out the scenery. And always bring a cell phone, ID, and a Metro card in case of an emergency.
Drink up! Water is great, but consider adding a sports drink or other source of electrolytes to your second bottle for rides longer than an hour. Electrolytes – potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium – provide energy and help prevent dehydration. Not a fan of Gatorade? You can replace electrolytes naturally with a 1-3 ratio of any citrus juice like orange, lemon, or lime in water. Add a pinch of sea salt and a bit of sugar or natural sweetener.
Knowing the signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion can help as well. Look for flushed skin, excessive sweating, and white fingertips. You may become dizzy, fatigued, or even nauseous. This is the time to take a break and refuel.
Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. This sounds like a no brainer, but it can be easy to forget. A little shade and some sunscreen can go a long way toward keeping you comfortable and safe on your ride. And remember, sunscreen isn’t just for those bright, sunny days. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds.
Try lighter-colored, loose fitting clothing for extra airflow on those really hot, humid days. Kits are cool, but many tight-fitting gear can trap heat and lead to heat exhaustion.
Pump It Up
As with your car tires, bike tire inflation should fluctuate as the temperatures do. Proper tire pressure allows your bike to roll smoothly and helps fend off flats. Road tries typically require 80-130 psi (pounds per square inch), while mountain tires need only 30-50 psi and hybrid tires should be filled between 50-70 psi.
Road tires, of the three types mentioned, are the most susceptible to temperature shifts – “about 2 psi for every ten degrees up or down.” In other words, a tire inflated to 110 psi on a 65-degree day should be inflated to about 105 psi on an 85-degree day. Riding your brakes can also heat up your tubes. Intermittent braking on rim brakes allows the rims and tubes to keep cool on a long downhill coast.
Biking is exercise. You are going to sweat. For weekend wanderers, that isn’t a big deal. But when you’re commuting to the office, be prepared. Leave a little extra time to freshen up once you arrive. Wear biking clothes on your ride in and pack your work clothes in your bag. As for a bag, beware the sweat trap of backpacks. Bags strapped to your back are major heat traps and will add to the sweat. Instead, try a bike rack and pannier to carry your change of clothes and shoes as well as all your work gear.
Summer is a great time to advocate for bike-friendly workplaces. Does your office provide secure bike racks for employees? How about showers and changing rooms? Check out the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Workplaces to see if yours stacks up here in DC and for suggestions on how to create space for bikes at your work.
And, of course, be sure to check out The Bike Rack on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more pro tips and gear specials all summer long. Visit us at www.bikerackdc.com to learn more.