From Spokes Magazine's column "Behind Bars" by Chris Eatough
It's been a hot summer so far, 30 inches of snow on the ground is a distant memory, and new bike facilities in our region are making it easier than ever to bike to work. What a great time to be a bike commuter – if you can deal with the summer heat and humidity and keep from drowning in a pool of your own sweat!
Here are some tips to manage the heat and enjoying bike commuting in the summer months:
- Wear loose fitting, light colored, breathable clothing. Synthetic materials wick better than cotton t-shirts.
- Change clothes when you get to work and hang up your riding clothes to air out for the ride home later in the day.
- Use a helmet with a visor to shade your face, or a thin hat with a brim under your helmet.
- Wear sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Hydrate before, during and after all rides. Frequent sipping is more effective than gulping.
- For short rides of 30 minutes or less, water is probably sufficient, but for longer take along a sports drink also.
- Start your ride with frozen water bottles. Fill your bottles about 80% with water or sports drink and leave them in the freezer for a few hours. When you are ready to ride, top them off with water. Enjoy ice cold drinks for your entire ride!
- Start your bike commute earlier in the morning when it’s cooler.
- Leave extra time for the ride so that you can ride a little easier and avoid overheating.
- Travel light to reduce your effort. Keep extra work clothes, shoes, towel, shower kit and supplies at your workplace rather than carrying them back and forth every day. You can even keep your lock at work to lighten your load.
- Carry only a small bag or use panniers to keep your cargo off your back.
- Shower at work if available after your bike commute. It takes the same amount of time as showing at home, and will help you freshen up to start your work day.
- If your workplace does not have a shower, inquire at gyms near work about a special deal for a bike commuter shower only membership. You can also ask management at your workplace if they would consider providing a shower for bike commuters, thus promoting a healthy, happy work environment.
- If showering is not an option, take 10 minutes after riding as a cool off period to allow sweating to subside. Then go the bathroom and dab down with paper towels or baby wipes.
- Keep moving to create your own cooling breeze. When riding a bike, you create your own breeze, which can make even the hottest days bearable.
- Find the shade. If possible, select a route that takes advantage of the tree canopy. Off-street trails usually have more natural shade than on-street routes.
- On days when temperatures are extreme, consider other transportation options, such as bus or rail. You could even ride to work in the morning when it’s cooler then take your bike on the bus on your afternoon commute home. Most regional buses now have bike racks for public use.
BikeArlington is an initiative of Arlington County, Virginia to encourage and enable more people to go by bike more often. To stay up to date on biking in Arlington, follow BikeArlington on Twitter.