Illustration by Sergio Membrillas
How to Handle a Hot Summer Commute
In Tucson, AZ, our worst summer days reach a scorching 110-degree heat (43 degrees Celsius) yet you will see daily riders braving the baking pavement on their way to work. If you want great tips for surviving the summer heat – and getting to the office looking fresh and professional – look to these desert pros for help.
You may already know the most important tip: stay hydrated. What you might not realize is that dehydration reduces your blood volume, making your heart work harder and making it more difficult for your body to regulate its temperature. Always drink water, even on short rides, and if you need a little boost, add some ice and electrolytes to the bottle to help you feel energized.
Dress for your climate. Lightweight, synthetic clothing will work in hot, dry regions but if you are dealing with humidity as well stretchy, clingy fabrics tend to get sticky, slimy, and hard to peel off after a ride. Wool is amazing in the heat – even though it’s thought of as a winter fabric. Wool wicks sweat well and breathes like cotton, but dries much faster. For punishingly sunny places, try long sleeve tops – shading your skin will keep it from feeling so sapped. Choose loose-fitting clothing when possible to let your skin air out and reduce chafing on longer rides.
Get your pack off your back and use a rear rack and panniers instead. A sweat-free back is worth the initial cost alone. If you have a shower at work, bring a quick-drying pack towel and a travel bottle of body wash. Most workplaces don’t have showers, so bring bath wipes, as they are a quick way to freshen up at the traditional office birdbath. To spruce up your coif, sprinkle a little dry shampoo or baking soda on your hair and bring a travel brush to brush it through.
In sun-baked Tucson, the intense heat can make a ride feel sluggish. A recent study from the University of Oregon compared the benefits of riding in hot weather to those of high-altitude training. After just ten days of riding in the heat, cyclists in the study had better circulation of oxygen to their muscles and better regulation of their core temperatures, similar to improvements made in high altitudes. While the study focused on athletic training, even an everyday rider will gain health benefits while riding at low intensity in the heat. So saddle up, drink plenty of water, and ride easy all summer long.
Emily Gindlesparger rides and writes in Tucson, AZ, where she loves using her bicycle for commuting and adventure. Gindlesparger has spent the past few years here sharing stories of human powered adventure in local publications.